KMbeing

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

Category Archives: digital technology

Evidence-Informed Research versus “Best” Evidence Research

evidence-75x75

The use of evidence in policy making is not simply uncovering the “best” evidence and presenting it to policymakers as part of the knowledge mobilization (KMb) process. “Best” evidence is a subjective term. Being evidence-informed provides a broader understanding of how the application of research evidence is context specific. “Best” in one case may not be “best” in another.

Evidence depends on the various methods in which research is developed in order to inform decisions that lead to policy in various contexts. KMb is making research useful to society. It may be useful in one context while not so useful in another – yet it is the process of KMb that helps us find this out in different contexts. Improving the quality of life through research processes means drawing on various fields through knowledge mobilization and evaluation, as well as having a thorough understanding of the context in which evidence is going to be applied.

KMb brings together people from community, academic/research institutions, business/industry and government decision-makers interested in aspects of evidence-informed research through knowledge brokering in order to share experiences, broaden networks and discuss issues of common interest to find solutions. One way of doing this is applying research (especially in the social sciences) for public benefit using KMb and social media.

Researchers who draw from the experience of implementing an evidence-informed approach in collaboration with wider stakeholders from community, industry and policymakers create effective lessons learned through KMb. The disciplinary research alignment matters less than the fact that these sectors are brought together by a shared interest in the interface between research, community needs and policy – through the workings of knowledge brokering. There is a great deal of cross-learning; networks are built and strengthened, experiences are shared, and various stakeholders are able to benefit from lessons learned from work in other sectors. Research becomes more evidence-informed through greater collaboration.

The goal of KMb-infused research then leads to more evidence-informed policymaking.

The goal of KMb-infused research is to learn from past experiences and create greater opportunities to implement a more evidence-informed approach to policymaking.

The goal of KMb-infused research is to find ways to improve the integration of evidence-informed approaches to policy that address the main concerns and priorities in different contexts.

Policy often deals with social issues that are complicated by several barriers in seeking often entangled and long-term issues. This is why there is a need to involve a wide range of players by establishing networks and partnerships as an important part of the process of policy development and application. Such barriers include a lack of understanding of the process of knowledge mobilization and often a lack of funding for KMb to improve evidence-informed policy. Because there is often also a lack of understanding among various stakeholders of what researchers are working on, the needs of researchers and who to approach – the use of knowledge brokers to make these connections can help make research more evidence-informed.

More evidence-informed research has greater impact by developing close and ongoing collaboration by mixing researchers with business/industry specialists, community partners and policy makers on the same committees, for example – who are prepared for a long-term commitment – as it often takes time to define research questions that will generate greater evidence-informed research leading to solutions of more effective policy development and change.

There is tremendous research potential and capacity when researchers are interested in collaboration with multi-sector partners. However, as mentioned, this sort of relationship-building requires time to develop communities of interest and trust among all sectors to maximize available expertise and ensure effective communication in the research process. This means finding and using knowledge brokers who understand different worlds and who are able to convene, translate and mediate as necessary.

Knowledge brokers work with a number of different people to allow them to discuss a number of issues in a structured way. Knowledge brokers help people in the research-to-policy-making process get to know each other, and are the glue over time that encourages various sectors to think broadly and interact with a variety of people on an ongoing basis in order to learn from others’ experience as part of the evidence-informed research process.

Dealing with a wide variety of stakeholders, knowledge brokers involve each sector meaningfully to effectively incorporate all viewpoints – that are sometimes less and sometimes more controversial, sometimes more open and sometimes less open. Knowledge brokers involve various stakeholders in the action of developing evidence-informed research – not just talk about it – by holding face-to-face multi-sector meetings that are important and useful to the evidence-informed research process. Knowledge brokers help various stakeholders think about top-down, bottom-up, side-to-side and cross-sector types of action by researchers, communities, regions and governments as co-creators of knowledge among stakeholders. It’s not just about transferring knowledge from one to the other but mobilizing knowledge as part of a broader evidence-informed research process.

Knowledge brokers help researchers know the questions being asked from many sides to understand where the knowledge gaps are. Knowledge brokers help break down the elitist and also insecure barriers that often divide academics, community, business/industry and government.

Knowledge brokers are contextidentifiers who are able to help build networks to stimulate knowledge flow that can lead to greater evidence-informed research and policy making.

Researchers need to move beyond seeking “best” evidence and start thinking more about evidence-informed research that includes the use of knowledge brokers to broaden the research base with a variety of stakeholders. Thinking about being evidence-informed at the beginning of the research process that is context-specific develops research that, paradoxically, can have greater impact. By including knowledge brokers to broaden the research base with multi-sector partners creates a type of ripple-effect that broadens research knowledge beyond any one context as multi-sector partners begin to share their knowledge more widely across other sectors – almost as a type of cross-pollination of knowledge. This is when research has greater impact and becomes more widely useful to society. Various methods in which research is developed in order to inform decisions leads to policy in various contexts. In turn, policy that is evidence-informed can then affect further policy on a wider-scale – though originally context-specific – to perhaps create a broader, worldwide change.

Collective Impact Of Research Over Isolated Impact Of Research

Pepsi Coke Hatred

We live in a knowledge society with the technology to exchange our knowledge faster with greater numbers of people around the world than ever in our history.

So….

Why can’t we develop skills and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty, hunger and homelessness that still exist?

