Background The youth criminal-legal system is under heavy political scrutiny with multiple calls for significant transformation. Leaders within the system are faced with rethinking traditional models and are likely to benefit from research evidence outside of traditional rehabilitative criminology as they redesign systems. Little is known about how juvenile court systems access and use behavioral health research evidence; further, the field lacks a validated survey measure of behavioral health research evidence use that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of evidence dissemination interventions for policy and system leaders. Conceptual research use is a particularly salient construct for system reform as it describes the process of shifting awareness and the consideration of new frameworks for action. A validated measure of conceptual research use would advance the field’s ability to develop effective models of research evidence dissemination to assist the criminal-legal system, advocates, and reform-minded governments in their efforts to rethink youth criminal justice processes.
Methods The ARC Study is a longitudinal, cohort and measurement validation study. It will proceed in two phases. The first phase will focus on measure development using established methods of construct validity (theoretical review, Delphi methods for expert review, cognitive interviewing). The second phase will involve gathering responses from the developed survey to examine scale psychometrics using Rasch analyses, change sensitivity analyses, and associations between research use exposure and conceptual research use among juvenile court leaders. We will recruit juvenile court leaders (judges, administrators, managers, supervisors) from 80 juvenile court jurisdictions with an anticipated sample size of n = 520 respondents.
Discussion The study will introduce a new measurement tool for the field that will advance implementation science methods for the study of behavioral health research evidence use in complex policy and decision-making interventions. To date there are few validated survey measures of conceptual research use and no measures that are validated for measuring change in conceptual frameworks over time among agency leaders. While the study is most directly related to leaders in the youth criminal-legal system, the findings are expected to be informative for research focused on leadership and decision-making in diverse fields.
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Conceptual Use of Research Juvenile Justice Research translation Use of Research