I just spent the weekend finishing up reviewing grant applications for some policing projects that may nor may not get funded. If I had my druthers, I would want any and all policing research of some type of usefulness to be funded. That is not realistic. Funds are tight and most proposed projects are competing with other potential studies of equal social and practical value.
What's the deal breakers? Aside from the usual issues around methodology, ability to actually execute the project in the timelines, expertise of the researchers, etc., the answers are: budget and KT*. I'll save budgeting 101 for another day (trust me, it'll have a lot to say about padding budgets).
What is this KT you ask? It stands for knowledge transfer. In the old, old days (like before I started out as a Prof), there was pretty much zero expectation on researchers to communicate with audiences other than other academics. The idea of producing work that would be consumed by ... *gasp* ... practitioners or policy-makers or .... *double gasp* ... the public, was largely unheard of. We produced big dense tracts in paywalled journals for each other. Having even less than zero expectation that other academics would have read what we produced, we then proceeded to largely bore them at academic conferences during which we would read our paper to them line by line. I'm not kidding, I've seen people do this. Shocking, isn't it?
About 15 years ago or so, funding agencies in Canada started to require academics to step out of their comfort zone a bit and actually fulfill the mandate of creating knowledge for societies (and not just for 3 people that understood what a semiological discursive something was).
What did academics do? They started promising things like:
- a workshop for stakeholders
- a written summary of their research for stakeholders
Now, you may have noticed, but these outputs don't look that much different from what academics were doing anyway -- producing papers and talking about them to largely uninterested audiences.
Today, we have a wealth of communication tools, platforms, strategies and so on to create interesting forms of knowledge exchange to engage with diverse audiences. This blog is one lousy example. The fact most of you will read about the blog being released on Twitter or LinkedIN is another.
Our research doesn't have to stay either paywalled or in reports sitting in a drawer of some Police Chief's desk (which she didn't read because it had zero practical recommendations in it).
And yet ... (there's always a 'but') ... I'm still reading grant proposals asking for big chunks of coin, where the KT promised is about as innovative as dirty, sweaty socks. Proposals with outputs that include ... ready for it? ...
- academic journal articles (open access, though!)
- stakeholder reports
- academic conference papers
If you're in policing, you might be thinking this sounds like academic squabbling, so who cares? YOU DO. Because every single time you want to try to read up on some new piece of research that is relevant to your job, and you can't because it is only accessible for $79.95, sitting in a drawer some where or so full of jargon as to be completely incomprehensible, this is why. I am also, in my small way, trying to save you from spending 8 to 9 hours in Oshawa or Moose Jaw listening to people talk a lot without providing any solutions for how you can use the stuff they are talking about. You're welcome.
Also, my apologies to any police practitioner or policy-maker who I wittingly or unwittingly forced into a chair for 9 hours. I will never do that again. Mainly, because I find it boring too.
*The policing world is overly fond of acronyms, so stop rolling your eyes about KT. If you don't like my use of acronyms, you can always FIDO.