From Research to Practice and Back Again: A Personal Reflection

Our work creates effective pathways for bridging practice and research.

by Christine Reich
Feb 28, 2023

Today marks the end of my second week as CEO of Knology. I am delighted to say that I am as enthusiastic about Knology today as I was when I first learned about this position. Knology's work, and its focus on practical social science, truly can lead to a better world.

What particularly excites me about Knology is the way we position the relationship between research and practice. At Knology, our focus is just as much on connecting practice to research as it is on bringing research to practice.

Throughout my career, I have moved continuously between research and practice. Some of my professional roles have focused entirely on research and other roles have focused entirely on practice. Most of the time I have lived somewhere in between. No matter what my position has been, one idea has consistently held true: in order for research to be used by practitioners it must be relevant to their most immediate issues and concerns.

After two weeks as Knology's CEO, I have come to see that this idea is at the heart of everything we do. More particularly, I have learned that what makes Knology unique is the way we live in a permanent state of moving from practice to research. While many organizations and individuals focus on finding ways to bring research to practice, Knology's strategy has been to start with practice. Instead of simply looking to make existing research "actionable" within a given real-world context, we begin our work on the ground, enabling practitioner communities to identify their most pressing questions and issues, and then generating the research from there.

During my first two weeks at Knology, I have already experienced multiple instances of this. In conversations, staff routinely bring forward the critical questions that practitioners are asking, and engage their colleagues in dialogue as to how existing and new social science research could provide answers. Through these transdisciplinary discussions, I have learned that even though these practitioners are working in different contexts (libraries, museums, media, and even hospitals), they share many of the same concerns and goals. Regardless of the particular space they operate in, they're confronting a common set of issues—for example, misinformation and the role that trust and honoring lived experience can play in providing solutions to more productive sharing of information, or the challenges of discussing controversial issues in public spaces in ways that promote more fruitful civic dialogue. Regardless of where they're working, the practitioners we partner with are also grappling with topics like the connections between moral motives and action, and the role of relevance for supporting engagement in learning.

These cross-cutting concerns are at the heart of Knology's work, and by making them the jumping off point for our research, we're able to create effective pathways for better understanding and responding to them. We create these pathways through information sharing and institutional bridge-building—both of which are central to our work. Indeed, some of our research is precisely about bringing people from different kinds of groups together, and getting them to talk about questions that resonate with their work. These initiatives show that there is much potential in bringing different types of practitioners into conversation, to explore the themes and patterns that cut across their work so that collectively we can have greater impact. Moving forward, I'm wondering: How can we all work together to answer some of our most critical questions and affect change?

I welcome your ideas for conversations you would like to have with Knology and its broad group of partners. Your thoughts could lead to yet another pathway for bridging practice and research. So please let us know what you think!

Photo by Zach Lezniewicz at Unsplash

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