Introduction to the Special Section on Public Impact Scholarship in Social Work: A Conceptual Review and Call to Action

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Graduate School of Social Work


This article advances a longstanding dialogue on the relationship between academic scholarship and public life. Focusing on contributions from social work, we articulate a framework for conceptualizing public impact scholarship as characterized by intentional efforts to create social change through the translation and dissemination of research to nonacademic audiences. We offer examples of social work scholarship that meet this definition, and we distinguish public impact scholarship from related approaches such as community-engaged scholarship. We also describe the importance of public impact scholarship for social work and explore several tensions associated with this type of scholarship, including time and technical constraints, risks and rewards, measurement challenges, and institutional barriers. This article introduces a special section that further addresses the relationship between public impact scholarship and other forms of engaged scholarship, provides illuminating examples of public impact scholarship by social workers, and suggests roles for social work leaders in supporting and promoting this work.

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