Why isn’t healthcare a universal human right?

Why is climate change still a problem?

Why can’t we provide students with all the support and services they need to stay in school and graduate?

Why can’t we avoid prejudice, bigotry, bullying and hatred that leads to war?

These persistent global harms are what social scientists refer to as wicked problems. Many academic researchers, community workers and social innovators have spent countless hours and years studying why wicked problems still plague humanity. An abundance of words have been written in an abundance of scholarly journals about an abundance of studies, and there are many community-based examples of localized success stories – yet wicked problems still exist worldwide.

Just when you think we might learn from past generations in history and begin to overcome wicked problems it begins to look like history repeats itself in our own generation. History may not repeat itself but rather rhyme as Mark Twain observed.  Repeating or rhyming – will we ever be able to eliminate these wicked problems? What needs to be done? When it comes to prejudice, bigotry, bullying and hatred – sadly, these are easily learned in childhood as adults pass on their views to children. Thankfully, such views can change and are not always maintained into adulthood. There are many reasons why prejudice continues to be a ubiquitous social phenomenon, and some international researchers even think hatred should be treated as a disease – approaching the problem from a healthcare perspective. Yet wicked problems are also interconnected to the cycle of poverty, hunger and homelessness which stems from economic competition and greed that can then cycle back into prejudice, bigotry, bullying hatred and war.

It would appear that within wicked problems there are two major underlying and interconnected reasons:

1)      Teaching our children to hate and “pass on the disease” by not thinking more broadly beyond exaggerated group categorizations or stereotypes and

2)      Economic conditions that lead to financial disparity and greed.

When we create mental categories and social barriers by grouping into similarities or stereotypes without being open to and understanding our differences, ridiculing or exploiting characteristics of others and exaggerating differences among us – we contribute to wicked problems.

When we maintain economic conditions that only help specific populations without regard for broader solutions that do not lead to lasting benefits for everyone- we contribute to wicked problems.

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) is about breaking down barriers – social and economic. It’s not just about sharing diverse knowledge in our knowledge society – it’s also about moving knowledge into action for broader benefit in society. Without turning knowledge into action knowledge is useless. We can begin to conquer the enormous social and economic challenges that create wicked problems when we begin to implement knowledge mobilization strategies to maximize the impact of research in order to change policies and systems within our world for lasting benefit.

It’s not just about doing research on the problems – it’s about taking that research and turning it into action by creating community/university collaboration, transferring and exchanging knowledge skills and experience to develop ethical business and technology partnerships, and advocating for policy change within government. It’s about connecting and collaborating across sectors to create social benefit that also leads to economic benefit. Knowledge mobilization when linked to social and economic innovation can create far-reaching and lasting change to overcome wicked problems on a broader scale.

kmb-model-final1.png

(Link here for more information about this knowledge mobilization model)

Overcoming wicked problems is not just for one sector of our world, one community, one country, one nationality. To overcome wicked problems we need to break down barriers and push beyond our individuality, discipline or region to focus on the larger scale of our commonality as human beings. We need to set our sights on collaborative action for ultimate collective benefit as a primary means to overcome wicked problems – which begins with knowledge mobilization. This includes innovation to make change – both social and economic innovation – which also begins with knowledge mobilization.

I currently work in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University and see so many graduate students interested in creating and contributing to our knowledge. I see great aspirations for the future as Masters and PhD students want to have an impact on our collective knowledge – while also wanting to create social and financial value from their research. If we are going to succeed in creating impact we must also start to encourage our students to be visionary in their approaches to knowledge mobilization and community-engagement by thinking about ways of turning their knowledge into action.

York University grad student Bart Danko is a recent and outstanding example of a student presenting his research with broader social and economic impact. Bart has not only pursued his interests in the interdisciplinary subjects of Environmental Studies and Law through York’s unique MES/JD program (the only program of its kind in Canada), he has also harnessed the power of social media by creating a film and website about his research. Like Bart, current and future students need to become more collaborative and networked in the knowledge and innovation society in which we now live by presenting research in broader and technological ways. It’s what is referred to as doing research with collective impact over isolated impact.

As with teaching our children to think beyond limiting and stereotypical categorizations and become more inclusive, we need to teach our students to think beyond their disciplines and think about research that advances knowledge to create not just social change but also economic change on a wider scale – to create collective impact over isolated impact. We need to teach our students to think about becoming boundary spanners from academia to community to business to government when they do research.

We must sustain economic conditions that continue to make it possible for student research to be financially supported by granting agencies while also creating collaborative and funding opportunities with philanthropists, business and industry to deploy their research in providing data and analysis to make informed economic decisions that decrease financial disparity. Students need to think about the potential extra-academic impact of their research across disciplines, sectors – and even social media networks.

Living in a knowledge society with technology to exchange knowledge faster and broader does not necessarily mean breaking the cycle of wicked problems. Knowledge mobilization takes that knowledge sharing one step further to action and impact. Research without knowledge mobilization has isolated impact. Research with action, community-engagement and public-private partnerships has collective impact. Connecting research to knowledge mobilization and scaling it broader to innovation in business and industry leads to wide-ranging social and economic changes that will then begin to break the cycle of wicked problems. It takes a commitment to educate our children, our students and our communities to create knowledge that ensures the cycle of wicked problems will not continue in the future so that we don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Where do you think the knowledge mobilisation field will be in 5 years?

crystal-ballMaking Connections Matter UK

It’s been just over a month since the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum took place in London on Feb 3rd & 4th 2014 with great success! The theme of the event was Making Connections Matter – which certainly lived up to its name.  Again, tremendous thanks goes to Nesta (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) for hosting the event that brought together about 60 attendees from across the UK.

