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

Tag Archives: knowledge transfer

Point Your PhD Beyond The Academy

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I recently attended a meeting to discuss recommendations from York University’s Academic and Administrative Program Review (AAPR) – an attempt to measure and quantify the state of the university with a focus on quality education and sustainability, similar to other institutional “pulse-checks” being done by several other universities. The many challenges within the past few decades have created financial and graduate enrolment struggles for universities now requiring evidence-based reform.

One of the surprising (or perhaps not so surprising) views to still be expressed at the meeting was that the role of the university in terms of graduate education is to somehow ensure there’s a career in the academy after finishing a PhD. University faculty have long considered tenure to be their right – something they deserve as dedicated researchers and hardworking teaching professionals – a right that is also enshrined in faculty collective agreements. Yet a new generation of graduate students are finding it not so easy to get on the tenure “track” due to greater competition and sometimes misguided expectations of “success” post-graduation.

Is it any wonder with this type of “old-school” thinking the expectations of graduate students remain similar to these? Fortunately, the voices expressing this view at the meeting were very few, but the fact that they were still expressed is concerning.

We must continue to tell our graduate students that there is still value in getting a PhD and using it beyond academia – as this value can be applied to so many other career choices outside the academy.

Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower, edited by Cynthia Robbins Roth is a valuable example of the many career paths available after finishing a PhD – and highly recommended reading for current PhD students, regardless of academic discipline. The publication of this book is more than a decade old but shows that this is not just a current problem – it remains a current reality.  Another great source is Non-Academic Career Options for PhDs in the Humanities and Social Sciences in assisting graduate students to think beyond an academic career post-graduation.

The Globe and Mail recently published a further insightful piece titled Faculty jobs are rare, but Canada still needs its PhDs – showing the value of a graduate degree. The editorial states “universities need to ensure graduate students are well trained in their specific disciplines. But universities also need to ensure students recognize and can make use of all the transferable skills they acquire along the way, so that students can succeed regardless of their ultimate career path.”

Supporting students is “the bottom line” of any university. Student learning opportunities and research contributions depend of course on the goals of specific professional development efforts of the university – particularly at the graduate level. In addition to these goals, knowledge mobilization efforts may result in important unintended outcomes and benefits – such as greater network opportunities to extend their research during and beyond their academic program, as well as meeting potential employers leading to post-doctoral or other non-academic employment opportunities. Indeed, according to York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, 25% of the 44 knowledge mobilization graduate student interns supported by York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit were hired by the internship partner.

So what can we do to help graduate students get a job outside of academia when they finish their degree? First off – step into the new university paradigm and let go of the “old-school” academic thinking.

Graduate students, eager on completing their Masters or PhDs, need to be made aware that they must become team players and better communicators, and develop knowledge mobilization strategies into their current research.

Another factor discussed at the recent meeting was the often too flexible deadlines in academia that can reinforce a culture of indifference to the value of time and a certain lack of realism that doesn’t work outside of academia. Getting graduate students to finish their degrees within the usual timeframes is not only important for finally obtaining the degree but also for teaching the value of maintaining a deadline.

The pressure to get results and publish is intense in academia. Graduate students need to be supported by supervisors who instill a sense of properly managing projects over time-frames with specific deadlines – while also learning to network and develop knowledge mobilization strategies.

I have enormous respect for the work our faculty and graduate students do. I admire their dedication, creativity, intelligence and resilience. They tend towards developing communications skills and internal academic networks because they often work together in groups at the university – but they are still often geared towards academic-style communication.

To be sure, some aspects of graduate work is challenging and needs a high degree of commitment, creativity, enthusiasm and support. These are also the skills and attitudes required for any career – both academic and non-academic. Making research useful to society is what knowledge mobilization is all about. We need to start thinking about post-graduate careers in terms of adapting the skills acquired in graduate school for a variety of pathways to make the research and education useful to society beyond the academy.

