KMbeing

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

Tag Archives: Carole Estabrooks

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.

 

 

Scientific Experts & A “Cherry-Picking” Prime Minister

Cherry Picking

In a recent interview the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper had many researchers and scientists shaking their heads and wondering if Harper was being hypocritical or serious when he admonished Canadian parents to listen to science “experts” regarding childhood vaccines by stating “don’t indulge non-scientific theories.” Many researchers and scientists wondered how Harper could make such a statement after many years of their research and work continues to be ignored or cancelled due to Harper’s view on scientific experts.

At the beginning of the 21st century a shift occurred in Canadian thinking about the process of research and its use. There was an emerging understanding of the importance of more inclusive knowledge exchange by various stakeholders from university, community and government  to support the use of research in decision-making for social programming, public policy and professional practice. (For more in-depth reading on this shift in research thinking 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).

By 2005 a new focus on evidence-informed research invited public contribution – not as passive subjects in the research process but as active contributors. Research was no longer trapped in siloes with the rather self-serving goal of professional recognition in peer-reviewed journals. Research was no longer being held captive in exclusive research disciplines or sectors – thanks more recently in large part to social media. Research slowly began to be more open and accessible, focusing on broader applications and impacts – turning research into action.

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.

In February 2005, SSHRC hosted a multi-sectoral Knowledge Project – bringing 80 research teams together to discuss issues ranging from cities and the environment to aging and technology. This knowledge expo was attended by academics, the media and members of the public bringing SSHRC’s concept of strategic research sectors to policy-makers – winning the enthusiastic support of the Canadian government at that time. (What is interesting is that SSHRC does not have a website for the “Knowledge Project” even though it had an impressive response for the initiative).

Despite this shift over the past decade to more inclusive research thinking to connect researchers, research-users and policy-makers a growing disconnect occurred 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.

Here are examples of how Harper’s government has ignored expert research findings by placing a roadblock on the broadening KMb research path:

Currently, members of parliament (and the general public) still have no easy access to certain research and no formal help in understanding scientific studies due to the continuing archaic format, accessibility pay-walls and technical jargon used.

Canada prides itself as being a KMbeacon shining its evolved KMb light internationally as a successful example to other countries. However, as a recent article from Australia points out, government policy-makers are not entirely to blame – and this applies back to Canada as well.

Here are examples of how some researchers are still stuck in the past using the same archaic research techniques that continue to shut-out government policy-makers (and the general public) by limiting the KMb research path:

  • research is framed for academic journals rather than policy development
  • research is often not written in clear-language for easier understanding
  • incentives in academia favour restricted peer-review publication over interpretation or open-access publication
  • academics are rewarded for narrowness and depth over multi-disciplinarity and integration

(Also see this relevant blog about Knowledge Brokers Vs Knowledge Blockers and how “Academics lament fading influence“).

A private member’s bill was tabled on December 3, 2013 in the Canadian House of Commons recommending the creation of a parliamentary science officer. The new office would openly provide parliamentarians, researchers and the public with current evidence-informed research and the consequences of ignoring significant research findings. This was an important step to removing obstructions by both the current government and old-style researchers blocking the evolved KMb path. ­­

Sadly, nothing seems to have come from this private member’s bill to critically examine and help avoid the type of “cherry-picking” science that Harper seems to indulge in – or is Stephen Harper starting to finally “listen to the experts”?

 

A (Very Very) Brief History & Highlights Of Knowledge Mobilization In Canada

“To know and not to do is not to know”

-Proverb

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve heard about Knowledge Mobilization (KMb), and know about all of the various terms used to describe elements of KMb, such as Knowledge Transfer, Knowledge Exchange or Knowledge Utilization. (For more information about terminology, please see my previous blog).

If not, here’s a little history lesson…

When considering a (very very) brief history and highlights of Knowledge Mobilization in Canada there are many individuals, institutions and agencies that have greatly contributed to developing KMb in Canada. This blog points out only a few of these that I consider knowledge beacons shining their bright lights on the still-emerging pavement of the KMb highway. This is not to exclude all of the many great practitioners and contributors who have also been influential in the development and process of KMb in Canada. My purpose is only to present a brief outline.