Thanks again also to Cathy Howe who was an incredible conference coordinator and forum lead who helped facilitate genuine connections across a variety of sectors in an environment of sharing experiences and challenges.

During an evening dinner at one of the more social parts of the Forum, David Phipps from ResearchImpact brought out an imaginative crystal ball and asked the group to reflect on their knowledge mobilisation practice and/or research with the question:

“Where do you think the knowledge mobilisation field will be in 5 years?”

The responses ranged from optimism about greater global knowledge sharing and cross-discipline understanding to a more pessimistic view about the social struggles that will continue to obstruct work in knowledge mobilisation (KMb). Some responses mentioned hoped-for advancements in technology to make global knowledge mobilisation easier; while others thought the practice of KMb will become more well-known and routine.  There were even a couple of political comments concerning the future of Scotland and civilization!

The following are the answers from UK KMb Forum 2014 to that question:

  • I truly hope for stronger literature bridging theory & practice on KMb for research – at least some inspirational example that improves research impact or development
  • More active availability of evidence-based improvement packages that front-line practitioners can easily pick-up
  • Less government intervention in the KMb process and more community lead
  • In 5 years other people will know what I’m talking about when I talk about KMb
  • Celebrating our successes in building a more well-informed, scientifically-literate society
  • Knowledge sharing is considered valuable and is the default
  • The term KMb has died out – because it’s part of normal practice to exchange & share knowledge routinely
  • There will be a greater abundance of cross-domain knowledge transfer as the norm as the idea of knowledge ‘partners’ will be no more
  • We will bring our KMb uses more easily to political representatives to talk about our professional ambitions & standards
  • Everyone will understand the basics (of KMb). We will need more knowledge translation but we won’t need a bridge between academics and practice
  • People will have time to mobilise knowledge across sectors during their day jobs
  • There will be massive international connectivity across disciplines because of the growth of international growth in the marketplaces…even in developing countries
  • We will be telling success stories of impact/learning from future UK Forum events – we will have 2 meetings in Scotland! – and the networks created from them; Knowledge Mobilisation will be well respected, less jargonistic, better understood by those who claim to be knowledge mobilisers and by our partners/stakeholders/end-users/beneficiaries
  • Practitioners will be skilled assessors of evidence and often contribute to/guide the evidence base – and the same goes for people we service
  • In 5 years’ time streaming video around the globe will reliably work for more than 10 minutes at a time for greater knowledge mobilisation
  • Social technologies are embedded (not “new”) but something new we have anticipated is surprising us – in “not being new” the risk and opportunity around global voices of participation is managed and institutionalised and de-radicalised in knowledge mobilisation
  • Increased accessibility to social media for excluded groups for greater knowledge mobilisation
  • There will continue to be a strong demand for evidence to inform policy and decision making. The drives will be the realization of the cost of failure! “What works” is a strong force but “works” is a co-produced idea with brand values that define desirable outcomes and “impact”; seeing complexity, ambiguity & uncertainty as positive forces for innovation with greater creativity & “wiggle-room” in policies & decision making through adaptive management of evidence-based experimentation
  • Spaces to meet and exchange across sectors and disciplines is a routine part of professional practice as teams of knowledge brokers help create solutions to large scale challenges
  • Knowledge mobilisation will not just be confined to Canada and the UK – it will be worldwide! We will all be old pals by then
  • There will be more people trying to do change
  • Probably nothing! We’ve all decided it would be good to talk! We will still be worried about equity and power sharing as we continue to think it still to be all quite complicated but we won’t mind being paid while continuing to think about it though!
  • Scotland will not be represented  in the same way – unless it happens in that country!
  • What? – Civilization ends…Why? – Michael Gove, PM.

Knowledge Brokers – A Solution For Social Benefit

kmb-model-final

Thankfully, there are many Social Science and Humanities researchers today who imagine new possibilities to understand and improve social issues – ultimately it’s hoped to overcome some of the world’s wicked problems.

The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences states the world needs “agile and well-rounded thinkers who can assess and adapt to change, analyze trends, communicate effectively, and consider the past to better prepare for the future.” These are people who think about social issues and benefits that go far beyond currently available resources, approaches and sectors.  Such researchers imagine new methods through knowledge mobilization (KMb) that produce evidence-informed results to create social benefit and change more holistically – even beyond the original research itself.

Sadly there are other researchers still stuck in the past using the same archaic research techniques that have worked for them for decades without any use or regard for knowledge mobilization (KMb). These “comfortable” researchers simply churn out results with the same limiting research methodologies – paper after paper, conference after conference. Similarly there are research institutions which churn out unengaged policy after unengaged policy.  Both institutions and researchers within them think this is sufficient enough for “social benefit and change” in today’s research world without any regard for the broader benefit to the world at large beyond their own limiting research circles.

For researchers adopting KMb approaches their research is informed by a wider range of multi-directional knowledge exchange. These KMb Social Science and Humanities researchers scale and scope knowledge as broadly and efficiently as one possibly can to include others in their research methods and knowledge translation – not just “professionals or colleagues”.

