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Spanning the HRD academic-practitioner divide - bridging the gap through Mode 2 research

Gray, DE, Iles, P and Watson, S (2011) Spanning the HRD academic-practitioner divide - bridging the gap through Mode 2 research Journal of European Industrial Training, 35 (3). pp. 247-263.

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This article aims to explore dimensions and tensions in the relationship between theory (usually produced by academics) and practice (the domain, normally of practitioners) in human resource development (HRD).


The paper examines, from a conceptual perspective, the nature of mode 2 research, where knowledge is generated in the context of multi-stakeholder teams (academics and practitioners) that transcend the boundaries of traditional disciplines, working on problems to be found in working life.


Mode 2 research has been seen in dichotomous terms of theory versus practice, referred to in various ways such as: the research-practice gap; the implementation gap; the research-practice divide; and the theory-practice void. This gap is also typified by mode 1 research, an approach which adopts the principles of “normal science” and which generates results, the main beneficiaries of which are the academic community. The authors forward mode 2 research as an approach that requires both academic rigour and practical relevance. The article presents and critically evaluates a number of examples of academic-practitioner partnerships in action in order to highlight both the potential and the challenges for the development of mode 2 research. It also recommends strategies for the advancement of mode 2 research, including getting academics to attune themselves more closely with the needs of practitioners, encouraging academics to write for practitioner journals, and the use of the kinds of research methodologies that can generate richer stories and cases that resonate with practitioner interests. Practitioners, however, need research that has a practical focus and which can be applied immediately.

Research limitations/implications

This is a conceptual paper that draws on secondary examples to support the authors' contentions, making it appropriate to gain further background information on bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Practical implications

The paper critically evaluates a number of examples of academic-practitioner partnerships in action.


This paper provides an in-depth analysis of the challenges of undertaking effective and robust practice-based research, through articulating philosophical differences in research approaches and discussing tensions between academic and practitioner needs.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Surrey Business School
Authors :
Gray, DE
Iles, P
Watson, S
Date : 2011
DOI : 10.1108/03090591111120403
Copyright Disclaimer : This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here. Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 25 Nov 2011 10:59
Last Modified : 06 Oct 2017 08:03

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