through the development of new crossdisciplinary partnerships. We suggest that researchers should take on directly the responsibility of ‘translation’, such as by applying their own expertise or the expertise of their teams directly to other areas of concern. Examples could include efforts to develop cross- disciplinary research moving expertise from psychological science into education, from epidemiology into service delivery and design, from biomedical research into socio-cultural, legal and ethical investigations.
Third Recommendation: Listening, engaging and involving Most important of all, though, is an ethic of engagement. There is, unfortunately, a disconnect at present between the UK’s investment in autism research and the life-chances for autistic people and their families. We need to reduce this gap. One clear way of doing so is developing more widespread mechanisms of engagement between researchers and the autism community. As this Report shows, autistic people, their family members and practitioners are rarely actively engaged in the research process – in deciding how an issue is researched, how it becomes funded, who undertakes the research and so on. There needs to be greater involvement of the autism community both in priority-setting exercises in specific areas and in research more broadly to ensure that resources are targeting the critical needs of autistic people and their families. Strong
community relationships are also necessary for translation of research into practice. Developing these research-community partnerships takes time, effort and often funding. Grant-giving bodies and government agencies should actively encourage partnerships that are genuinely participatory and not just tokenistic, where autistic people and other key stakeholders are ‘co-producers’ of the research. Building such institutional mechanisms of engagement requires sustained effort. But researchers can act now to develop their research and their aspirations differently. Researchers should listen to the views and perspectives of the autism community to appreciate what it is like to be autistic, to care for someone who is autistic, or to work with someone who is autistic. And the autism community should work towards gaining a better understanding of research and the challenges involved. We – researchers and funders, the autism community and the public – need to work together towards advancing autism research in the UK. We need to invest more in those areas that are under-resourced and in populations that are under-served, we need to join together in innovative new partnerships, and we must seek to ensure that everyone with a stake in the research process is given an opportunity to make their voice heard. The best priorities are made through involvement of all these stakeholders. The best priorities are made together. 39