That’s where knowledge brokers come into the research process.  They bring in knowledge of networks. They bring in connections. They bring in understanding of new technologies for knowledge translation and exchange. They make sure that research ideas can be widely disseminated, evidence-informed from a variety of stakeholders, and then made openly available to society in the most effective manner in ways that bring wider benefit not just in the researcher’s realm but across sectors. Social Science and Humanities research is inherently broad in its social and human elements, stemming from many different contexts to help us understand our common social context of humanity.

Isn’t that the point of Social Science and Humanities research in the first place? To help us understand social issues in our own context and in other contexts, comparing and contrasting to somehow find solutions that can create the greatest research impact locally and ultimately globally?

There are some who still think it “idealistic” for researchers to make use of knowledge brokers as recently pointed out in a compelling blog. The blog suggests the possibility of cutting out knowledge brokers as a “cumbersome link to the chain of knowledge translation” by asking: “What if several researchers and decision makers met regularly to monitor and discuss ways of managing access to knowledge, to solve practical problems?”

What if I want to get from point A to point B without a map, a directional or transportation device or other resources to do so? Would simply wishing this to happen without the appropriate tools or resources make it happen? What about some of the obstacles that I might encounter along the way from point A to point B that might require new ways, inputs and detours to eventually get me to my destination?

Knowledge translation isn’t just linear A to B (researcher to decision maker).  This appears even more idealistic.  Knowledge brokerage is professional, intermediary support to guide as a map, tool or resource required to help traverse the structural issues around professional boundaries and organizational norms and environments of researchers, policy-makers and many other stakeholders. Cutting the knowledge broker link in the chain only destroys the strength of the chain and leaves incomplete loops in the intersecting circles.

One of the better definitions of a knowledge broker is from The in-between world of knowledge brokering by John Lomas that I mentioned in an earlier blog about the history of KMb. Knowledge brokers “link decision makers with researchers, facilitating their interaction so that they are able to better understand each other’s goals and professional cultures, influence each other’s work, forge new partnerships, and promote the use of research-based evidence in decision-making.” The irony of this often-quoted and important definition from Lomas is that this article – and many of the articles that continue to quote this definition – are still behind pay-walls and accessible only to “professionals” instead of being open-access. The 2007 article was forward thinking for researchers then and now about knowledge brokerage and KMb – yet it’s still stuck in the past using an old form of knowledge “translation” behind a research repository.

Together researchers and knowledge brokers create knowledge for social benefit with a variety of partners and stakeholders and create change that didn’t exist before. Together researchers and knowledge brokers broaden the research process that differs from research being done in the past.

However, as with all things, there are times when great research remains locked away on the shelf as policy makers decide which resources society “needs” to be allocated for the next big political game.  As illustrated in the model above, this is when governmental, corporate, academic and community leaders need to intersect and work together to help research organizations and society reorient themselves to recognize that what had been great research methodologies and translation/dissemination techniques for the last 20 or 30 years are no longer as effective for social benefit as they used to be.  Knowledge brokers are an important part of the solution for social benefit if researchers – especially Social Science and Humanities researchers – sincerely want to make the world a better place.

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) & Social Media: Making The World A Better Place

social-media-buddies

Whenever anyone uses social media to join, contribute or receive from the process of Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) as part of a social media network there is a step from initial exploratory thought to responsible social engagement. Without a social network element – whether it’s posting (retweeting), commenting or forwarding links on Twitter or Facebook, uploading presentations on Slideshare, using Skype for meetings and voice/text conversations, or connecting to a professional network on LinkedInKnowledge Mobilization does not reach its full potential unless the social-interactive-for-the-benefit-of-others element is also established.

Anyone can ask a (one-sided) question, or do a Google search for a (one-sided) answer (this is exploratory), but online answers without experiential knowledge, discussion and social benefit (this is engagement) remain lifeless answers. This is simply Information Exchange (For the difference between Information Exchange and Knowledge Mobilization click here).

But let’s face it, not everyone adopts new technologies or new ways of networking. There’s a lot of buzz around social media, yet many in the workplace or your friends and family may still not ‘get it’ until someone points out ‘the how’ and ‘the why’ of creating a social media network – or even making the one you already have even better.

How about using social media to make the world better?

Now, before you think this is some “pie-in-the-sky” ideal where everyone connects to sing Kumbaya and hopes for peace, this is what using social media for Knowledge Mobilization can do.

When the social-interactive element is added, knowledge comes to life. When the social-interactive element is added to make society better, knowledge mobilization comes to life. Knowledge is turned into action.

Knowledge Mobilization is putting available knowledge into active service to benefit society – and using social media is a great way of putting knowledge into active service.

silos

In the KMb literature the word silo is often used to describe the ways that organizations (but also individuals) shelter themselves and their knowledge, skills and experience. KMb is about breaking out of the silos and ultimately applying knowledge for the long term benefits of society. Using social media to inform and be informed by ideas, experiences, stories and personal and professional knowledge to make our world better is KMb at its most basic level – which everyone can contribute to and gain from.

Knowledge Mobilization is the overall flow and on-going and constant input and development of knowledge. It is the open process of putting available knowledge into active service to benefit not just one particular organization or field, but for the greater benefit of all in society. One of the most basic ways of contributing to this flow is by using social media.

