The leader should consider the following when deciding the topic area of research as well as when and under what circumstances
the research is to be conducted:
Relevance of the Research Question to the Practice Environment and Agency Priority Areas
It is important that the proposed research be consistent with the agency’s needs and contributes to supporting agency practice or policy making. It may be useful to revisit the agency’s strategic plan when presented with requests for participation in research projects. The agency drives the research agenda and at the beginning of any research activity, the questions that need to be answered should be clearly developed and understood by all parties involved.
Staff Availability/Impact on Workload
Many research projects involve some component of data collection by staff. It is important to get a clear understanding from researchers about the data collection process being proposed, how many staff will need to participate and for what period of time. It is also likely that agency program managers and supervisors will be asked to serve on advisory groups as part of the research plan. Additionally, members of your information management and technology team may be involved if extracts of administrative data are included in the project plan.
Consult with appropriate representatives from your agency’s legal counsel regarding protection of client confidentiality and ask researchers whether their proposal will be reviewed by a Human Subjects Institution Review Board (IRB) or whether any exemptions apply. Inquire about security protocols for transmission, maintenance and storing of confidential client data by the research organization.
Impact on Operations
Carefully review the impact that any research method may have on agency operations, both positive and negative, and how that impact might be offset by the anticipated results. For example, will random assignment of clients into experimental or control groups increase workload in a particular program area?
Review Requests to Participate in a Research Study
The Research Plan will help to clarify the conditions under which the research can be conducted and encourage appropriate requests for research partnerships. The Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research toolkit also has a good example of a Research Approval Policy.
Cost Effectiveness of Participating in Research
The agency leader is charged with determining when the agency should participate in a research activity. A major determining factor is whether or not the proposed research is connected to one of the agency’s money drivers. A leader will want to know the value of the informatio being garnered from the research, the costs for line staff to collect data and the levels of research that
may determine costs.