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Video Transcript: Understanding the Science-Practice Gap

In this video Jessica Shaw, Ph.D., describes what she learned about the science-practice gap while working as a translational criminology fellow at NIJ. She discusses what the science-practice gap is, how research intermediaries work to bridge that gap, how organizations and individuals can have gaps, and the importance of interdisciplinarity.


I'm trained as a community psychologist and received my PH.D. from Michigan State University.

Community psychology isn't so much defined by specific substantive areas but rather to its commitment to social justice and change. This change require interacting with: individuals, organizations, systems and really whole communities to understand their perspectives and their needs. And through working in these researcher practitioner partnerships, and community collaborations, the idea is to produce practice and policy relevant research that is actionable that can be put to use.

My background really ties in well with NIJ's translation criminology mission to bridge science and practice. So both practitioners and researchers can benefit from the other's work. 

During my fellowship, I learned a lot about research intermediaries like NIJ that try to connect researchers to practitioners. And also how to improve the processes of research intermediaries.

By research intermediaries I mean, organizations or even individuals that connect the world of research, policy and practice.

I learned that, if we are in this role of mediating or intermediating, between the worlds of science, practice and policy, we need to attend to our own internal science practice gaps. As well as, attending to science practice gaps out in the real world.

And what I mean by that is when we talk about science practice gaps in the real world again. We have science on one side and practice on the other, they aren't always talking to each other.

We might have similar gaps within our organization or within ourselves as individuals.

Any organization or any individual frequently spends their time developing expertise in a specific area, a certain field.

We have a lot of depth in this area. We know the history of a particular phenomena, the context in which it operates, its nuances and intricacies, and so on.

As a result, because we have so much depth in one area, we necessarily don't have breath in other arenas.

So what that means is, the work that we are doing is best guided by an areas we simply don't have expertise in.

We have our own internal science practice gap. So to help solve that we need to commit to interdisciplinarity.

Drawing upon a wide range of discipline to identify the most relevant theories, methods and research to guide the work that we are doing. I learned that this holds true whether we are working in an organization, like the time I spend here at NIJ, or really just working in an independent research team. While these were things I thought about to some degree during my fellowship, my experience at NIJ really solidified the importance of interdisciplinarity for me.

This is something, I'll take forward as I move through my career.

For example, when I start building a research team, I'll really draw on research from the field of team science.

When I think about working with my community partners, in trying to disseminate a new idea get adopted in a community, I'll draw from the field of communications.

And I'll rely on implementation science when I'm thinking about how that idea really gets picked up and implemented.

Date Created: December 21, 2016