The Politics of Coproducing Academic–Practitioner Research

Public Administration Review, published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration.

The third and final installment of the first phase of the co-production research that I have undertaken with Kevin Orr, professor of public management at Hull University Business School.

This article was published in Public Administration Review, an American journal, that holds the highest ranking of any public management journal.

We reproduce the final paragraphs below. For those wanting to download the full article it is HERE (Public Administration Scholarship and the Politics of Coproducing Academic–Practitioner Research, Orr & Bennett, July/Aug. 2012, Volume 72, Number 4).

Conclusion: Reflecting on the Politics and Practice of Coproduction in Public Administration Research In this article, we engage with widespread calls to foster a reconnection between academics and practitioners in public administration scholarship. Situating the current interest in academic–practitioner research collaboration within a historical context enables us to highlight that the continuing development of public administration scholarship is part of a long-standing, highly contested, and fluid de- bate about the values and purpose of research, the roles and responsibilities of academics, the expectations of practitioners on the academy, and the basis of academic–practitioner relations. We use Raadschelders’s traditions to illuminate the lines of these debates. Our second contribution is to offer insights about the practical and political dynamics of joint research by reflecting on our experience of coproducing research. Turning the lens on our- selves as participants in a collaborative project allows us to highlight the interplay of our own conduct and context—how we negotiate the interacting traditions of scholarship and research practice and the norms and demands of our professions. Through the reflective vignettes, we illustrate that the dilemmas and choices we face are intertwined with the way in which wider traditions, expectations, and imperatives play out in our sectors. Thus, our article provides a macro analysis combined with attention to situated research prac- tices, highlighting the many connected layers of politics. We hope that this exercise contributes an initiating framework for others to consider the politics of their collaborative practices. Joint projects may mark a return to some of the roots of public administration scholarship, but they also present a set of ongoing challenges. For their advocates, they promise a way forward for integrating theory and practice and contributing knowledge for the benefit of both academics and practitioners. Coproduction may confer practical benefits, including access to elites and other worlds and the capacity to build trust quickly, the better to surface stories, experiences, and insights into practice. Coproduction may also offer the potential to draw practitioners closer to the benefits of academic inquiry and perhaps may enable academics to inquire about the worlds of practice in less condescending ways. However, we have emphasized the ways in which such research takes place within a political environment, requiring the continual negotiation of different interests, including those of the members of the team, the communities to which they belong, and the structural imperatives at the inter- section of universities and the public sector. All research is purposeful and involves people who owe allegiances to others, but coproduction appears to give rise to distinctive expressions of these dynamics. Though it is tempting to sweep tensions and dilemmas under the carpet lest they get in the way of a movement toward greater connectedness, paying attention to these dynamics is worthwhile, as it can contribute to a richer set of understandings of the context of joint endeavors and the roles, relations, and stakes involved.

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The full article is HERE (Public Administration Scholarship and the Politics of Coproducing Academic–Practitioner Research, Orr & Bennett, July/Aug. 2012, Volume 72, Number 4).

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