Make room for social work regulatory research!

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Regulatory research and ASWB have gone hand in hand for decades, so much so that it is a central purpose of the association’s bylaws. By incorporating research into the strategic framework, the ASWB Board of Directors acknowledges its continuing importance to members and the regulatory community at large.

graphic with blue circle containing a gear inside a silhouette of a headAlthough nursing and medicine are at the forefront of health care regulatory research, ASWB has been doing its part to expand the research being done in social work regulation. Since the 1990s, ASWB has provided funding through its research arm, the American Foundation for Research and Consumer Education in Social Work Regulation. Over the years, the Foundation funded a dozen research projects on such topics as consumer protection, professional continuing education, social work supervision, complaints against licensees, and knowledge of licensure and regulation among social work faculty and students. These projects will become part of the library of resources available to members. To protect the researchers’ right to publish, these projects are currently available by sending a request to, subject: research.

Although nursing and medicine are at the forefront of health care regulatory research, ASWB has been doing its part to expand the research being done in social work regulation.

In 2017, the ASWB Board of Directors voted to take the activities of the Founda­tion in-house, committing staff and resources to manage existing research and support the funding of new research. That decision was prescient, given that “Curating research for best practices in regulation” is the third goal of the 2019–2021 Strategic Framework.

As research activities were brought in-house, new opportunities arose to expand research through collaboration with educators. An extensive literature review was completed as part of the development of the Curricular Guide for Licensing and Regulation, which was published in November 2018 through the collaborative efforts of ASWB, the Council on Social Work Education, and the NASW Risk Retention Group. In addition, scholars accepted into ASWB’s Path to Licensure Institute commit to completing a research project on a current regulatory topic. The five scholars in the 2017 cohort are making progress on their projects, which are due in 2020. The six scholars in the 2019 cohort just completed their intensive and are in the very early stages of research idea development.

In this first year of the strategic framework, the Member Services and Strategic Initiatives department is focused on providing the ASWB Board of Directors with options to select the type of library that it believes ASWB should develop to be responsive to members and the regulatory community at large. The Board’s decision will set the stage for defining the activities and role of ASWB in the regulatory research arena.

A research strategy team has prepared the options and is working on developing plans for a storage system to curate the regulatory research reports and data. The system will most likely have multiple platforms in order to be accessible to a range of stakeholders, according to Jennifer Henkel, senior director. “We anticipate that our members and other regulatory stakeholders will access these research materials through a web-based portal or an online request form,” she said. The research strategy team expects that it will have designed a project plan and long-range budget for establishing research priorities by the end of 2019.

In 2020, the team anticipates that regulatory research priorities will be identified with input from members and other stakeholders. The 2020 Education Conference will be central to the development process for gaining insight from members. Regulatory research is the theme selected by the ASWB Board of Directors for the conference. ASWB issued a call for proposals with a deadline of July 8, 2019, inviting submissions from researchers wishing to present. The members of the 2019–2020 REAL Committee have begun planning the upcoming conference and will have more to report at the Annual Meeting of the Delegate Assembly in November.

Insights from other regulatory stakeholders will be gained in large part from ASWB’s participation in the Healthcare Regulatory CEOs group, which formed in 2014. ASWB has been a member since the group’s founding, along with other regulatory associations representing medicine, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. The CEOs meet twice a year to share their professional knowledge and discuss regulatory issues such as practice mobility, exam development, and continuing competence. Part of the group’s mission is to “develop, conduct, or commission joint regulatory research projects [and] share, calibrate, and utilize information about planned and completed strategic research or projects.”

The CEO group is currently developing a collaborative health care regulatory research agenda and exploring the potential for future joint research projects. ASWB has participated in early discussions about these projects and continues to be involved. “It has been important for ASWB to be at the table with the other health care regulatory organizations,” said ASWB CEO Mary Jo Monahan.  “We have seen how issues and research interests align and repeat across our disciplines, which shows how collaborating can strengthen not only our collective efforts but also our individual efforts such as ASWB’s regulatory research goal.”