You Said, We Listened: What Resources Can Bridge the Research-Practice Gap


NBS seeks to bridge the gap between research and business practice by providing researchers with resources on how to co-create knowledge with practitioners. In March, we surveyed the academic community, asking: what kind of resources will help you take this challenging yet rewarding journey?

We appreciate the time that researchers took to share rich insights. We received 35 responses that carefully laid out the key issues and provided practical suggestions for the kind of resources NBS could develop.

In addition, 63% of respondents said that they want to contribute to the resources that NBS is developing. This number indicates the energy around this topic in the academic community. At the end of this message, we describe how you can work with us to develop these resources.

Here’s a snapshot of the themes we heard and the actions we will take. Along the way, we've noted a few initial resources.

We asked, “What questions do you have about doing collaborative research with practitioners?”

The answers we received fell in three categories:

1) How do I find questions and solutions relevant to practitioners?

Specifically: How do I find a topic that could yield actionable results? And, how do I balance the kind of relevant, outcome-oriented questions that practitioners tend to ask with problem statements that can also generate rich theoretical insights? Here are some articles that have unpacked this concern[1].

A few individuals also wanted to know about how practitioners connect to research. What kind of research solutions do they find relevant? How do practitioners access and use academic research? Others wondered: “Is it relevant for practitioners to read a full review of the literature?” and “how useful is statistical analysis to practitioners?”

2) How do I conduct collaborative research with practitioners?

The mechanics of collaborative research was top of mind for most of those who responded. They asked how to begin, and “how could I persuade practitioners I would like to work with to open doors for collaboration?”

The ‘market’ for researchers wanting to do relevant research and practitioners who care about such research is not very straightforward. Individuals asked: How do I find a practitioner who “is the right collaborator” for my research interests? What resources are out there to match my interests with practitioners’ needs? How can I brainstorm my ideas with other practitioners and researchers in a safe space?

Send us your inputs on the (virtual) spaces you know for finding a match and discussing ideas with practitioners. NBS will create a resource list with these links.

Others asked about setting expectations with the corporate partners, and about accepting funds. One person wrote: “I have a federal grant. Do I still ask [the corporate partner] to pitch in to cover some costs so they have skin in the game? Or does that make me beholden to their requests on their timeline?”

Coordinating research can also be a puzzle. There were structural questions: e.g. who will lead the research team and how do we arrange project management.  One individual questioned the academic community’s openness to collaborative research: “How do we enable our own [research] practice to be open to [inputs from] other researchers and practitioners?”  As a start, see NBS's recent interview with Jean Bartunek.

3) How do I balance rigor with relevance?

A few individuals pointed to the tension in balancing these goals. One asked how to produce relevant outputs that “do not take me too far down the route of being a consultant.” Related questions addressed matching researcher and practitioner timelines, and how to publish the same data and insights in academic and practitioner journals. As a start, see an AMP article about NBS research addressing these concerns.

We also asked, “What formats would you find useful for co-creation resources?"

Information on the questions above can be presented in many ways. Here's what you said would be most useful:

  • How-to lists, including short videos for doing collaborative research
  • A database that matches researcher and practitioner interests, and a virtual space where researchers and practitioners can brainstorm ideas
  • Journal editor insights
  • Accounts of researchers' experience (interviews, case studies, blogs posts on collaborative research)
  • Accounts of practitioners' experience of collaborating and using research
  • Templates (e.g. emails) for different collaboration stages

What’s next?

NBS will begin to create resources that address the questions you raised in the formats you suggested.

As a first step, we will share NBS’ model for co-creating knowledge with practitioners. This step aligns with the priority given to ‘how to’ lists by those who responded to our survey. Multiple frameworks exist for doing collaborative research. We will start at home and share NBS’s co-creation model based on a study of 15 NBS research projects. Eventually, we may create an inventory of  steps across different models of collaborative research.

How can you be involved?

Is there a resource you would like to create with us? Perhaps a case study about your collaborative research experience or an interview with someone who has experience in co-creating research? Contact us with your idea. We will work with you to develop the idea and write the piece.


[1] Avenier, M. J., & Cajaiba, A. P. 2012. The dialogical model: developing academic knowledge for and from practice. European Management Review, 9: 199–212.

Gulati, R. 2007. Tent poles, tribalism, and boundary spanning: The rigor-relevance debate in management research. Academy of Management Journal, 50(4): 775–782.

Shapiro, D. L., Kirkman, B. L., & Courtney, H. G. 2007. Perceived causes and solutions of the translation problem in management research. Academy of Management Journal, 50(2): 249–266.

Vermeulen, F. 2005. On rigor and relevance: Fostering dialectic progress in management research. Academy of Management Journal, 48(6): 978–982.