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

Category Archives: social media tools

The Politics of Austerity, Research & Knowledge Mobilization

Austerity

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) is slowly emerging as a process to connect academic research with evidence-based policy-making since the emergence of KMb over the past decade. KMb was cultivated in earlier forms of evidence-based practice, and recent initiatives across sectors of public administration indicate a move towards creating new policies based on research that produces social benefit as an impact. (For more in-depth reading on the historical development of KMb, I continue to recommend an excellent longitudinal analysis paper written by Carole Estabrooks and colleagues that traces the historical development of the knowledge exchange field between 1945 and 2005 with an author co-citation analysis of over 5,000 scholarly articles).

The term knowledge mobilization (KMb) evolved following the publication of an evaluation report of the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in 2004. This led SSHRC to create a division of Knowledge Products and Mobilization to enhance and accelerate the movement of research findings into policy and program development.

However, the politics of austerity continues to affect the types of research deemed more beneficial than others. In terms of research, austerity describes government policies used to reduce research funding as part of maintaining government budgets. The effects of austerity measures on research by decreased funding is seen as direct attacks on public services, whose primary mission is to reduce social inequalities – which social science research, in particular, seeks to address and understand.

Is it because of this obvious link – and full-circle connection – between social science research and public services that politicians wish to ignore when they implement austerity measures that leads to a decrease in research funding?

Research funding and policy are politically guided and frequently challenged as a means to deliver public services due to a growing disconnect over the past decade between researchers and the Canadian government. The current Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power in 2006 – two years after SSHRC’s CURA evaluation and KMb momentum began. Since then, many Canadian researchers and knowledge brokers have gained an international reputation for broadening the research path based on the development of KMb; however Canada’s government has also gained an international reputation for ignoring KMb recommendations and silencing scientific experts who seek to make their work public – causing a rift in the relationship between academia and government. (Further articles on Conservative government cuts to science research can be found here and here and here).

In an effort to reduce government spending, many researchers have been affected by a decrease in research funding. The ongoing transformation of the academic sector has been most apparent with the many challenges created by financial struggles with universities seeking evidence-based reform with initiatives such as the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the UK or a Program Prioritization Process (PPP) such as Academic and Administrative Program Review (AAPR) in Canada. There has been increased pressure on universities for financial income and resources along with increased pressure from government granting agencies that expect a valuable public and/or private return of investment for providing research funding.

Considering the continuing decrease in research funding, should researchers (particularly social science researchers) wish to maintain a prominent role in the pursuit of research for social benefit they need to develop broader partnerships – with the use of knowledge brokers – to not only advance wider knowledge networks and broader connections for research, but also establish collective lobbying voices for government policy change.

But first, researchers must understand that integrating KMb strategies into their own research plays a crucial role in creating these connections of influence.  KMb must start as an institutional capacity that involves public, private and community sector partners. Then, by incorporating a social media element, the connections, conversations and collaboration aspects of social media work together to help establish Communities of Practice online and can support the social and influential nature of KMb on public policy. These vital links of KMb are illustrated in Applying Social Sciences Research for Public Benefit Using Knowledge Mobilization and Social Media. Governmental, corporate, academic and community partners need to intersect and work together to help research organizations and society reorient themselves.

kmb-model-final1.png

Researchers alone are incapable of influencing political strategies that continue to decrease funding. This requires a movement through broader partnerships that can serve as a collective point of community engagement and pressure politicians to increase research funding and lead to policy change.

The Conservative government’s political agenda in Canada remains largely unabated as policy makers decide which resources Canadian researchers (and society) “needs” to be allocated for the next big political game.  Changing this will require a cooperative movement that transcends individual academic, corporate and community sectors to make political demands and build the social-benefit capacity of research that has been historically entrenched in university/institutions which requires further continuing expansion to society beyond. Without a strong KMb strategy, deeply rooted in community-engagement and forging new partnerships to lobby government for increasing funding, it would appear that the under-funding of research from government sources will continue.

Canadian researchers (particularly social science researchers) face an historic opportunity with an upcoming Federal election on October 19th, 2015 which may well change the Conservative precedent of decreasing Federal research funding in Canada. Future research depends on the extent of decreasing the financial pressures that continue to be based on the politics of austerity that overlook the social benefits of research.

 

 

Knowledge Mobilization, Storytelling & Tim Hortons Donuts

Gary since 1964

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Tim Hortons Donuts and also my 50th birthday!  In thinking about this I remembered an earlier KMbeing blog post about storytelling as part of knowledge mobilization – and donuts!

In honour of both our 50 years I thought I’d repost with an update. 

 

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 at Tim Hortons as the reason why I was hit by a car – well it’s not Tim Hortons fault, but their donuts are soooo good!

I crossed the busy street because it was the grand opening of a Tim Hortons  – 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 while thinking about a Knowledge Mobilization event I attended last year which focused on marginalized populations. Knowledge mobilization is about breaking down barriers and engaging with various groups in our society – including 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.

I have spoken about how I use social media – particularly Twitter – as an effective knowledge mobilization and storytelling tool and I am always surprised to hear that many knowledge mobilization leaders, knowledge brokers, scholars and educators are still not using social media as part of their own knowledge exchange work.

One of the more enjoyable presentations about knowledge mobilization and storytelling comes from David Phipps – a person who knows how to tell a great story and mobilize 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 presentations he illustrates how understanding context is essential for effective knowledge mobilization – and how good storytelling can add to good knowledge exchange.

