Why Bridge Research and Practice?
The use of research evidence and the implementation of evidence-based programs requires communication between researchers and practitioners. However, there is a documented research-practice gap in multiple sectors including education, health, and the environment. In my research, I'm interested in understanding how social networks can be leveraged to improve the transfer of evidence (especially research evidence) between researchers and practitioners and how social networks can facilitate or hinder the implementation of evidence-based practices.
Click below to watch a short video on the Michigan School Program Information Project
Research on Bridging Research & Practice
With research funding from NIMH, W.T. Grant Foundation and Spencer Foundation, I co-led the Michigan School Program Information (MiSPI) project, which sought to understand the social networks through which public school educators acquire research evidence and implement evidence-based programs and practices. As part of this project, we collected statewide representative data from 382 Michigan superintendents and principals as well as interview data from 72 Michigan educators, 50 information brokers, and 12 researchers. In our MiSPI work, we found that educators often rely on long chains of brokers to communicate information about potential programs to adopt in their schools, and that these chains often do not involve researchers. These findings suggest that when communicating information about school programs, researchers may be quite distant in the conversation. More recently, I have been interested in how networks can facilitate or constrain the implementation of new programs and practices. Specifically, colleagues and I have found that features of principals' social networks (including bridging and bonding social capital) are associated with their acceptability and understanding of systems-level interventions.
Selected Papers about Bridging Research & Practice
Neal, J.W., Neal, Z.P., Barrett, C.A., & Brutzman, B. (in press). Are principals’ social networks associated with interventions’ social validity? School Mental Health. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-020-09388-5 [replication materials available at https://osf.io/s4nmx/]
Neal, J.W. & Neal, Z.P. (2019). Implementation capital: Merging frameworks of implementation outcomes and social capital to support the use of evidence-based practices. Implementation Science, 14, 16. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13012-019-0860-z
Neal, J.W., Neal, Z.P., Mills, K.J., Lawlor, J.A., & McAlindon, K. (2019). What types of brokerage bridge the research-practice gap? The case of public school educators. Social Networks, 59, 41-49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2019.05.006
Neal, J.W., Neal, Z.P., Lawlor, J.A., Mills, K.J., & McAlindon, K. (2018). What makes research useful for public school educators? Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 45(3), 432-446. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-017-0834-x
Neal, J.W., Neal, Z.P., Kornbluh, M., Mills, K.J., & Lawlor J.A. (2015). Brokering the research-practice gap: A typology. American Journal of Community Psychology, 56(3/4), 422-435. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-015-9745-8
Collaborators on Bridging Research & Practice
My work on bridging research & practice has been supported by the National Institutes of Health (R21 MH100238-01A1), the Spencer Foundation (#201900052), and the William T. Grant Foundation (#182241 & #183010). I've been fortunate to collaborate with amazing colleagues including:
Dr. Courtenay Barrett, Michigan State University
Brian Brutzman, Michigan State University
Dr. Mariah Kornbluh, University of South Carolina
Dr. Jennifer Lawlor, University of Michigan
Dr. Kristen Mills, The Ohio State University
Dr. Kathryn McAlindon, University of Florida
Dr. Zachary Neal, Michigan State University