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Developing capacity

Research capacity, knowledge, skills and use in councils with adult social care responsibilities


The study aimed to: 1) Map research capacity in local authorities; 2) Explore the infrastructure for research in local authorities; and 3) Examine the impact or potential impact of Public Health joining Local Authorities.



Research team

Martin Stevens (SCWRU), Chris Rainey (Independent researcher) and John Woolham (Coventry University)


National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Social Care Research


Research capacity in local authorities appears to have reduced and changed its focus. However, Research Governance and increased emphasis on evidence informed practice have created a need for staff with research skills. The study sought evidence about the level of skill and numbers of staff involved in research and research-like activity in local authorities.


An online survey was developed and sent to all English local authority research contacts, a list of Research Governance leads and 150 Directors of Public Health. Data were analysed using frequencies and crosstabulations.


The study found low levels of capacity in terms of staff numbers, but a commitment to evidence informed practice. Research Governance arrangements were patchy, with only 39% of respondents reporting local systems in place. Participants felt that while research had become more important, reductions in local authority funding had particularly affected the capacity to undertake this work.

Final report

Rainey, C., Woolham, J. and Stevens, M. (2015) 'Research capacity, knowledge, skills and use in Councils with Adult Social Care Responsibilities', London: London School of Economics.

A presentation was made to the Local Authorities Research and Intelligence Association conference in 2014.


The survey will be of value to local authority managers and staff in planning research-like activity and will help promote the development of Research Governance.

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