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Priorities for research on social services

Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services (SBU) and Forte has, in partnership, investigated what social services managers, service user organisations and interest groups consider the most urgent research questions in the social services. The goal is to improve the usefulness of the research by helping to ensure that the scientific knowledge generated is relevant and addresses the needs of those most affected by the research.

The project is part of Forte’s national programme on applied welfare research, which aims to strengthen client and practice-oriented research that can be applied in social services to improve the life situation and circumstances of the users. The results of this report are to be used as a basis for the programme and research funding calls as well as for SBU’s focus on forthcoming systematic reviews and evidence maps in the field of social services.

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Prioritisation of scientific evidence gaps

Scientific evidence gaps which most urgently need to be addressed are identified using a method developed by the James Lind Alliance in Great Britain that actively engages a broad range of stakeholders, including health care and social service providers as well as service users and their families.


Forte and SBU have investigated what social services professionals and users consider important research questions. The work involved a national survey to identify research questions as well as a priority setting process to establish their priority. The priority setting was conducted in two stages, through an online questionnaire and a workshop. At the workshop, a working group of 12 representatives from social services and from service user organisations and interest groups reached consensus on a final list of the 10 most important research questions in social services. The project was based on the James Lind Alliance´s method.

The 10 most important research questions in social services are:

  • How can social services work on implementing, disinvestment and introducing evidence-based knowledge?
  • What methods can be used to follow up on interventions?
  • How can the participation/involvement of service users and their relatives be developed within social services in order to improve the situation for the users/ clients and the working practices of social services?
  • What are the effects and experiences of digitalisation in social services?
  • What are the effects of third sector welfare provision?
  • What are the effects of early (universal) interventions?
  • What are the success factors for and obstacles to effective and functional collabo¬ration?
  • What problems/needs currently lack a social services intervention?
  • What are the effects of existing and new interventions/methods for the needs of different clients and users?
  • How reliable are standardised assessment methods when it comes to assessing the needs of clients/users and/or their relatives?

These results are primarily aimed at researchers and research funding bodies. The aim is to enhance research on important topics. This research can either be primary research, if a systematic review is present on that specific topic, or systematic review. As far as we know, this project is the most extensive survey of social services research needs ever to have been conducted in Sweden. The study is unique in that representatives of both social services and service users took part in the same survey of research needs and priorities.

To the complete report

Published: Registration no: SBU 2018/55
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