I have been actively using Twitter (@KMbeing) to tweet and retweet posts and links, and I post blogs that I think contribute to knowledge for the greater benefit of society. But I also comment on others’ tweets, connect with fellow tweeters with more in-depth conversations on and offline, pass information to my friends, family and other colleagues on Facebook, and make comments on other blogs and share things that have contributed to my own knowledge with others. As each person participates in social media the knowledge structure changes and improves.

Clip Gary RESS Co-Production

As a Digital Researcher and Knowledge Mobilizer, I have also participated in conferences and workshops such as the recent Co-Production workshop hosted by the Research Exchange for the Social Sciences Unit at the University of Sheffield that brought together academic and community researchers and organizations and presented about how to make the most of new technologies in their research and knowledge exchange efforts. I also participate in monthly online tweetchats using the Twitter hashtag #KMbChat  where a number of topics, questions, comments, links and resources inform and provide knowledge about knowledge mobilization through social media.

In the efforts I firmly believe we can use social media for Knowledge Mobilization to help transform humanity. By taking what each person has learned through their own experiences and knowledge, and using social media to inform and be informed, each person can develop and implement their own personal knowledge on a greater social scale.

Do you use social media for Knowledge Mobilization or just Information Exchange?

Are you still in a silo or do you want to make the world a better place?

10 Knowledge Tips

tips

1. Your knowledge has value if you share it with the intention of doing good and not harm. Others may think your knowledge isn’t worth sharing but face those challenges. Sharing your knowledge for social benefit always makes it more valuable, not less.

2. Every person feels stupid sometimes. Every person. Everywhere. We all devalue our knowledge at times and we all get embarrassed. Remember the value of sharing your knowledge for good and when you feel stupid remember, “this, too, shall pass.”

3. Having curiosity about learning something new creates new knowledge.  Embrace curiosity and be open to the knowledge of others.  Exchanging knowledge and learning something new breaks down barriers.

4. Every day, you will feel like you have forgotten something. Maybe you’ve been too rushed.  Maybe you feel like you don’t have enough time. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Especially if forgetting has caused what seems like a mistake and you feel stupid. Go back and read #2 again. Apologize if you need to and then move on. Seriously. Just move on and let it go.

5. The knowledge sharing, the listening, the talking, the  learning, the connections and the surprises.  It’s all part of it. And it’s all worth it to create new knowledge.

6. Knowledge is never perfect. Ever. But always worth sharing to create better knowledge.

7.  You will never regret sharing knowledge if it helps to improve someone else’s knowledge. Except for all of those times you second guess whether you have made a difference in making the world a better place.  Although it may only be in a small way, every bit of knowledge shared for benefit is better than knowledge shared to harm. Overall, this is what counts in the end.

8. Be open to the knowledge of others.  Other people who are very different from you will teach you something new, how to look more deeply at life and how to live and learn more fully.

9. Look for knowledge in everything.  You’ll find it in the middle of the busy. Or under the ridiculous. Or hanging out with the strange. Knowledge is like that. It’s in the middle of everything. It’s completely unpredictable. And it will surprise you when you’re not expecting it.

10.  Having knowledge of “the truth” is a myth. Knowledge isn’t black or white. Knowledge is a full range of colors and blends.  Strive for knowledge sharing to create new and always changing knowledge instead of “the truth”and trust your own knowledge sharing for social benefit to move knowledge forward in an ever-changing way.

140 Twitter Characters To Knowledge Mobilization – Revisited

How have traditional models of research and dissemination changed to present new knowledge to the public or further inform research by creating broader public engagement?  Many researchers – particularly in the health sciences – are still embedded in long-established values and approaches to methodology and validity, often overlooking new modes of knowledge mobilization such as social media.

NCE Logo

One of my recent KMbeing blog posts presented a very brief Twitter survey of the 16 classic Networks of Centres of Excellence in Canada (NCE). The survey found that many of these NCEs are still not effectively using Twitter as a valuable social media tool that can enhance knowledge mobilization strategies. This quick overview showed that of those NCEs that could actually be found on Twitter only four NCEs tweet an average of just over one tweet per day – which is clearly insufficient for effective social media and potential stakeholder engagement. It would appear that using Twitter as part of a knowledge mobilization strategy is clearly not on the radar screen of many of these NCEs, despite the potential of Twitter (and social media) as a valuable means of addressing key outcomes mandated for NCEs – including working with end users to accelerate the creation and application of new knowledge.

To be fair, my own quick methodology of the previous survey focused on the average number of tweets per day over a 30 day period from the 14th February 2013 to the 15th March 2013.  The average number of tweets in a month was then divided by 30 to get the average number of tweets per day. Although the Twitter profile start date for each NCE was included along with the actual total number of tweets since each NCE began tweeting, this was not considered when doing the first brief survey.

So now, for part two of the original blog post survey 140 Twitter Characters To Knowledge Mobilization, I present a somewhat deeper (though still brief) analysis that takes into consideration the length of time each of these classic NCEs have used Twitter.

I used timeanddate.com to calculate the total number of days from the start date of each NCE Twitter profile to the 15th of March 2013 (up to and including March 15th to be consistent with the first survey). Then the total number of tweets since each NCE joined Twitter was divided by the total number of days each NCE has been using Twitter to create a tweet-intensity score.

