Creating the Evidence Base for the MLA Partnership

Published in: MLA, Museums Libraries Archives (London : Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, 2006)

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2005

by Ruth Levitt, Michael Hallsworth, Lila Rabinovich, Cameron Munro

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BACKGROUND: The Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) Council is the lead strategic agency for museums, libraries and archives in England. It is part of the wider MLA Partnership, working with nine regional agencies. With the aim to develop an inclusive strategy for all 10 MLA Partnership members, the responsible team of officers asked RAND Europe to examine the research commissioned by the 10 organisations in recent years. The study provided an evidence base and informed other strands of MLA's strategy. METHODS: The main task of the project was to assemble, analyse, assess and present the MLA Partnership's body of more than 750 projects revealed in a trawl of MLA Partnership's relevant material commissioned by the MLA between 2000 and July 2006. We proceeded to develop an initial database for the research projects and a thematic hierarchy to tag the projects, with input from MLA. A thorough qualitative analysis was also undertaken of a selected group of 60 of the projects. CONCLUSIONS: Clear messages about research quality from this work emerged. A stronger evidence base will enable the MLA Partnership to deliver more effectively its strategic responsibilities. Furthermore, research quality will improve where projects (a) state a clearly defined question or topic, and attempt to address it exactly, (b) use a thorough, fully documented search of relevant other work, (c) make thorough, critical use of other research, (d) adopt the most suitable methods to achieve the study aims and explain the reasoning, (e) present the findings clearly and accurately, linking arguments and data explicitly, connecting interpretations and conclusions.

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