Knowledge mobilization involves much more than merely translating knowledge. It’s also about the effective learning of communication skills to network knowledge. In the workplace telling someone a fact is not enough; effective communication not only involves good speaking but also active and diplomatic listening skills as well. Graduate students must learn to use their knowledge to network with effective communication skills. Graduate students do not usually have such skills because they get used to dealing with people who think the same way they do within their own disciplines.

Everything about graduate studies is designed to generate more academics – not people who can also use their research skills to work in other career settings. If universities do their jobs well, by the time graduate students graduate they become very good academics – which means they are likely to be less adept and adaptable to other career settings despite the transferable nature of the skills they have gained during grad school.

According to a Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario 2013 report “about two-thirds (65 per cent) of Ontario PhDs pursued their degree with the intention of becoming a university professor, and the proportion is even higher in the humanities at 86 per cent.”

The reality of comparing the number of Ontario doctoral graduations with recent tenure-track and non-tenure track academic postings is sobering:

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The report states that “according to Statistics Canada research, the decline in the availability of tenured or tenure-stream positions across Canada was even more pronounced for professors under the age of 35. In 1980-1981, one-third of professors under age 35 (35 per cent) held a full-time tenured or tenure-track position; 25 years later, this was true for only 12 per cent of professors in that age category.”

This means (even 25 years later) that graduate students need to think about moving outside of the academy into external careers and be prepared to transfer academic/research skills to other sectors.

This doesn’t mean there’s less value in getting a PhD or that you shouldn’t pursue a PhD – as argued by the above-mentioned Globe and Mail article, and also by York University PhD Candidate, Melanie Fullick in another thought-provoking Globe and Mail article.

Developing long-term strategies for post-graduate career paths involves commitment and greater cooperation from all bodies of the university – staff, students, faculty, deans, vice-presidents, and governing councils; and most importantly from the university president. It’s about multi-disciplinary and inter-departmental conversations to provide varying capacities to inform and educate graduate students to think about careers beyond the walls of the university, and move beyond the continuing “old-school” thinking to a new university paradigm of the value of graduate studies in a variety of career sectors.

Evidence-Informed Research versus “Best” Evidence Research

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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.

The Knowledge Exchange Cycle

Communication

Knowledge mobilization (KMb) can be challenging. Constant meetings, conferences, workshops, articles, blogs, emails, text messages, questions, problem solving, stakeholder involvement – or lack thereof – and the ongoing cycle of sifting through information and data/information noise to gain knowledge can begin to feel like you are sinking in an infinitely vast ocean of opinions, beliefs, ideas and ideals, statistics, and research “evidence”. Once you gain knowledge of something and exchange further knowledge with others, new knowledge seems to appear to refute previous knowledge. One moment a research study suggests certain findings. The next, a new study seems to contradict those findings, requiring you to constantly re-examine your knowledge and the knowledge of others. A brief definition of knowledge mobilization is making knowledge (particularly research knowledge) useful to society. Let’s face it – sometimes it seems such never-ending knowledge contradictions are preventing us from making any knowledge useful to society.

Yet I’m optimistic! One of the most powerful and enduring lessons I have learned in my almost decade of promoting and supporting knowledge mobilization efforts is that the multitude of contexts, sources, findings and views aren’t necessarily keeping us from knowledge – this is knowledge: fluid knowledge. I’ve talked and written about this at length in person and in previous KMbeing blog posts, as well as in the papers and book chapter I co-authored.

The notion of looking at these “contradictions” of knowledge in a valuable way is one I feel bound to reiterate. Why? Because by adopting this approach to the fluidity of knowledge we can dramatically increase our opportunities for influencing policy-makers, clarify positions for various stakeholders, develop understanding and build trust within different environments, and forge meaningful relationships in various contexts of knowledge transfer and exchange as our knowledge continues to evolve.

In short, we can recognize that knowledge is never stagnant – or we can be stuck in knowledge silos. All we have to do is remember that each interaction – each knowledge exchange – is filled with unlimited and profound possibilities for impact. But remember, impact is also never stagnant. Impact occurs and is also transformed by new knowledge – the fluidity of knowledge.