Each NCE was then ranked, showing the following results:

Twitter Intensity Scores NCEs

 

                  

(Click on diagram above to enlarge)

Tweet-Intensity Ranking:

  1. Allergy, Genes and Environment Network – AllerGen
@AllerGen_NCE

(funding to 2019)

0.96

  1. AUTO21 Network of Centres of Excellence
@AUTO21NCE 

(funding to 2015)

0.83

  1. ArcticNet
@ArcticNet

(funding to 2018)

0.81

  1. Canadian Arthritis Network – CAN 
@commcan

(funding to 2014)

0.80

  1. Stem Cell Network – SCN
@StemCellNetwork

(funding to 2015)

0.73

  1. Carbon Management Canada – CMC
@cmc_nce

(funding to 2013)

0.47

  1. Canadian Stroke Network – CSN 
@strokenetwork

(funding to 2015)

0.37

  1. NeuroDevNet
@NeuroDevNet

(funding to 2014)

0.34

  1. Canadian Water Network – CWN
@CdnWaterNetwork

(funding to 2015)

0.28

  1. BioFuelNet 
@BioFuelNet

(funding to 2017)

0.13

  1. Graphics, Animation and New Media Canada – GRAND
@GRAND_NCE

(funding to 2014)

0.10

  1. Canadian Photonic Industry Consortium – CPIC 

Not Found

(no longer funded)

0.0

  1. GEOmatics for Informed DEcisions Network – GEOIDE 

Not Found

(no longer funded)

0.0

  1. Marine Environmental, Observation, Prediction and Response Network – MEOPAR 

Not Found

(funding to 2017)

0.0

  1. Mprime Network Inc.

Not Found

(funding to 2014)

0.0

  1. Technology Evaluation in the Elderly Network – TVN 

Not Found

(funding to 2017)

0.0

Although it’s still a simple calculation from the total number of tweets since each NCE started using Twitter, the current results show a more accurate tweet-intensity over time, with one of the NCEs – AllerGen – ranking first and showing a fairly impressive use of tweeting for the shorter amount of time on Twitter.
(It would be interesting to include the number of followers into the mix to see if that variable contributes to tweet effectiveness – but I’ll save that for a future blog post!).

However, results still show that the average number of tweets per day still remains well under the evidence that a minimum of at least ten tweets per day creates more valuable engagement and greater opportunities for knowledge dissemination. There’s still room for improvement to create greater social media engagement for more effective knowledge mobilization.

Just as a comparison, I decided to look at the results for Canada’s leading knowledge mobilization network ResearchImpact and my own KMbeing Twitter account.

Twitter Profile Twitter Name Twitter Start Total Days On Twitter Total Tweets Tweet-Intensity Score
ResearchImpact @researchimpact May 15, 2009

1401

9450

6.74

KMbeing @kmbeing March 25, 2010

1087

9982

9.18

researchimpact

KMbeing logo

(Perhaps this is the reason why both ResearchImpact and KMbeing were voted in the top ten Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Influencers for 2011 and 2012).

Canadian policymakers and government agencies have recognized the value of drawing together leading researchers and research institutions into national research networks to support trans-disciplinary and multi-sectoral collaboration.  The effectiveness of these research networks are also a great example to the rest of the world.  It’s a first step towards incorporating knowledge mobilization into strategic planning to successfully increase communication and collaboration among a variety of stakeholders. It’s a changing research model using networking as part of the research process.

The next step for Canada’s flagship Science & Technology networks is to increase the use of social media for knowledge mobilization.  Again, social media is not a fad, and the use of social media for academics and institutions is becoming more incorporated into strategic planning. Many researchers and academic institutions are recognizing the value of using Twitter in a more consistent and productive manner for knowledge mobilization.

David Phipps

As David Phipps, Executive Director of Research and Innovation Services at York University (and ResearchImpact) pointed out in a keynote address to the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum in 2012 (and posted on the blog MobilizeThis!), the future of knowledge mobilization and research engagement will depend on social media, but researchers and knowledge mobilizers are still trying to figure out how to effectively use social media to do this.

15-20 years ago IT folks had to develop a business case to convince corporate leaders to invest in an enterprise e mail system. Today e mail is a fact of life (unfortunately). Many of us are now using social media as a broadcasting tool and a large portion are also using it as a listening tool. We are now starting to figure out how to use social media as a tool for engagement but we’re not there yet. These trends will accelerate.”

Just as email changed society, so too is social media changing the traditional models of research, dissemination and engagement. Social media provides new modes of knowledge exchange and broader public input, creating a further research resource in the current KMb world as a way of providing broader participation in discussions around research topics.  Social media also breaks down international barriers to share academic research in a way that is more friendly and immediate to a wider audience. Yet, social media is still a tool that needs to be used correctly to be effective (see my previous blog for tips on how to do this).

Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence are making a start.  They just need to continue to take a few more steps forward into new modes of research and into the future of using social media – especially Twitter – for knowledge mobilization.

Growing Unlimited Knowledge

Unlimited

Knowledge is never limited. Don’t waste your time trying to contain it. Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) is about building on knowledge, creating new knowledge from a variety of sources and individuals to continue growing unlimited knowledge.

Storytelling, Social Media, Equity, Knowledge Mobilization & Donuts!

storytelling

Sharing knowledge by telling a story can make a presentation, blog or conversation more interesting. Why?

