KMbeing

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

Category Archives: Networks of Centres of Excellence

How Do We Define Effective Impact Of Research Knowledge?

Impact

Impact can be defined as: a powerful or major influence or effect; a force or impression of one thing on another – or an economic, social or cultural change or benefit to the quality of life within society.

If we apply this to the potential impact of research – impact can be defined as a measurable change in policy, services or products. However, researchers don’t make policy, they usually don’t offer services, and they generally don’t produce products. It is government (public sector) who makes policy, community organizations (voluntary sector) who mostly deliver services, and industry (private sector) who create products. Researchers develop knowledge which can lead to impact, but remember that some research knowledge has no impact at all.

Impact is not measured by the production of knowledge alone. Impact is measured by the application of knowledge. Impact is measured not at the level of research knowledge-producer but at the level of the end-user.

An excellent framework demonstrating impact comes from the knowledge mobilization unit at York University. This framework, called The Co-Produced Pathway to Impact was developed by David Phipps, Executive Director, Research and Innovation Services at York University in collaboration with PREVNet (a Network of Centres of Excellence promoting research and KMb to prevent bullying).

To understand how impact is measured at the level of the end-user, it’s important to understand the beginning process of KMb that leads to social innovation.

How and What KMb

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) helps make research useful to society with the HOW of creating a shared space of collaboration between community and campus…that leads to the WHAT of social innovation.

Co-production to Impact

The shared space of collaboration creates the Co-Production of research knowledge leading to the Activity of knowledge Dissemination. The Output of KMb is the Uptake of this knowledge by the public, voluntary and private sectors to assess its value, leading to the Outcome of Implementation of the research knowledge. The measureable change in policy, services or products is the Impact. However, it is the on-going Co-Production through the process that leads to Impact.

The measure of effective impact is both social and economic, such as an increase in constructive public policy and services creating wider benefit for a full range of people, as well as the measure of competitive municipal, regional and national economic performance on a global scale.

From a healthcare perspective to enhance the quality of life, Alain Beaudet, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) makes it easy to understand the process of KMb to Impact in his message in CIHR’s recent five-year strategic plan:

“Ultimately, health research is about helping people to be healthier. But while there is one definitive destination (Impact), there are many paths to get there. It may be through the development of new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, or promote population health. It may be through providing the evidence that supports the delivery of the health services Canadians need, when and where they need them. And it may be through the commercialization of a health research discovery to make a new product or service available in the marketplace.”

The social and economic impacts on health include the improvement of outcomes for patients, enhanced disease prevention, a change in healthcare practice that leads to greater public awareness of health risks and benefits, and constructive behavioural changes in such things as diet, exercise, habits and routines. This also includes having the costs of treatment or healthcare become more accessible and affordable as a result of changes in policy and practice.

Other social and economic impacts occur when there has been an influence on the development of policy (including a better understanding of policy) by providing services or products that shape legislation and change behaviour – including the development of personal and practical skills, as well as the on-going training of highly skilled people.

The challenge of creating effective impact is that impact is not something that happens quickly. Just as change takes time to achieve – so too, effective impact takes time.

As CIHR President, Alan Beaudet states, “there are many paths to get there” so effective impacts may occur more readily in some sectors or disciplines and not so much in others.

Impact may also change over time, so there is also a need for monitoring and re-evaluation.

There are also different contexts and diverse perspectives on what can be considered effective impact.

The bottom line of how to define effective impact of research knowledge is obviously the end result. Has there been an economic, social or cultural change or benefit to the quality of life within society? And has this change been scalable and sustainable to achieve wider benefit?

Ultimately, we need to be open to the possibility that impact is limited to different contexts (thank you PARIHS model) and can change based on new, emerging research knowledge, socio-economic shifts – and varying human behaviour – that creates a continuous cycle of co-produced pathways to impact every day.

