Drawing of people sitting in a restaurant

Assessing the Viability of an Applied Research Project

Today I reflect on an important meeting for one of our projects. We’ve had a lot of setbacks because we don’t have useful data sources or infrastructure to enable us to run a proper randomised control trial. I discuss one example of how we assess the viability of our projects, and what this activity looks like in the context of a typical day as an applied researcher.

To test a behavioural change intervention, our team needs to be able to measure meaningful impact. That means having useful data and information that we can analyse. For example, to improve equity and diversity outcomes, many organisations implement mentoring programs. Individuals might enjoy these relationships and find the program personally meaningful, but these, and other familiar equity and diversity initiatives, rarely lead to tangible institutional change, like having more minorities employed in senior roles.

We had an important discussion about whether one of our randomised control trials was viable at this time, or whether it is it better to focus on improving data and infrastructure. It was useful to have this open and thoughtful dialogue. Not every trial we begin can be tested in the field.

The rest of that day was spent on communications planning. Our team is transitioning our website to a new content management system. A colleague and I are working on what content needs to be migrated, as well as a better structure for us in the new layout. We planned out how to refresh our existing content.

Then I worked with my Director on the future of one of our projects which is in scaling stage. This means that we’ve delivered a behavioural change intervention as part of a randomised control trial. It was successful (that is, it led to a statistically significant effect to improve education outcomes), and it’s now being rolled out across the state. We are planning the next phases of our involvement in the future of the project as it expands beyond our partner agency to other student cohorts.

Another task for the day was providing my comments on the application forms and guidelines for the second round of a funding grants committee that I sit on.

All of this in one day. My reflections, as is often the case, drafted while I’m in a restaurant (other times in a cafe), running from one place to the next. I’m hoping my new series of A Day in Applied Sociology is giving you a sense of how varied each day can be!

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