Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): Multiple Contributions & Multi-Production Of New Knowledge

Bridging The Evidence-To-Policy Gap With Knowledge Mobilization

I recently attended two important events pointing forward to the future of collaborative knowledge mobilization. The first event was the Climate Change Policy and Research Day sponsored by ResearchImpact and the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York University. The day profiled climate change work being done at municipal and regional levels with a discussion on the existing research to policy gaps, while exploring opportunities for collaboration between community stakeholders, policy makers and researchers. The event was live-tweeted by a number of participants with the hashtag #CCKMb. For a full transcript of the tweets, please see here. ResearchImpact also has a blog about the event here.

The second event was the Using Evidence to Inform Policy Workshop at the University of Guelph. The workshop was part of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Knowledge Translation Learning Series, and featured international policy expert Louise Shaxton from the UK. Like the York event, the day gathered researchers and policy makers to discuss and collaborate on bridging research to policy gaps – even including an industry participant from Maple Leaf Consumer Foods. The session was hosted by the Public Health Agency of Canada and its partners from the University of Guelph, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), Environment Canada, and Health Canada’s Science Policy Directorate.

Setting the stage for the workshop was Barbara Marshall from the Centre for Food-borne, Environmental & Zoonotic Infectious Diseases who presented the workshop themes around evidence and policy making along with a definition of public policy.

Melissa MacKay from the University of Guelph talked about the various roles in policy – including research and development – and what is needed to overcome the barriers to effective evidence-based policy making.

Phil Malcolmson, Director, Strategic Policy Branch from OMAFRA provided an example of the partnership that OMAFRA has with the University of Guelph to showcase the benefits of partnerships between government and academia.

Also among the list of guest speakers was Laurent Gémar from Health Canada’s Science Policy Directorate talking about the Science to Policy Interface in getting the most up-to-date evidence-based research to Canadian Federal Government Ministers. Gémar pointed out that timing is everything as parliamentary time restrictions often create barriers between getting a research answer to a Cabinet Minister and being able to go back to researchers to get the latest updates. He also spoke about the many ministries all seeking to work collaboratively within the political barriers that exist. Gémar stated that such political barriers create a limitation to the number of key research projects being selected. (For more on political obstacles to knowledge mobilization click here). Gémar also suggested some key objectives of health policy to address the complexity of issues within health and other ministries. He addressed the need for training scientists and policy makers together to create better science policy information and collaboration.

For a further interesting connection about building a knowledge-based government – and a great example of how social media can be used to facilitate open dialogue among stakeholders and interested participants – link to the recent Twitter tweet-chat titled GovChat here.

Among the list of international guest speakers was Alex Bielak from United Nations University who presented on The Evolution of Knowledge Mobilization and Knowledge Brokers. Bielak talked about the existing diversity of terminology to describe KMb, and the shift to unify terminology with the term K* (K-star). (For more on the problems of KMb terminology click here). Bielak pointed out that different stakeholders prefer to receive information in different ways. This presents a challenge to knowledge brokers who need to stimulate policy “pull” for greater knowledge impact and action with a more adaptive and collaborative approach.

The highlight of the workshop was the engaging lecture by Louise Shaxson, Director of the Delta Partnership, UK examining what is meant by evidence-informed policy making. Shaxson outlined some basic evidence and policy principles, and described specific tools and techniques that have worked well to help policy makers create more effective and informed decisions. Shaxson states that a suite of tools is required – not just one tool for policy making. She points out that today’s policy making is very different from the past, and that researchers must understand that the political process is an important part of the research process. Shaxson points out that the quality of the entire research to decision making process is as important as the evidence presented. Shaxson presented valuable and effective evidence mapping and social frameworks tools to assess the impacts of evidence and policy making throughout the stakeholder network. (See the brief video below of Shaxson speaking at a previous conference in Bogotá in 2010 about the importance of research communication).

The big difference between the Climate Change and the Evidence Policy events was the receptivity of using social media as a tool in the collaborative knowledge mobilization process. When I asked the Climate Change panel about how they’re using social media to bridge the gap between research and policy making, the group looked baffled and overlooked the opportunity to answer my question as if I just asked a group from the 1970s how they’re using email (before its popularity and use).  At least the Evidence Policy participants were open to suggestions about how social media can be used as a knowledge mobilization tool, and the value of creating a social media strategy – even discussing the government restrictions currently imposed on employees to use such tools for knowledge communications.

Most importantly, both events brought together a diversity of stakeholders – including researchers, community agencies and actors, knowledge brokers and government policy makers – in the same room face-to-face. This is knowledge mobilization at its best!

3 responses to “Bridging The Evidence-To-Policy Gap With Knowledge Mobilization

  1. Pingback: CC-RAI » Blog Archive » Knowledge Exchange and Climate Change

  2. Pingback: Knowledge Mobilization As K* (K-Star)???: Definition & Terminology – REVISITED « KMbeing

  3. Pingback: Evidence-Informed Policymaking: A Collaborative Workshop – REPORT « KMbeing

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