Widening participation in knowledge production: supporting the development of researcher identities and academic and practice settings

Rowena Murray, Laura Steckley, Iain MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


For evidence-based practice to have legitimacy, the voices of academics and practitioners must be involved in constructing the knowledge base for social work. However, a minority of social work academics and social workers in direct practice is currently research active. This challenge is addressed in the UK Social Work Research Strategy, but an understanding of academic and practitioner identity and barriers to research activity is necessary in order to widen participation in knowledge production. This paper analyses challenges related to social work research activity through psychodynamic and socio-analytic notions of primary task, anti-task and containment. It offers structured writing retreat as an intervention for supporting the development of researcher identity. It provides evidence from a qualitative study of 27 academics’ experiences in one Scottish university and new insights on barriers to disseminating knowledge in academic contexts. Additionally, a richer understanding of how participants developed a writerly identity emerged from this study. This aspect was found to be central to publication of scholarship and research. We developed the concept of strategic engagement to explain the move beyond the unhelpful dichotomy between practice and research towards professional identities and work places that hold both. Structured retreat offers necessary containment for strategic engagement and can contribute to the development of containing organisations and communities of practice. Both of these may be instrumental in achieving social work research strategies. These findings contribute to theoretical generalisation and aid understanding in similar situations; though conducted in a university setting, relevance of the identification and management of primary task(s) and development of professional identity extends beyond the academy to practice settings. While there are cultural differences in the construction of professional identities across the globe, writing retreat has been delivered successfully in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and England. Further related research is indicated.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes
Event2010 Joint World Conference on Social Work and Social Development: The Agenda - Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong, China
Duration: 10 Jun 201014 Jun 2010


Conference2010 Joint World Conference on Social Work and Social Development
CityHong Kong
Internet address


  • Researcher Identity
  • Academic practice
  • Social Work


Dive into the research topics of 'Widening participation in knowledge production: supporting the development of researcher identities and academic and practice settings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this