How can non-researchers get involved in research?

Published: January 2008

Why was this paper written?

For occupational health and safety (OHS) research to have an impact, it needs to be used by decision-makers and practitioners. Yet often, study findings never go much beyond the research world. It can also be difficult for practitioners to keep up with all the studies in their field. One solution for researchers is to build relationships with target non-research audiences – or stakeholders – and involve them in the research. This may increase the likelihood that they will use the evidence. This paper presents the approach that the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) has taken to include non-researchers in systematic reviews. In systematic reviews, researchers summarize the evidence from many studies on a particular research question.

How are stakeholders involved?

IWH has identified five opportunities for stakeholder involvement in systematic reviews.

  1. Stakeholders are consulted on possible topics for the review before it begins.
  2. At an early feedback meeting once the review has begun, they provide input on the research question. 
  3. At a late feedback meeting, early results are presented for their reaction. 
  4. Stakeholders can also be invited to participate as a member of the review team. 
  5. Stakeholders can help disseminate a review’s findings.

What are some benefits and challenges to this involvement?

There are several potential benefits. The review may be more relevant to practitioners, the results may be presented with more clarity and the awareness of the findings may improve. Some challenges are that these interactions take time and resources. It can also be difficult balancing stakeholders’ desires with the need for scientific rigour, and they may have difficulty accepting findings they do not agree with.

What do the results mean?

Based on the benefits, IWH has included stakeholder involvement as a permanent step of conducting systematic reviews. Finding the appropriate level of input and engagement occurs on an ongoing basis.