A comparative study of Australian social work research

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Tilbury, C, Hughes, M, Bigby, C, Fisher, M & Vogel, L 2017, 'A comparative study of Australian social work research', The British Journal of Social Work, vol. 47, no. 8, pp. 2217-2237.

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The quality and quantity of social work research are not simply a matter of academic inquiry; they have real-world implications for practitioners, policy makers and the community. Internationally, research assessment exercises being undertaken in university sectors are shaping notions of research productivity, quality and impact. This paper advances empirical understandings of the nature of social work research in Australia, through an inter-disciplinary and cross-national comparative analysis of performance data reported in the research assessment exercises Excellence in Research for Australia 2012 and 2015, and the UK’s Research Excellence Framework 2014. It found that, compared to other social science disciplines, social work in Australia is a mid-level performer in terms of quantity and above average in terms of quality but, when compared to social work and social policy research in the UK, quality is rated less highly. It argues for more transparent criteria to assess quality within peer-review research assessments and careful consideration of ways to document and evaluate research impact that are relevant to the discipline, capable of capturing the many and varied ways in which research can influence policy and practice over time.

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