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Research into practice and practice into research

This project aims to explore how the Centre for Policing Research and Learning (CPRL) uses research evidence to improve policing practice.

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Dr Nicky Miller
Police region
South East
Level of research
Professional/work based
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

The Centre for Policing Research and Learning (CPRL) was established in 2014 at The Open University with 11 police partner organisations and now, in 2019, with over 50 academics drawn from multiple departments and 21 policing partners.

The focus of the Centre is three-fold – education, research and knowledge exchange but with an overall aim of 'creating, exploring and using high quality knowledge to support evidence based practice and to create better policing, whether through continuous improvement or radical change' (CPRL, September 2017).

It is vital to demonstrate the uptake of the research evidence generated through the Centre and to more fully understand how to identify and meet the challenges of ensuring that good research is considered by policing practitioners. The research will draw heavily on theories and models of knowledge mobilisation to better understand what works in this area.

The research will also draw on organisational studies about the take up of new practices and some of the difficulties created by the 'knowing-doing gap' (Pfeffer and Sutton, 2000) in organisations.

The aim of the research is to explore and understand how research evidence from the Centre is used and knowledge mobilised to improve policing practice. This understanding can then be used to design and test a user informed approach to mobilising research evidence for the Centre.

This research will be achieved through addressing the following research questions.

  1. How, when, where and by whom is research evidence generated through the Centre used and promoted across its policing partners? What are the different mechanisms used for knowledge mobilisation within the CPRL? What is their perceived impact? 

  2. What are the individual and organisational factors that support or hinder research use within the Centre and its partners?

  3. How effective are the different knowledge mobilisation interventions used by the Centre in promoting and supporting the use of research in practice? 

  4. How far are academics learning to work with police more effectively so that their work has impact on policy and practice?

Research methodology

This research project is divided into two different phases as the results from one phase will inform the development of the subsequent phase.

Phase 1 will first establish baseline understanding and organisational receptiveness to research informed practice for the members of CPRL. This will be through the following.

  1. A baseline assessment of how evidence based the police force members are using the College of Policing EBP Maturity Model. It is likely that forces will assess themselves quite differently with different organisational barriers and facilitators operating. These need to be understood and baselined so that the research can ensure that knowledge mobilisation strategies and interventions are tailored to maximum effect. 

  2. To supplement this with the administration of a Knowledge, Attitudes and Practice survey (KAP) to partner forces to establish a baseline around the use of research in policing. 

  3. To map the knowledge mobilisation strategies and interventions currently used by both the Centre and partner forces to get research into practice. The views and opinions from the Centre members on the impact of the different knowledge mobilisation interventions currently used by the CPRL will also be obtained. This will be achieved through a mixed methods approach involving semi structured interviews and focus groups and will sample those forces and academics that have been actively involved in these and to also set this in the context of other academic practitioner policing initiatives, so that the Centre’s work is understood in its wider context. 

  4. For those academics involved with the Centre, it is proposed to administer a knowledge translation self-assessment tool for research institutes. It assesses the status of knowledge translation, identifying the weaknesses and strengths of knowledge translation in research centres. It uses 50 statements in four domains – the question of research; knowledge production; knowledge transfer; and promoting the use of evidence.

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