Knowledge Brokers As Translators & Diplomats

translate

How do you get people who speak different languages to understand one another? If you’ve ever travelled to other countries or been in a group of people who speak different languages where you’ve tried to make yourself understood you’ve probably used a series of gestures, facial expressions, body language or object-pointing to help with the various translations.

Researchers and policy makers are like these people who speak different languages from different countries.

Now what if you take this language and cultural barrier example one step further and find that not only are you not able to communicate with these other people – you’re also being ignored in your attempts to be understood. Researchers are often like the people trying to be understood in attempts to get their research implemented – while policy makers can be the ones doing the ignoring.

Researchers and policy makers are two highly specialized groups. Both have different goals, attitudes towards what is considered “evidence” based and how to “best” use it, perceptions of time-frames, and different demands and accountabilities on their work. Just like people of different languages and cultures, there are also issues of trust and respect that can come into play when some borders won’t even allow some people to cross into the country, as policy makers are skeptical about the usefulness of research – or worse – don’t even see a link between research and decision making.

 

How do we get them to understand each other? 

The most effective way is getting a translator.  

 

How do we get them to open up borders for less restricted access?

The most effective way is getting a diplomat.

 

That translator and diplomat for researchers and policy makers is a knowledge broker.

 

What if I want to get to certain places and across borders without a map, a directional, translational or transportation device to do so? Would simply wishing this to happen without the appropriate tools or resources make it happen? What about those obstacles that I might encounter along the way that might require new ways, inputs and possible detours to eventually get to my destination or be understood?

That’s where knowledge brokers come into the research process to close the loop (or untangle the spool of thread) in the knowledge mobilization process between research and policy making. Knowledge brokers bring in a 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 (a variety of “languages” and “cultures”) – not just from researcher or policy maker perspectives alone. Knowledge brokering works across sectors to ensure that research is made openly available and understood to society in the most effective manner in ways that bring wider benefit.

Within the science to policy stage, knowledge brokers offer professional, intermediary support as “translators” and “diplomats” to help guide researchers and policy makers in understanding each other. Knowledge brokers help traverse the structural issues around professional “language” and “cultural” boundaries established by the organizational norms and environments of researchers and policy makers – as well as many other stakeholders.

Knowledge brokers also help manage the barriers of institutional change and development while also understanding the context-specific elements of knowledge mobilization. As knowledge mobilization advisers, the roles and skills of knowledge brokers need to be clearly understood. David Phipps and Sarah Morton have written an excellent (and whimsical) practice-based article on the qualities required for successful knowledge brokers, which also includes valuable recommendations on recruiting and training knowledge brokers. The article may take a more light-hearted approach to the “idealised knowledge broker” but the importance of having knowledge brokers within universities, research institutions and other organizations with the appropriate skills is imperative for successful implementation of research to policy making.

Knowledge brokers also simplify the information between researchers and policy makers: Good examples are the Health Evidence Network (set up by the World Health Organization) which provides one page policy briefs in response to questions posed by policy makers; and the Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada within the government of Canada to connect research and policy makers in transforming research “into products, services and processes that improve the lives of Canadians.”

Knowledge brokers can provide policy makers – who are already inundated with information – a brief synopsis of research such as those produced by ResearchImpact knowledge brokers as clear language research summaries. Such clear language research summaries are an effective and valuable way of briefing policy makers in a concise and understandable manner to integrate and synthesize scientific information into knowledge. Knowledge brokers who are supporting access to research and engaging with researchers, community organizations, practitioners, and policy makers can use clear language summaries as part of an institutional strategy for knowledge mobilization.

Knowledge mobilization helps support research collaborations and co-production of knowledge where researchers and policy makers partner to understand and produce knowledge that is relevant to academia as well as to real world problems. Knowledge brokers as “translators” and “diplomats” are also highly skilled professionals who help researchers and policy makers understand each other by developing knowledge mobilization strategies where different languages are spoken.

If you had language and cultural barriers, wouldn’t you want a translator or diplomat to help create understanding?