Giving public managers the drop on new research

  • Published Date: 14 May 2019

As part of its mission to strengthen the practice of public management in Australia and New Zealand, ANZSOG is helping to disseminate research to public managers through a research partnership with The Mandarin.

This involves a fortnightly e-newsletter, The Drop, and a research brief series. The Drop distils academic and other research into an easy-to-read format that captures the main points and provides suggestions for further reading. It is delivered to subscribers to The Mandarin, with articles published on The Mandarin and ANZSOG websites. 

Recent issues have profiled research from the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, CSIRO, the Lowitja Institute and the Productivity Commission.  

The Drop's editor Maria Katsonis said that feedback to initial issues of The Drop -- from public managers, academics and research institutes had been extremely positive. The Drop emails are sent to 22,000 people, with a strong open rate of 24%. Average time spent on page is over five minutes. An article on "How do we measure public value?" published in March has been the most popular piece so far. 

"It is a perennial problem that academics argue practitioners ignore the work they produce, and public managers complain that academics research is not timely or relevant to the practical challenges of their work," she said. 

"The Drop is working to help public managers build their knowledge and understand what sources of research are available which are relevant to them and their work. Research institutes are also seeing The Drop as an effective way to promote their research to policy makers and a broader public sector audience." 

Recent research by Professor Paul Boreham, Dr Adrian Cherney and Professor Brian Head from the University of Queensland identified a range of issues which impede the uptake of academic research in policy development. These include incentives, communication and different institutional cultures, but despite this both academics and practitioners agree there is a need for research translation and opportunities to build relationships.  

The centrepiece of The Drop is a research brief series where a journal article or other academic research is synthesised into a digestible and accessible format.  Published on The Mandarin website, the research brief series has so far covered topics such as measuring public value, co-producing public services, Indigenous leadership and public problem solving. 

"With the research briefs, ANZSOG and The Mandarin are essentially playing the role of knowledge brokers, translating and disseminating research findings into policy relevant results," said Ms Katsonis.  

"We are meeting the need for user-friendly communication of research evidence." 

ANZSOG's relationship with The Mandarin can assist public servants with short deadlines and help them build knowledge quickly, while ANZSOG's new research strategy provides longer-term, demand-led research on the big issues facing government.

The Drop has also highlighted research recently commissioned by the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service, which asked ANZSOG to provide a range of research papers on key issues facing the APS over the coming decades. ANZSOG used its network of academics and practitioners to produce a series of six papers which draw together research and provide up-to-date expert perspectives on these issues.