Knowledge Exchange Cycle

So, how do we make each knowledge exchange count and not become inundated by the infinitely and often overwhelming bombardment of varying knowledge? By approaching each knowledge exchange practically and purposefully.

There are three components to each effective knowledge exchange. Combined, they form what I call a Knowledge Exchange Cycle. When you consider all three elements with one another, they can produce a powerfully productive approach to developing our own knowledge and advancing our collective knowledge. Simply remember these three elements in each interaction:

Speak & Listen Carefully

Put Knowledge in Context

and Transform Knowledge Collaboratively.

This funny video clip shows the importance of speaking and listening carefully, being open and paying attention to context.

 

 

Speak & Listen Carefully:  Speaking and listening carefully is the key to effective communication. But few people get it right. That’s because it takes meaningful practice and focus to connect with others, detect different meanings, recognize multiple perspectives, and determine what kind of knowledge is being exchanged. When you master being truly present in your communication, you can become an amazing speaker and – more importantly – an amazing listener. This means that when you’re not speaking you’re fully engaged, mindful of the moment and paying attention to the other people sharing their knowledge with determined focus. Remember, to give other people the space to be heard. Don’t become a constant speaker without also being a compassionate listener! The give and take of speaking and listening carefully also means asking for the knowledge “evidence” of others, and taking the time to understand the general benefit of the knowledge being exchanged. When you feel confident that you understand someone else’s knowledge, take a moment to briefly summarize to ensure you and others understand the knowledge being exchanged.

Put Knowledge In Context: Once you understand the essence of the knowledge being exchanged, you’re ready to put that knowledge in context to better understand how this knowledge is being used and understood in a particular (and often different) context. When you put knowledge in context people will be able to place the knowledge in circumstances that may not always fit within our own frameworks or social benefit. This requires some diplomacy. You need to be both responsive and adaptable. Determine the context by adjusting your approach and understanding of your own knowledge accordingly. The key is to be open to knowledge that may be different from your own to wholly grasp the applicability to your own context. It’s important to connect to their purpose and passion for the knowledge they exchange from the context in which they are situated to also connect it to the knowledge you provide. You may also need to show them how their knowledge is uniquely situated within their own environment in whatever drives them for benefit within their own society – while also anchoring their knowledge in an understanding of whatever drives you in your own knowledge that may be different. Whatever the situation, frame the knowledge exchange openly and speak from your heart. Let people know why their knowledge matters in connecting to your own knowledge to transform it by the next step.

Transform Knowledge Collaboratively: In this part of the knowledge exchange cycle you must show a desire to turn your knowledge (and sometimes differing knowledge) into action collaboratively. Knowledge exchange should ultimately be about making a difference in the world. Transform exchanged knowledge collaboratively! You spoke and listened carefully. You put knowledge in context. You need to continue to speak and listen carefully. Now you need to transform the knowledge exchanged collaboratively. And you need to continue to speak and listen carefully. Maybe you need to help them make a decision. Maybe you need to shift your thinking and look at your own knowledge differently. This is your chance to think about how you can advance knowledge – yours and others – into something useful – beyond individual contexts – yet also considering how to be adaptive within individual contexts.

As you engage in the Knowledge Exchange Cycle remind yourself of the risk in not speaking and listening carefully, not thinking about context, and not acting collaboratively. In order to not feel like you’re drowning in the vast ocean of knowledge exchange, all any of us can do is mindfully consider the knowledge shared by and with us in the moment. This Knowledge Exchange Cycle provides a framework for you to build knowledge relationships carefully, be open to and understand different contexts, and make and support ways to transform knowledge collaboratively – in every moment of knowledge exchange. In this sense, knowledge mobilization can be challenging. As someone who has used mindfulness meditation in my daily life for over 25 years, mindfulness is not always easy. And just like mindfulness meditation, with mindful knowledge exchange, the more you do it, the better and more efficient you will become.  I encourage you to keep the Knowledge Exchange Cycle in mind in your next knowledge encounter – you may find you are one step closer to transforming knowledge to make the world a better place.

