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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Translating risk: how social workers’ epistemological assumptions shape the way they share knowledge
Author(s): Mitchell, Gemma
Demir, Ipek
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Keywords: Risk
social work
Issue Date: 2021
Date Deposited: 5-Mar-2024
Citation: Mitchell G & Demir I (2021) Translating risk: how social workers’ epistemological assumptions shape the way they share knowledge. <i>Health, Risk & Society</i>, 23 (1-2), pp. 17-33.
Abstract: Social workers are at the heart of drives to improve child health and wellbeing, with knowledge sharing between them and other professionals viewed as a way to reduce the uncertainty associated with this area of risk work. We aim to fill a significant gap in the literature by examining how social workers assess, interpret, filter and share knowledge relating to risk and uncertainty – what we call the translation of risk – within their profession. Based on data from a qualitative study with social workers in England between 2012 and 2013, we identify two main approaches social workers employ. We conceptualise them as 1) reluctant translating, and 2) dynamic translating. Our analysis shows that epistemic assumptions such as how social workers conceptualise the fact/value separation; how they view what we call ‘grey evidence’; and how they understand the relationship between objectivity and subjectivity, underpin how social workers translate risk. We add a new dimension to the literature on risk by arguing that we need to pay attention to the epistemological values that underpin ‘client-facing’ risk work. Thus, we aid understanding of not only how knowledge is shared in particular ways, but also why this is the case. We identify reasons why some social workers include valuable ‘grey evidence’ and prioritise adequacy over accuracy in their translations of risk. We highlight, however, that through an over-emphasis on accuracy and boundaries, evidence-based practice might end up driving out ‘grey evidence’ and inadvertently hampering effective decision-making, judgement and knowledge sharing on risk.
DOI Link: 10.1080/13698575.2021.1888892
Rights: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
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