Research for Practice in Child Neglect
The potential benefits of research in child neglect are obvious. It can provide evidence about the nature of phenomena, their extent, their cause, and the impact of strategies to change the nature or extent. Policy makers, practitioners, users of services and other individuals and groups, can add evidence to other factors to inform decision-making.
There are also many potential negative aspects of research. Research costs money, it can be mistaken in its conclusions and thus misinform decisionmaking; it can be used instrumentally to justify actions being taken for other maybe hidden reasons. Research can give the impression that progress is being made, that something is being done, while avoiding difficult questions and decisions. It can make people believe that there is knowledge where there is none. It can undermine professional workers who believe that there is a research evidence base that they could and should know if only they had the time and expertise to understand and utilize it. Investment in research can add to moral panics that define certain groups of people and/or behaviours as something odd and different and thus assist the social construction of social problem making in society. There is nearly always an ethical as well as financial cost of undertaking research and these costs may be higher than the final products of the research.
There is often an assumption that research is intrinsically good, but unless we are clear about the purposes that research serves, for whom or what, as well as its potential negative effects then we cannot properly assess its role and usefulness. Users of research such as practitioners and policy makers are meant to make use of research to inform their policy and practice, but is this a realistic aim? The first section of this chapter examines the nature of academic research and the many challenges for non-academics in accessing and assessing that research and argues for systematic research synthesis to address practitioner, policy maker and service use focused reviews of evidence. The second main section of the chapter then examines whether there are other barriers to use of