The REF: an opportunity for occupational therapy to make its mark?
(Powers and duties)
Occupational therapists (Research)
Occupational therapy (Research)
Occupational therapy (Practice)
Practice guidelines (Medicine) (Usage)
|Publication:||Name: British Journal of Occupational Therapy Publisher: College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. ISSN: 0308-0226|
|Issue:||Date: August, 2009 Source Volume: 72 Source Issue: 8|
|Topic:||Event Code: 310 Science & research; 200 Management dynamics|
For occupational therapists' work to continue to be
commissioned, it will have to feature in national guidelines. This
requires a robust research base, of a sufficiently high standard to
feature prominently when multiprofessional groups are consaidering which
studies should inform national guidelines. Currently, much occupational
therapy research does not reach the standards required in terms of
scientific rigour. Until recently, the Government's mechanism for
assessing research quality was the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).
This involved peer review by subject assessment panels, with the results
being ranked and used to determine research funding allocation within
higher education. The last RAE was conducted in 2008 (see
http://www.rae.ac.uk/), but it is now being replaced by the Research
Excellence Framework (REF).
The criteria for the REF will be significance, originality and rigour of research output (Sweeny 2009), with the aim of identifying world-leading research. This signifies a shift in focus from quantity of output to excellence: a raising of the bar, which in turn requires us to raise our game. As occupational therapists, we need to recognise that this change has taken place and to respond positively, by using it as a strategic opportunity to continue to grow occupational therapy research. Research that fulfils REF criteria will raise the occupational therapy research profile and is likely to be suitable for inclusion in national guidelines. Occupational therapists need to start work now in order to be prepared to perform well when the first REF is conducted in 2013. This has different implications for practitioners and researchers.
Practitioners need to recognise that high quality research is built on asking clinically meaningful questions, followed by meticulous data collection that can provide answers. Practitioners need to engage with service users and researchers to articulate the important questions and participate in data collection, particularly in multicentre studies. Alongside this, all occupational therapists need to recognise that research findings require dissemination in a wide range of publications in order to reach audiences from various professional backgrounds. So we should not expect to read or publish research solely in the occupational therapy press.
Publication will be a key aspect of how excellence is judged in the REF. Citations will be used to assess the quality of publications, that is, how often a paper is referenced by others in peer-reviewed publications. This means that researchers need to be thinking and planning the dissemination of their work now in terms of what and where they intend to publish, which requires a shift in thinking from quantity to quality.
The REF is not just about publication. Researchers will also be judged on the wider impact of their work in terms of economic, social, cultural and quality of life factors, as well as the research environment that they create. To achieve this, researchers need to collaborate more, lead and participate in programmes of research and play an active role in developing research capacity.
Occupational therapists need to take on board the changes in the shift from the RAE to the REF, because these have the potential to shape the future of our profession. This is a great opportunity for practitioners and researchers to work together to demonstrate the contribution that occupational therapy makes to service users' lives. However, we must not wait until 2013: we need to start planning and to act now.
Sweeny D (2009) The policy context of the REF. Available at: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/iss/research/ref/ref3.html Accessed on 08.07.09.
Katrina Bannigan (1) and Carolyn Dunford (1)
(1) York St John University, York.
Corresponding author: Dr Katrina Bannigan, Reader in Occupational Therapy/Director of Research Centre for Occupation and Mental Health, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, York St John University, Lord Mayor's Walk, York YO31 7EX. Email: email@example.com
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|