 

 

The Importance Of Graduate Students As Boundary Spanners

FGS  (Photo by Shawn Chong)

Knowledge mobilization is about critically examining, extending and exchanging knowledge and values within our world. Together each of us has a role to play in furthering our collective human understanding.

Within human understanding there is a constant and dynamic element of knowledge exchange – which is learning, teaching and research. Learning, teaching and research within our global knowledge society requires inspiration and resourcefulness while seeking to improve communication and co-operation across all disciplines and borders that define us. Furthering our collective human understanding requires us to open up relationships that develop harmony in an interconnected world within our communities – and particularly starting within academic communities where formal learning, teaching and research take place.

Many of our greatest human challenges occur because of our differences within often narrowly focused disciplines and boundaries, while many of our greatest developments occur at the intersections of knowledge uptake (learning),  knowledge transfer (teaching) and knowledge exchange (research) which often is first formally learned within the world of academia. This is why teaching students – particularly graduate students – about this type of broader learning to include knowledge mobilization within our global knowledge society has never been more important than now for the future.

Effective knowledge mobilization requires that graduate students be free within their respective disciplines to learn, teach and research by also developing scholarly inquiry that is interdisciplinary. Effective knowledge mobilization rests on their unique cross-boundary role as learners, teachers and researchers across disciplines and subjects.

Graduate students play an integral part in the ability of universities to provide a broader quality of educational experience by reminding students about the importance of acknowledging our human commonality within our diversity which is often reflected in universities that have very diverse student populations and a full-range of academic subjects and research interests.

Graduate students supplement and complement the teaching and research activities of faculty, while providing the institution with an opportunity to recognize the integral and multiple roles that graduate students play as learners, teachers and researchers in contributing to the university – and more importantly to our global knowledge society.

Universities have the responsibility of providing graduate students with an excellent education and the best possible preparation for their future careers since graduate students can play a crucial link as institutional boundary-spanners (as Angie Hart refers to from the work of Etienne Wenger) not only within the university but also within a new paradigm of community/university engagement. University Faculties and departments should offer suitable training for both academic and non-academic careers that recognize a community/university connection in learning, teaching and research that extends beyond the realm of academia.

Communication between graduate students, faculty and advisors can create opportunities for community contact, collaboration and community-building through student internships which are essential in developing the important learning, teaching and research links between community and university to promote knowledge beyond the university.

For effective knowledge mobilization every human being must understand the universal declaration of human rights to be free from discrimination based on race, colour, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age and ability, as well as socio-economic or family status. Like every human being, students have the right to an educational experience that is also free from such discrimination. This fundamental human value is the most important knowledge that the university can teach students – particularly grad students as boundary-spanners – so that students may learn how to improve communication and co-operation across all disciplines and borders for better knowledge mobilization in doing research to make the world a better place for everyone. It is in this way that the university is a microcosm of the world and graduate students have an opportunity to become boundary spanners within the university and beyond by engaging with community.

York University is an outstanding example of a campus that has a very diverse ethnic and cultural student population reflecting more than most universities the progressive and multicultural inclusiveness of Canada. York promotes and protects human rights and values with a strong commitment to social justice, while offering a full-range of academic subjects and research units in developing scholarly inquiry that is interdisciplinary and inclusive. York University is the third largest university in Canada with a student population of over 55-thousand from a wide-range of backgrounds and belief systems.

Celebrating 50 years of the importance of graduate students, York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) promotes graduate student learning, teaching and research within an interdisciplinary university that extends across traditional academic and community boundaries as graduate students pursue professional training for academic and non-academic careers. Examples like FGS at York University help graduate students recognize their potential for knowledge mobilization as learners, teachers and researchers to move beyond fragmented research knowledge and include community in their work.

Assisting universities and graduate students is Mitacs – a Canadian not-for-profit organization that offers funding for internships and fellowships at Canadian universities for graduate students.

“Through unique research and training programs, Mitacs is developing the next generation of innovators with vital scientific and business skills. In partnership with companies, government and academia, Mitacs is supporting a new economy using Canada’s most valuable resource – its people”…including graduate students.

