In March this year, 500 participants from health, community services, education, research, philanthropy, and practitioners from the early years sector attended the two day National Early Years Summit, convened by ARACY and our partners, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Goodstart Early Learning, Parent-Infant Research Institute, Children’s Healthcare Australasia and Families Australia. The Summit’s goals were to develop a shared vision and recommendations for the future through the development of a ‘blueprint’ of principles and priorities. The Blueprint, now version 2.0, represented the collective contribution of the 500 participants, agreeing on 9 key priorities and overarching principles to take forward.
Close on the heels of the Early Years Summit and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Australia Together convened a National Community Recovery Summit. The objective was to create an agenda for building long term prosperity and wellbeing in local communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and build a road map for how national-level reforms and local leadership can combine to leave a positive legacy from the trauma of the pandemic (Australia Together) . More than 450 people came together via video link to discuss the key topics of early childhood development; social and affordable housing; jobs, skills and enterprises; and engaging communities.
The most interesting aspect about both of these major events, which brought together some of the best minds in the business of child wellbeing, is that neither event identified “research” as a key priority.
Do we really feel that we already know everything we need to know?
At ARACY, we are fairly certain that none of us would claim we know everything we need to know about child wellbeing and how to foster it. That goes double for the rapidly evolving world of COVID-19 in which we now live. So why was research not further up the agenda?
There was certainly an appetite at the Early Years Summit to take action. People were hungry for the support and funding to test and implement or expand programs, interventions and ways of working, and there was no shortage of ideas to try.
Perhaps it comes down to definitions and (un)common understandings of what research means to each of us. In the Great to Eight Governance Committee alone we have had some robust discussions about what comprises “research”, when it becomes “development”, and how the two feed into each other, alongside implementation and evaluation, to build a better evidence base.
As we develop the Priority Setting Mechanism (PSM) that will be used to form the Great to Eight research agenda, the project team are using the definitions of “research” below, based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification Types of Activity categories (2020) for national consistency.
1. Strategic basic research
Strategic basic research is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge directed into specified broad areas in the expectation of practical discoveries. It provides the broad base of knowledge necessary for the solution of recognised practical problems.
2. Applied research
Applied research is original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective.
3. Experimental research
Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products or processes.
What do you think? What does research mean to you? And do these three categories cover everything you would want to see in the Great to Eight 10 year research agenda? Let us know using the Quickpoll.