Sylvia Docker lecture: the practice, research, policy nexus in contemporary occupational therapy

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BACKGROUND/AIM: In this era of evidence-based practice, Australian occupational therapists largely accept scientific perspectives of the quality of evidence and 'what makes a strong study'. Yet unequal power relationships are usual between funders who set the research agenda, researchers and people who are the subjects of research. Emerging policy now mandates partnerships with consumers in any health and research projects about them. Are we person-centred in our research practices? What difference would increased consumer direction make to our research methods, scope and outcomes? This lecture describes some of the benefits and challenges of collaborative or inclusive research partnerships with consumers and outlines where this may take occupational therapy in future.

METHODS: The disability community's calls for inclusive research will be contrasted with mainstream research approaches and with occupational therapy's commitment to person-centredness. An example of inclusive research undertaken by the author and colleagues with disabilities which posed the question: 'What difference does assistive technology make to life for people living with impairment?' will be presented.

RESULTS/IMPLICATIONS: Collaborative research is best conceptualised as a mutually productive journey, with many factors influencing how fully inclusive research principles can be realised. The possibilities and complexities of conducting research which has inclusive credentials are outlined.

CONCLUSION: Inclusive research principles provide a means to enact person-centredness in research as well as practice. Following these principles challenges occupational therapy practitioners and researchers to address nexus issues: that is, intersections between and beyond research, policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-57
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • impairment
  • inclusion
  • occupational therapy practice
  • policy
  • research

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