It’s time all universities and graduate students recognize the importance of being learners, teachers and researchers knowing they are valued and being supported at institutions such as York University and Mitacs. Graduate students need also to go beyond an understanding of a specific discipline and see themselves as boundary-spanners – within the institution and society – by examining, extending and exchanging knowledge and values within our world through knowledge mobilization.

 

A Thought Piece On Knowledge Transfer & Exchange/Knowledge Mobilization

knowledge to action

What could be wrong with transferring research knowledge from those who have it to those who don’t?

What could be wrong with transferring community-based knowledge from those who have it to researchers who don’t?

What could be wrong with transferring knowledge from those who have it to policymakers who don’t?

What could be wrong with transferring any knowledge in general?

The answers to these questions rely on the fact that not all knowledge provides benefit for every purpose. Could there perhaps be some situations where knowledge transfer is actually counterproductive? Are there cases where not knowing is better than knowing?

A further question arises when asking how much knowledge is sufficient knowledge and how much is too much? We now live in a world of information overload – something I like to refer to as data noise – and there is a difference between information and knowledge. People cannot be attentive to everything, yet must sift through the data noise to distinguish between information and knowledge – which is not always easy.  More importantly, the relevance of knowledge is always context-specific – only applicable based on circumstances of time and place with different needs of knowledge in different circumstances. This creates the subjective value of knowledge which may be different from one person to the next.

Knowledge transfer and exchange or knowledge mobilization (KMb) – whatever you wish to call it – is viewed today as having an unlimited and broad application across multiple sectors and disciplines. When knowledge is transferred and exchanged/mobilized across a wide-range of sectors and disciplines it can help reveal conflicts instead of covering them up or being unaware of them.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where valuable knowledge that can provide greater social benefit beyond one sector, discipline or community is transferred and exchanged yet there are still those who refuse to use it and don’t see the benefit of certain knowledge that can create broader social benefit. There are circumstances where knowledge has no impact – creating discouragement among those attempting to create social benefit on a wider scale.

So why is this the case?

Because as human beings we disagree with each other about what defines value. Knowledge can have different meanings.  Also as human beings, sometimes even something that is thought to have social benefit can have little or no impact.

There is no knowledge that can have impact until it is received openly, digested and understood – and this can often take time.  Annete Boaz says co-production of knowledge can produce an impact on research collaborators even before research is finished.  However, knowledge impact is often a process of gradual enlightenment that can take months or years to change a person’s frame of reference – and sadly, sometimes not at all. It’s not until this knowledge is applied into action to create change that knowledge will have any lasting impact or benefit.

Ensuring that knowledge to action occurs is complex and challenging because it is context-specific. In order to overcome such complexity and challenges, human relationships must be cultivated to create a common understanding that facilitates the implementation of evidence in different contexts and is sustained and added to over an extended period of time. This is why creating opportunities where people can come together to share their knowledge across sectors and disciplines in one place at a series of events or forums creates value on a broader scale and can lead to social impact and social benefit within and beyond each of the context-specific places – if there is also a desire to keep the ball rolling and not drop it.  This is where the act of knowledge mobilization always has value in and of itself.

Knowledge Mobilization As K* (K-Star)???: Definition & Terminology – REVISITED


There still remains a variety of similar terms being used for Knowledge Mobilization (KMb), all attempting to define the same thing.  Sometimes terms are still mistakenly used to describe KMb – like Knowledge Management (KM).  For the difference between the two click here. Thanks also to Gerald Meinert for using my KMb model in his blog One step beyond helping to clear up the differences.

As I point out in previous blogs about the definition of KMb and terminology – not having an agreement on on a single term has a tendency to “muddy the waters” of explanation.  It also makes it difficult for anyone searching for information when several terms are used.  Researchers, practitioners or anyone else interested in looking up any previous research or information being done about Knowledge Mobilization may have a difficult time or miss articles because of the diverse terminology being used.

In a recent ResearchImpact guest blog of Mobilize This!, Andrea Kosavic, a Digital Initiatives Librarian at York University wrote about the importance of being able to find journals and articles easily in order to make research “more visible and accessible to those who seek them”.