A good place to start for an historical background is with a paper written by nursing scholar and researcher Carole Estabrooks. She has written a very thorough and excellent literature review exploring the early links and development in the field. In a longitudinal analysis paper, Estabrooks and colleagues have traced the historical development of the knowledge transfer field between 1945 and 2005 with an author co-citation analysis of over 5,000 scholarly articles.

In 2000, the foundational passage of The CIHR Act (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) by the Canadian Federal Government enshrined knowledge translation as a research mandate to create and translate knowledge in Canada.

Over the past decade, the evolving understanding of the multi-directional links, activities or influences among researchers and research-users in the multi-production of new knowledge makes the more limiting (and linear-thinking) term knowledge translation now seem outdated.

Knowledge Mobilization is becoming more of an accepted umbrella term to describe knowledge transfer or exchange. Along with CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) there are two other Federal government granting councils; SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council) – who prefers the term knowledge mobilization – and NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) who,  although they have used knowledge mobilization in some of their documents, does not necessarily use the term officially.

The seminal year for KMb in Canada is 2003, with two men sharing the same initials – J.L. Sounding more like a law firm (but working independently), Lavis and Lomas are two key Canadian KMb developers.

John Lavis published his article Measuring The Impact of Health Research in the Journal of Health Research Services & Policy developing the idea of knowledge push-pull & exchange.

John Lomas helped develop the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF). He worked in the emerging KMb profession as a knowledge broker and contributed to the 2003 report The Theory and Practice of Knowledge Brokering in Canada’s Health System. Lomas also wrote the influential paper, The in-between world of knowledge brokering, published in the British Medical Journal in 2007.

While it may appear that the research focus has been primarily in health, KMb has two major knowledge streams – health and education. Another key Canadian leader in studying and understanding KMb in education is Ben Levin. Levin is former Ontario Deputy Minister of Education and current Professor and Canada Research Chair in Education Leadership and Policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Levin’s experience in both education and government has given knowledge mobilizers insight into working with government for knowledge mobilization (for a look at Levin’s take on the political obstacles to Knowledge Mobilization click here). Levin has recently set up Research Supporting Practice in Education (RSPE), a knowledge mobilization program in and from education.

KMb is about participatory connecting, informing and being informed by a variety of knowledge contributors. Knowledge Mobilization is about fluid knowledge – the flow of knowledge as it is constantly transforming and being transformed for greater good in society.

The KMb process includes a diverse range of knowledge contributors from the Community/Voluntary Sector – including “everyday” individuals given a voice to tell their own stories and experiences; Academic Institutions; the Private Sector, and Government – all working with each other and contributing to overall knowledge for the greater benefit of society.

The history of KMb in Canada includes such leaders, individuals, organizations, academics, practitioners, business, and government agencies working together from all of these sectors (to name only a few):

From the Community/Voluntary Sector, The United Way of York Region is a great example of Canadian KMb contributions at the grass-roots level (see Mobilize This! blog for many examples of their KMb collaboration). Community-based projects like Mind your Mind provide services (many of them interactive web based) for young adults exploring mental health support services. Health charities like the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, along with the Canadian Cancer Society take research and use it to inform policy and practice, while also listening to and sharing the stories of individuals affected to inform further research.

Connecting across sectors is the Canadian Alliance for Community Service-Learning involving students, educators and communities in community service as an educational experience. There is also Community-Based Research being done at Community Based Research Canada (CBRC) and places like the Wellesley Institute that contribute to research that are inherently change-oriented from and for the community.

From Academic Institutions, the development of the KMb Unit at York University has brokered many projects between all sectors, and helped create ResearchImpact – Canada’s knowledge mobilization network, which now includes Memorial University, UQAM, University of Guelph, University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Victoria.

Also, The Harris Centre at Memorial University has contributed to knowledge mobilization for regional economic development for Newfoundland and Labrador. Their project yaffle has helped moved KMb into an online and accessible space.

From the Private Sector/Business, KMb between university and industry has primarily taken the form of technology transfer; however, broader concepts of knowledge transfer involving service learning, co-op placements and research contracts are emerging as principle methods of university/industry liaison.

One of the Canadian leaders within the Private Sector for KMb consulting, presenting and training is Knowledge Mobilization Works. I have had the privilege of recently been invited to work with founder and Director, Peter Levesque. He is a KMb leader in Canada, helping others learn and use knowledge to solve complex and current issues across many sectors.

