Academic journal article American International College Journal of Business

Researcher-Practitioner Relationships in Consortia: The Cancer Information Services Research Consortium

Academic journal article American International College Journal of Business

Researcher-Practitioner Relationships in Consortia: The Cancer Information Services Research Consortium

Article excerpt

Abstract

Consortia are becoming increasingly prevalent as organizations are faced with a number of pressing environmental demands, relating particularly to the growth of information technologies and associated economic pressures. This essay focuses on the factors that lead to the successful management of researcher-practitioner relationships in consortia from a symbolic interactionist perspective. We focus on the Cancer Information Services Research Consortium (CISRC), an interesting consortium of cancer control researchers and practitioners who formed a coalition to implement trials related to three major cancer control projects, to illustrate our major substantive points. The implications section discusses the relationship between symbolic interactionist approaches and postmodern dialogic approaches to organizations, as well as focusing on the pragmatic implications of this analysis for the rapidly evolving role of consortial relationships in today's organizations.

Introduction

This essay focuses on the factors that lead to successful research-practitioner relationships. These relationships are increasingly important because, one, they can lead to the development, implementation, and evaluation of useful new ideas; two, they can enhance the policy relevance of ideas that are tested; and, three, there is a greater likelihood of successful implementation if practitioners have input early in the development of pilot research projects. The question of what promotes cooperative relationships in social systems has been one of the central issues for social scientists in this century. Symbolic interactionists (Head, 1934; Fine, 1993), sociologists (Parsons, 1960), dramatists (Littiejohn, 1992), economists (Coase, 1937; Hollander, 1990), management scholars (Smith, Caroll, & Ashford, 1995), organizational communication researchers (Harter & Krone, 2001), and others have all grappled with this problem. Here we will use the Cancer Information Services Research Consortium (CISRC), an interesting consortium of cancer control researchers and practitioners who formed a coalition to implement trials related to three major cancer control projects, to illustrate our major substantive points.

A consortium can be defined simply as a collection of entities (e.g., companies, public sector organizations) brought together by their interest in working collaboratively to accomplish something of mutual value which is beyond the resources of any one member (Cullen et al., 1999; Fleisher et al., 1998; Webster, 1995). Given the interest in new organizational forms, heightened competition, and declining resources available to any one organization, this topic has captured the attention of researchers in a wide range of disciplines (Bouman, 2002; Cullen et al., 1999; Hakansson & Sharma, 1996; Medved et al., 2001; Osborn & Hagedoorn, 1997).

Researcher-Practitioner Relationships

   We seem to be constantly trailing after practitioners to determine
   why and how something they are innovating is or is not working,
   rather than leading practitioners to implement innovations that
   flow from the findings that we have uncovered in the course of our
   (we hope) rigorous investigations. (Porter, 1996, pp. 265-266)

Both parties have substantial potential common benefits from a successful researcher-practitioner relationship including securing both physical and material resources and intellectual stimulation (Cullen et al., 1999; March, 2000). It is also obvious that policy makers see substantial benefits to be had from interactions between the various parties in the research enterprise, with increasing calls from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, among others, for holistic examinations of research problems through the development of synthetic relationships among often fractured disciplines. Indeed, participation of practitioners early on is positively related to utilization and favorable attitudes towards the results (Beyer & Trice, 1994). …

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