“If we want the best return on our research investment, we need to ensure that the research can be found where researchers, professionals, policy makers, and the general public conduct their searches”.

This not only holds true for journals and articles, but also for common terminology.

Yet, a multiplicity of terms and concepts are still used to describe aspects of KMb including knowledge utilization, knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange, knowledge management, knowledge translation, diffusion of innovation and research utilization.

Four of the most frequently used terms are knowledge translation, knowledge transfer, knowledge utilization, and knowledge exchange.

I argue that all of these terms – especially knowledge translation, knowledge transfer and knowledge transfer & exchange – falls short in defining the multiple influences of the multi-production of knowledge.

Knowledge Translation and Knowledge Transfer are accurate descriptions when they refer to a one-way informing of individuals to enhance their own knowledge but requires the exchange element to be open to any new knowledge that may further inform the initial knowledge already being translated or transferred.  But it also still suggests a two-way or linear bestowing or sharing of knowledge within separate fields of application which may not accurately reflect the interdisciplinary methodologies, techniques and personal experiences at many levels and directions to mobilize knowledge within a broader framework.  Knowledge Translation and Knowledge Transfer may be part of the initial process of Knowledge Mobilization – but they are not the same thing.

The terms can also imply a rather elitist suggestion like the old “ivory tower” days of academia when only the scholars held “true knowledge” and bestowed it to the ignorant masses who couldn’t possibly contribute in return from their own knowledge or experiences.

Huw Davies from the Social Dimensions of Health Institute at the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews, Fife in the UK argues that the KT terminology itself actually misrepresents the tasks that seeks to support and ultimately prevents social research from having wider impacts. Davies and his colleagues argue that both the terms “translation” and “transfer” invoke a metaphor of “convergent knowledge” which is parcelled to “grateful recipients” (Davies et al 2008: 189) and effectively veils the associated complexities, contradictions and unpredictability of the ways in which new knowledge is negotiated and accepted (or even refused).

KMb is not limited to academic or more formal knowledge. It also includes informal knowledge such as narratives or even Internet blogging/microblogging/wikispaces if the knowledge informs and contributes to the greater benefit of society. Thankfully, we now recognize the value of academic collaboration and inclusion of many forms of knowledge beyond the academy through knowledge mobilization. KMb is a term that focuses on the multiple contributions and multi-production of new knowledge that is inclusive and collaborative and not separate – not a linear from “here” to “there” as transfer & exchange suggests.

Engaging in conversation with other professionals – especially through the Ontario Knowledge Transfer & Exchange Community of Practice (KTE Cop) – I continue to push for agreement on the use of one, clear term (Knowledge Mobilization) to describe the work we do. But, it’s not that simple to find agreement as each term has its own history, entrenched in useage with sometimes very defensive, personal appeals.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) uses Knowledge Translation (KT) while

the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) prefers using Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) as a more appropriate term.

Now recently adding to the muddy waters is the suggestion to use the term K* (K-Star) – as presented by Alex Bielak from United Nations University who presented on The Evolution of Knowledge Mobilization and Knowledge Brokers at a recent Evidence to Policy Workshop. Bielak suggests K* can capture whatever term one wants to use to describe the process of knowledge by having one umbrella term to move forward and capture them all.  It’s hoped that this will help avoid conflicts in terminology.

But why come up with a new term when one already exists to more accurately describe and include the variety of similar terms being used?  Sincere apologies – but K* sounds more like a brand name of running shoes rather than a process of knowledge. It also lacks definition.  K-Star does not describe what is happening with the knowledge; whereas knowledge mobilization is a term that describes transfer, exchange, translation, utilization – all the processes of action (unless you’re perhaps using the K* running shoes).

With so many terms being used to describe the same thing, perhaps it’s time to agree on using only one term – a more inclusively descriptive term – Knowledge Mobilization.