From the area of Government, the development of Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada (NCE) are federally funded national research and translation organizations working on particular research topics. NCEs like The Canadian Water Network, The Canadian Arthritis Network, and PrevNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence), as well as organizations like Canadian Partnership Against Cancer,the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada all link research to practice. These government groups are focused on research knowledge and it’s translation into policies, products, processes or practices for everyone.

Of course assisting research through government funding are also the Granting Councils as mentioned above – CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council), and NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council).

Finally, an important part of Knowledge Mobilization in Canada is the development of the Ontario Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Community of Practice (KTE CoP). KTE CoP is a group of diverse practitioners, researchers and individuals who share practices, experience and knowledge while building peer relationships for information exchange and support. The group was established in 2005, and appears to be the only such community of practice of this kind (so far) in Canada. It’s hoped other such CoPs will be established in other parts of the country…perhaps they might change the name to KMb CoP?

Regardless of the terms used to describe Knowledge Mobilization, Canada can be seen as an international leader in contributing to the development of KMb – and the greater benefit of our world. It’s a history to be proud of, filled with many knowledge contributors and knowledge mobilizers. As we embark on the next decade of knowledge mobilization, I’m sure there will be many others from all sectors who will be able to shine their own lights on the future KMb highway.

A Little Knowledge Mobilization History Lesson

The belief that having and exchanging knowledge greatly contributes to the advancement of civilization is argued to go back as far as the Greeks (Rich, 1979. Science Communication, 1, 6-30). From the early twentieth-century, one of the great fore-thinkers and contributors to the idea of relational behaviour and knowledge exchange is the French sociologist and social psychologist Gabriel Tarde. Among his theories, Tarde proposed a different way of looking at the social world, not from the perspective of the individual or the group, but from how products, acts and ideas (including knowledge) can be used to classify individuals or groups.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend an Ontario KTE (Knowledge Transfer & Exchange) Community of Practice (CoP) event. I am a member of this KTE CoP and was excited to finally meet nursing scholar and knowledge utilization researcher, Carole Estabrooks at her presentation: Exploring the Applicability of Research to the Practice of Knowledge Translation. The decades of Estabrooks’ work and experience was evident as she shared her knowledge about the history, contexts and research being done in the practice of knowledge translation (knowledge mobilization) today (see blog about KMb definition & terminology).

In a longtitudinal analysis paper, Estabrooks  and colleagues have traced the historical development of the knowledge transfer field between 1945 and 2005 with an author co-citation analysis of over 5,000 scholarly articles. Their research shows limited citation before the 1960s. It’s not until the mid-1960s that a flourishing of the literature on knowledge transfer and knowledge utilization began, with the largest increase from 1995 to 2004. One of the most cited authors and contributors to the field is considered to be Everett Rogers.

It was Rogers who furthered Tarde’s “laws of imitation” in the 1962 book Diffusion of innovations. Rogers also identifies nine major disciplines in which research diffusion is most prominent: anthropology, early sociology, rural sociology, education, public health/medical sociology, communication, marketing, geography, general sociology, and a miscellaneous “other”.  Certainly, many of the members of the KTE CoP are included in these and equally diverse backgrounds. Evolving from diffusion of innovation, Rogers worked with colleagues G.M. Beal and Ronald Havelock to develop the term knowledge generation, exchange, and utilization to provide a more interactive understanding of the process of knowledge use, with a view that knowledge should be useful to society.

Estabrooks explains that knowledge transfer and knowledge utilization emerged as two new domains from the parent domain diffusion of innovation between 1975 and 1984. It’s not until 1992 that a new domain of knowledge utilization appears with the emergence of evidence-based medicine. More recently, knowledge mobilization has emerged to fill the void of the limitation of evidence-based medicine’s exclusion of theoretical or creative forms of knowledge. Other forms of knowledge include indigenous knowledge (such as narrative traditions) or informal knowledge that may influence a greater exchange of ideas leading to government and community policy-making.

It’s the more inclusive and multiple-contribution elements of knowledge mobilization that create greater opportunities to inform and enhance how knowledge is exchanged and co-produced today – especially today via social media. Knowledge mobilization stems from a long history – as far back as the Greeks – and continues to echo the view that exchanging knowledge continues to greatly contribute to the advancement of society – whether from dialogue in the Greek Acropolis to blogging on the Internet.