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Even though I have toyed with the idea of a website and a newsletter dedicated to social service research in Singapore – aligned to my professional interests as an aspiring social welfare researcher – it was an exchange on the forum pages of “The Straits Times” in May 2019 which provided the final push.

Relying solely on the news report and without reading the actual report of the findings (conducted by the Centre for Ageing Research Education located at the Duke-NUS Medical School), I concluded erroneously – based on a line in the news report that “29.5 per cent of adults aged 60 and above reported that they thought they had adequate income to meet their monthly household expenses, while still having some money left over” – that 70.5 per cent of these adults therefore had inadequate income.

In fact, as specified in the actual report and in a forum letter reply, this was the full breakdown:

  • 29.5%: Enough money, with some left over;
  • 49.3%: Just enough money, no difficulty;
  • 14.6%: Some difficulty to meet expenses; and
  • 3.8%: Much difficulty to meet expenses.

In addition to my personal arrogance and carelessness, there are broader motivations too. In Singapore and around the world, the average reader – including social service practitioners – may find it difficult to understand academic journal articles, books, and publications, while newspaper articles referencing research or data may not offer greater clarity. And even if the findings are well-understood, what are the implications for practitioners, and how might they apply the knowledge to other professional settings?

Of concern here is the last-mile translation from research to practice, aligned with a common concern over the conduct of social service research (in Singapore), where non-profit organisations participate in studies by recruiting research participants, researchers publish findings, but no one checks if the lives of the beneficiaries have changed. In this vein, a small step forward is to help and empower practitioners and beneficiaries – who should not be bystanders to the research process – with even more knowledge and better data literacy.

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