A Comparison Of Knowledge Broker Websites

I am very pleased to have been a guest blogger for ResearchImpactCanada’s Knowledge Mobilization Network. You can follow ResearchImpact on their blog Mobilize This! and on twitter (@researchimpact). This is a reposting of that blog, and I’d like to thank ResearchImpact for asking me to be a guest blogger for MobilizeThis!

I wrote about three relatively new online resources for knowledge brokers, and along with ResearchImpact, I am also glad to see new entrants into the KMb global family (from UK, US and Australia). My comparison shows that all provide value for knowledge brokers and that Research into Action (from @KTExchange) has some resources similar to those offered by ResearchImpact (where they are also “turning research into action”).

Most readers of the Mobilize This! blog (and for readers of my own KMbeing blog) will know that Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) is being more frequently used to describe how researchers and individuals within community organizations are using research to inform decisions in public policy and professional practice. KMb consists of a variety of methods in which research and knowledge is transferred, translated, exchanged and co-produced to enhance the practical application of knowledge between researchers and research-users.
Important to the KMb process is the role of the Knowledge Broker in linking researchers and community (for more information on the role of the Knowledge Broker see Jonathan Lomas The in-between world of knowledge brokering).
As part of a current digital research project for ResearchImpact, I did a comparative analysis of three new (or newly re-designed) broker websites with varying degrees of interactivity and collaboration. I was curious to see what some other organizations are offering brokers, social innovators and other knowledge mobilizers. After a web search using the keyword knowledge broker the following top websites were listed:

Research into Action (RIA)

Knowledge Brokers’ Forum (KBF)

Australian Social Innovation eXchange (ASIX)

Overall Rating (RIA):

• Excellent Presentation & Content
• Great Use of Social Media & Networking Tools
• Canadian Content – A Podcast interview with Dr. Melanie Barwick (Sick Kid’s Hospital, Toronto) & Headlining Quote From Dr. Barwick on Home Page/ CIHR defined in website Glossary page.  RIA also has podcasts from Drs. Nancy Edwards and Anita Kothari, both CIHR researchers; and a very entertaining podcast from Jonathan Lomas of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation.
• Well Staffed With Two Specific Communications Specialists
• Collaboration Possibilities with other Research Brokers

Overall Rating (KBF):

• Most Similar to ResearchImpact Website
• Good Content of Blogs
• Use of Delicious Bookmarks
• Resources (articles) for intermediaries and knowledge brokers
• Canadian Content – Canadian Knowledge Broker Core Competency Framework Link
• Recommend Adding ResearchImpact Mobilize This! Blog To This Website

Overall Rating (ASIX):

• More Social Innovation Than KMb or Knowledge Brokering (Collaborative Style Think Tank)
• Good Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) & OK Use of Blog Links (But Not KMb Specific)
• Website Not KMb Focused or Broker Focused, but still informative
• Mostly A Forum for Australian Social Innovation Camp (New: 1st Camp 2010)
• No North American Content (Only Found One Profile Beyond Australia from London UK)

Funding & Affiliation:

I would like to thank Research into Action’s Rick Austin who commented on my guest blog for ResearchImpact and pointed out that I incorrectly attributed funding for RIA from The University of Texas School of Public Health, and from Institute for Health Policy.

Rick kindly informed me that RIF is actually funded by a grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation. My apologies for my mistake. What is also interesting is that they request donation funding right on their website for anyone wishing to make a private donation. RIA was founded in 2007.

The Knowledge Brokers’ Forum receives funding from international agencies such as the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The website does not mention when KBF was founded.

The Australian Social Innovation eXchange is more formally known as the Australian Social Innovation Exchange Limited incorporated and is an independent non-profit company, founded in 2008.

Conclusion:
All three websites can be used as credible links and sources of information for knowledge brokers; however, I highly recommend Research into Action for anyone looking for a practical website that can be used as a tool in learning more about current knowledge brokering taking place, and as a collaborative website for researchers and research users to post their own information.
Although Research into Action appears to be a closer fit to ResearchImpact, The Knowledge Brokers’ Forum or The Australian Social Innovation eXchange are also great sites for gaining information and mobilizing knowlege.