When I was five years old, I was hit by a car. I fractured my collar-bone and was unconscious for nearly 48 hours. Doctors feared that I would suffer brain damage due to the impact of hitting my head against the pavement after being thrown forward by the force of the car. Fortunately, I was wearing one of those Sherlock Holmes-style winter hats for kids that my mother thought looked so cute on me. Thankfully, the hat cushioned the blow. I recovered, but my skull – though healed – still has a fracture line that I can run my fingers along.

Sherlock Holmes hat     donuts

I blame free donuts as the reason why I was hit by a car.

I crossed the busy street because it was the grand opening of a donuts shop – and I wanted free donuts. Being five years old, I wasn’t really paying attention to traffic and more to the opportunity for free donuts…and…bam…thrown in the air to land on the pavement into unconsciousness.

What’s interesting about this story is that you are more likely to be able to visualize this incident and remember the details of the story with its connection to free donuts because of an emotional connection you’ve made to the knowledge I’ve shared. You would probably be less likely to do so if I simply presented this story with a list of strict facts:

  • I was five years old
  • I was hit by a car
  • There were free donuts

Since the very first days of tribal story telling, exchanging knowledge through stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods. We all enjoy a good story. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that using stories to share knowledge is a much more effective way of retaining what’s being told. There’s also a neurological reason for it as well. When we are given information, the language processing parts in our brain are activated. When we hear a story many more parts of the brain respond. When a person shares knowledge through a story we connect intellectually and emotionally.

Sharing knowledge through storytelling is still very much a part of Aboriginal culture. I was reminded of this at a three-day Knowledge Exchange (KE) Training event this past week attended by Regional KE leaders and team members from across the province of Ontario. Day one of the KE training focused on marginalized populations and how to engage with these various groups, such as those that are homeless, of low-income, racialized minorities, Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis, Inuit), or from LGBT communities who are marginalized based on sexual orientation or gender diversity. A session focusing on the use of the Health Equity Impact Assessment Tool (HEIA) presented how this tool can be used to identify and address potential unintended health impacts (positive or negative) when developing a policy, program or initiative with specific population groups.

I can certainly see the potential of incorporating HEIA into a knowledge mobilization (KMb) strategy as it helps us better understand context and equity. Yet, a broader and still underused knowledge mobilization tool to include the knowledge of marginalized populations is social media.

At the KE Training Event, I spoke with several knowledge brokers about how I use social media – particularly Twitter – as an effective knowledge mobilization tool. I was surprised to hear that many knowledge exchange leaders at the event are still not using social media as part of their own knowledge exchange work. Certainly, EENet, the Evidence Exchange Network is one step forward in using social media as a knowledge exchange tool. Yet, as I wrote in an earlier blog, the greater potential of using Twitter as a knowledge mobilization tool is still not clearly understood.

One of the more enjoyable presentations of the KE Training event was from closing keynote speaker David Phipps – a person who knows how to tell a great story to share knowledge. One of David’s MobilizeThis! blogs is a great example of the power of story telling using social media for knowledge mobilization. In David’s engaging presentation, he illustrated how understanding context is essential for effective knowledge mobilization.

Fundamentally, Knowledge Exchange, Knowledge Mobilization, Translation, Implementation, K* (K-Star) – whatever you want to call it  – is about connecting the knowledge of PEOPLE. Each group has their own stories to tell in their own context – and each group can share knowledge through these stories. Knowledge doesn’t always have to be packaged in a formal, academic presentation or format. Sometimes simply being open-minded enough to listen to another person’s story – particularly those who are marginalized in our society – can be a powerful way of sharing and mobilizing knowledge.

But how do we engage marginalized populations using social media to better understand their context when some may not even have access to a computer? Or – more importantly – how can knowledge brokers collaborate with these often unheard voices and use social media for more effective knowledge mobilization?

One way that comes to mind is through digital storytelling.

I think of another great storyteller, Peter Levesque from Knowledge Mobilization Works, who also uses story telling as a KMb tool. Peter points to digital storytelling as “one of the MOST important forms of knowledge mobilization available to community-based organizations and citizens”. Peter uses a specific example of Aboriginal storytelling combined with digital technology as an effective method for understanding context, and conveying these stories through social media.

Additional examples of using social media for great and effective digital storytelling can be found at MindYourMind and HomelessHub who use both YouTube  and Twitter as knowledge mobilization tools.

As someone who strongly believes in the power of social media for knowledge mobilization, I see the combination of storytelling by marginalized communities using social media to convey context as an essential knowledge mobilization tool. If you’re a knowledge broker – how well are you incorporating this equity tool into your knowledge mobilization strategy?

Now, for some reason…I feel like having a donut!

140 Twitter Characters To Knowledge Mobilization

The use of Twitter as an effective social media tool for knowledge mobilization is still not understood. This was made clear to me by two things that happened this past week:

1)      I was actively involved in a discussion with several members of EENet – the Evidence Exchange Network where the use of Twitter for research dissemination was called into question

AND

2)     I performed a brief Twitter survey of the 16 classic Networks of Centres of Excellence in Canada (NCE) that focus on research-driven partnerships, and found that these NCEs are still not effectively using this valuable social media tool, despite the Government of Canada’s knowledge mobilization mandate for NCEs “to transform these discoveries into products, services, and processes that improve the quality of life of Canadians.