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, scholar or educator – how well are you incorporating this equity tool into your knowledge mobilization strategy?

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

Gary 50 years

Fasten Your Seatbelts For Open-Access & Knowledge Mobilization

fasten seat belt

Maybe years from now academics will reflect on a time when the process of peer-review submissions for journal publication of research findings was like taking a several hours or days journey by horse and buggy that today might take us less than an hour to complete by car, train, bus or airplane. We can start to reflect on the changing view of academics to become more accepting of open access journals yet we shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of peer-review itself to ensure quality control and verification.  Open-access allows for faster publication and faster access – yet that doesn’t mean speed doesn’t have its own dangers, or that we don’t take responsibility ourselves to not be fooled by everything we read as “accurate knowledge”.

Researchers know that the archaic and painstaking process of old-style peer-review submissions can often take upwards of a year to finally get published. Criticisms around the timeliness and relevance of making the data known creates barriers that can limit the effectiveness of presenting the research knowledge to other researchers and to the public.

Open-access journals for faster publication of research findings have now also finally started to gain respectability among scientists as a mode of broader knowledge dissemination to a public interested in being included in knowledge mobilization – not excluded – from the prior elitist realm of discipline-specific publications and “knowledge circles”.  (There are also now other timely means of sharing research knowledge such as #scholarsunday that takes place on Twitter in which both research scholars and the public can participate).

Yet trouble in the open-access waters hasn’t always made the process so smooth.

Let’s revisit journalist John Bohannon’s undercover investigative report from 2013 discussed further in Michael Eisen’s blog which caused quite a stir and opened the eyes of many open-access supporters. Bohannon, who has a PhD in biology, submitted a fraudulent cancer-research article and reported that 157 open-access journals had agreed to publish his fake findings.

The lesson to be learned from this is not that open access journals are not relevant modes for research publication. Rather the emphasis must continue to be on quality control by any professional publisher and any reader to automatically accept any research findings published. We must all approach knowledge exchanged with critical thinking – even after publication – open access or not.

When we fail to use our own critical thinking around research results and knowledge exchange we abdicate our own responsibility in accepting at face-value any research or “knowledge” that is received. The real problem is not necessarily the mode of transportation used –whether horse and buggy, car, train, bus or airplane. It’s how safely we secure ourselves on the ride that occurs – by using our own “scholarly assessment” of research findings.

If we are so-called research experts in a particular discipline we should already be taught to re-examine with scrutiny any published research findings anyway as part of the scientific method.

We now live in a time where the general public must also learn to approach any “evidence” with the same critical eye.

Yet there’s the underlying problem itself…learning to be critical thinkers ourselves. Peer-review publication is supposed to ensure quality control, yet even the peer-review process can’t keep the train on the track. Making an indictment of the open-access model is like saying we should go back to travelling by horse and buggy as a “safer” mode of transportation.

Don’t blame the mode of transportation if you haven’t secured your own self properly for the journey.

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?

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.

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.

Global Knowledge Community

online

Knowledge mobilization using social media connects people across the globe and helps create an online community where local becomes global and global becomes local.

 

 

The Persistence Of Sharing Knowledge

persistence

When we persist in sharing knowledge for social benefit it becomes easier for us to do.  Not that the nature of the knowledge has to be earth-shattering, but it’s the ongoing action of taking steps to contribute to greater knowledge for good that makes the world a better place. Any bit of knowledge shared for social benefit can make a difference.

I’ll never know what knowledge I may have gained if I had other opportunities in my life. But life is about choices, and I’ve made the choice many times to give something up in favor of something else, and in the process, making new knowledge connections while missing others. That doesn’t mean that the knowledge that I have shared or gained can’t continue to make a difference. It’s all about the persistence of continuing to share the knowledge I have and be open to the knowledge of others that makes the difference.

This persistence in sharing knowledge reminds me of when I first started writing my knowledge mobilization (KMb) KMbeing blog. My first blog post on April 3rd 2010 was a first step into the unknown as I wondered if my knowledge sharing could make a difference. Almost anyone can write a blog and share knowledge. It’s the persistence in adding a new post at regular intervals that has helped me recognize that I can make a difference for good that makes the world a better place. By consistently sharing my knowledge and learning from the knowledge of others each day over the past few years, I have been able to connect with people from over 140 countries, and gained recognition as one of Canada’s top ten knowledge mobilization influencers.

Sharing bits of my knowledge on my blog has invariably become much easier for me simply due to persistence – and I believe this can happen for almost anyone if they persist in continuing to share their own knowledge and be open to the knowledge of others.

As we share our knowledge more openly with each other, our world becomes more connected, which can lead to greater recognition of our diversity and our common humanity – ultimately leading to greater understanding, and hopefully a world of greater harmony. 

Unfortunately, though, many people feel the discomfort and insecurity of sharing their own knowledge and they quit (or don’t even start) before they ever give their knowledge the opportunity to contribute to social benefit – they quit before their chances increase.

Public speakers grow by speaking, writers grow by writing, bloggers grow by blogging – knowledge grows by sharing. In whatever manner you want to share your own knowledge, just start and it can make a difference. The more we do something, the better we get at it and the easier it becomes for us. That temptation to give up is simply avoiding the discomfort or insecurity of believing in the power of one’s own knowledge to make a difference. It’s about not second-guessing that somehow even the “limited” knowledge we think we may have can’t connect with someone else’s knowledge and move towards making a difference in this world. It’s all about the persistence of sharing knowledge for social benefit that can make the difference.