Revisiting the “two communities” metaphor of research utilisation

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Purpose-The “two communities” metaphor for the relationship between policy and academia is inconsistent with empirical evidence that shows that a sizeable minority of public servants use academic research in their policy-related work. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the two communities metaphor by comparing the personal and professional characteristics of Australian public servants who claim to use research in their policy work with the characteristics of those who claim not to use research. Design/methodology/approach-Using data from a survey of 2,084 public servants from the state and federal levels in Australia carried out from 2011 to 2013, tests of statistical significance were conducted for the relationship between some personal and professional characteristics (e.g. gender, age, work experience) and the claim that research is used in policy-related work. Findings-The “two communities” metaphor is not an accurate description of the relationship between policy and academia. In reality, public servants who claim to use academic research in their policy work are more likely to have much in common with academics, including having postgraduate degrees and work experience in the university sector. Research limitations/implications-Rather than existing as isolated solitudes, the findings in this paper suggest that the policy and academic communities possess links that can encourage the use of research in policy making. Originality/value-The findings presented in this paper are especially important for the evidencebased policy movement, which emphasises the value of the use of research evidence in the creation of public policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-627
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Evidence-based policy
  • Generation and dissemination of information
  • Knowledge brokering
  • Knowledge transfer

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