First, the EENet Discussion:

EENet logo

Melissa MindyourMind

Melissa Taylor-Gates, Social Media and Project Coordinator for the award-winning MindyourMind (@mindyourmind_ca on Twitter) was interested in hearing about what other members of EENet are doing “to engage in meaningful knowledge mobilization” and how people use social media to achieve this goal. She started the discussion-ball rolling. The conversation soon focused on the use of Twitter as a key social media tool for academic/institutional researchers to engage with a wider and more diverse audience about research being done. Melissa aptly called Twitter “the great equalizer” and demonstrated this point with an excellent graphic showing the difference between equality and equity (which I gratefully co-opted for one of my blog posts here), making a further point that using social media for research dissemination is “more than just making a paper available to everyone online, it’s translating the information into accessible means.”

Well said Melissa!

These comments sparked valuable discussion – especially around how to sift through the deluge of information to find accurate, evidence-based research findings and trusted sources on Twitter. (For more about sifting through what I refer to as data/information noise, see my previous blog post here). One member’s comment, “I devoutly hope that no-one would assume that they could get sound clinical research information from a tweet” and concerns about the limitations of 140 characters caused a flurry of counter-comments.  Many EENet members pointed out how to find Twitter sources for relevant and useful research to credible peer-reviewed journals and Twitter profiles using hashtags and hyperlinks.

Some of the key messages that came out of this discussion are that Twitter is simply a tool – just another medium of sharing information, good or not so good, that can be used properly or not, requiring further learning and skill to effectively use social media for knowledge mobilization.  In contrast to Marshall MacLuhan, in this case the medium is not the message – the content is the message. Yet, it’s an important social media tool that is no longer a fad or waste of time. Twitter is an effective tool for knowledge mobilization. For my practice as KMbeing, Twitter has successfully created knowledge networking connections with researchers and other stakeholders from Canada, U.S., U.K. and Denmark where we have continued knowledge collaboration offline and in-person at conferences and other events. Yet, like any social relationships, social media relationships also require time and regular tending.

 

NCE

Twitter survey of the core 16 of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE):

 Using social media – especially Twitter – as an effective tool for knowledge translation and mobilization is being adopted more by academics and formal institutions as a way of contributing to greater social benefit. Each day sees an increase in the number of Twitter accounts being created by universities and research organizations, but simply having a Twitter account and only sporadically posting information is not an effective way of using Twitter for knowledge mobilization.

As Canada’s preeminent Science & Technology investments, I was curious to see what type of presence the core NCEs have on Twitter and how they might be using this effective social media tool as one of the products and processes (mentioned on the NCE website) for knowledge mobilizing of multidisciplinary research from across Canada (and from around the world) as a mandate from Canada’s funding agencies:

Although my survey is only a very brief overview of average daily tweets, completed over a day on March 15th, 2013, it does reveal that only 11 out of 16 classic NCEs are easily found on Twitter, and that only four NCEs tweet an average of just over one tweet per day – which is clearly insufficient for effective stakeholder engagement.

NCE Twitter Survey
(click on diagram to enlarge)
(Note: Last tweet = number of hours since or date of last tweet)

Evidence shows that users who tweet between 10 and 50 times per day have more followers on average than those that tweet more or less frequently, and have greater opportunities for knowledge dissemination and engagement.

Tweets per day
So what does this say about missed opportunities for increased research dissemination and collaboration between researchers and research users using social media for knowledge mobilization?

 It appears that the Networks of Centres of Excellence have yet to fully embrace the potential of Twitter (and social media) as a valuable means of addressing key outcomes mandated for NCEs:

  • Mobilizing multi-disciplinary research capacity from across Canada
  • Engaging partners from multiple academic institutions and various public and private-sector organizations
  • Working with end users to accelerate the creation and application of new knowledge
  • Increasing collaboration between researchers in Canada and abroad

This is either because – like some EENet members – they’re not fully aware of the potential for research outreach and engagement using Twitter, or the NCEs have not identified this as a priority despite the evidence (presented in a book chapter that I co-authored) of using social media as a means of applying research for public benefit using knowledge mobilization.

For those still uncertain among Canada’s NCEs (and other researchers) as to how to best approach and develop a social media strategy using Twitter, here are some tips:

  • If your NCE doesn’t have one already – create a Twitter account. For nothing else, protect your brand by reserving your naming rights on Twitter.
  • Use a simple and descriptive name for your Twitter profile that will clearly identify your affiliation with your NCE and include a brief description of the research focus
  • To avoid what is referred to as “shiny object syndrome” – zoom in on pertinent subject matter by using Twitter hashtags which will also establish connections with topics, people and sites that are relevant to your research
  • Designate individuals within the NCE whose primary responsibility is for populating, maintaining and monitoring your Twitter account, ensuring they have the time and enthusiasm to consistently tweet and retweet several times throughout each day. This isn’t a full time job but needs to be someone’s job.
  • Don’t simply tweet without including links (unless you are engaging in the next bullet point)
  • Tweet with a 140 character conversation to connect with other national and international researchers and stakeholders in your discipline to facilitate the social in social media by engaging in dialogue and creating opportunities for further engagement online and offline
  • Regularly schedule a monthly evaluation of your Twitter account’s success and be prepared to realign your Twitter content and approach

Social media is not a fad, and the use of social media for academics and institutions is becoming more incorporated into strategic planning. Many researchers are now recognizing the value of using Twitter in a more consistent and productive manner for knowledge mobilization. Perhaps it’s time that some of Canada’s NCEs and mental health stakeholders do the same.