KMbeing

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

Tag Archives: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

Shifting Funding & Academic Priorities

lightbulb funding

Universities face financial challenges in maintaining institutional and academic success while also seeking solutions to fulfill public accountability for a return on investment. According to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) there are 1.2 million students in degree programs in Canada with 42,000 full-time professors. Universities are a $30-billion dollar enterprise (including faculty/staff salaries, buildings/maintenance, supplies and other infrastructure) – with $10-billion worth of research activities. Approximately $2.5-billion of research funding comes from federally-funded granting agencies such as the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) – while the remaining $7.5-billion comes from institutional investments and other sources such as industry, other government-funding and donations.

To break this down further, The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) reports that Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal funding – including funding for research – accounts for approximately 55% of revenue; student fees account for only 20% of revenue; and bequests, donations, non-governmental grants, sales of products and services, and investments bring in 25%.

Despite these revenue sources, universities continue to struggle to overcome an economic crisis which has been driven by balancing institutional/labour costs and sustaining or increasing student enrolment. Maintaining fiscal feasibility is a crucial challenge for the future of Canadian universities as universities have recently been faced with a decrease in funding (specifically in real dollars) – particularly federal funding from Canada’s Tri-Councils.

Granting Councils SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR Base Funding 2007-2014:

Change
2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 (2007-14)
SSHRC 383.7 358.1 368.1 359.4 355.6 351.5 344.8 -10.10%
NSERC 1057.9 1051.5 1042.3 1050.2 1030.8 1018.9 990.3 -6.40%
CIHR 1017.8 989.8 1020.1 1026.9 953 969.4 941.4 -7.50%
Indirect Costs 327.9 335.7 330.9 324.9 322.6 318.9 302 -7.90%
TOTAL 2787.2 2735.0 2761.5 2761.4 2662.1 2658.7 2578.4 -7.50%
Source: SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR Departmental Performance Reports, Budget 2012 and Budget 2013

 

 

What this means is that universities continue to place reliance on government funding – yet funding continues to decrease each year.

What this also means at the same time is that there is great potential for universities (Canadian or otherwise) through opportunities provided by new forms of innovation through private-sector and community-engagement.

Supporting inclusive, innovative and responsive universities is a prerequisite for sustainable institutional and academic quality and success.

The emergence of knowledge mobilization as a priority embedded in university planning, the changing approach to research as more inclusive of community partners and other key stakeholders, and the need for more innovation call for a renewed understanding of the rapidly changing academic world.

This understanding is reinforced by greater interdisciplinary approaches within various academic programs – including such areas as Critical Disability Studies and Technology/Communications Studies. University policies need to continue to recognize the value of interdisciplinary approaches while dealing with the economic challenges to improve knowledge exchange about how our modern universities now work.

University research and innovation can address many social issues and challenges. Research that incorporates knowledge mobilization strategies can explore new forms of innovation and strengthen the evidence-base for broader application and other relevant professional practice, social services and public policies.

Such research that promotes clear and effective community-campus cooperation can create new ideas, strategies and policy structures for overcoming a financial crisis by creating a growth agenda in research that focuses on knowledge mobilization integration and the promotion of emerging technologies and entrepreneurial-skills investments by current and future students.

A new generation of students – dubbed by Maclean’s magazine as “Generation Z” – appears to be more socially engaged than students in the past and these students are more apt to have more social and entrepreneurial instincts. These students are more innovative and inclusive by being more socially and entrepreneurially engaged. The effects of harnessing and focusing this approach into cooperative research and innovation for community-campus partnerships requires universities to also adjust to a new approach to university research and financial sustainability.

In short – this new university paradigm of research needs to foster a greater understanding of academic funding that may be less reliant on government sources by providing solutions that support inclusive, innovative and responsive partnerships with more community and private stakeholders in the context of unprecedented academic transformations and shifting academic priorities.

 

A New University Paradigm

university

Universities are considered one of our most reliable and cherished knowledge sectors with great expectations of delivering quality education and world-leading research. 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. With the creation of CIHR in 2000, Canadian health researchers were required to articulate knowledge translation strategies in their grant applications. Some NSERC funding programs require commercialization strategies. In 2011 SSHRC launched its renewed program architecture which requires all grant applications to have a knowledge mobilization strategy. This created an expectation that universities will effectively address social and economic issues and spend their money wisely – along with a mandate from the granting councils to incorporate knowledge mobilization and technology commercialization strategies into research grant applications.

So why aren’t some universities still not doing this?

If universities are to deliver the most promising benefits of knowledge and research for society and meaningfully follow funding guidelines an approach needs to be considered about how research is conducted. This approach needs to include those inside and outside the university who contribute to the research and social/economic innovation process. This is where knowledge mobilization comes in.  Yet many universities still have an unenthusiastic and unresponsive attitude to integrating knowledge mobilization and social innovation strategies into the university structure itself.  Many universities still do not have an actual knowledge mobilization unit within their university, or worse have a great misunderstanding of what knowledge mobilization actually is and how to do it successfully – which is also often the reason why they fail to receive funding from granting agencies and continue to struggle financially.

The old university paradigm of receiving funding without a knowledge mobilization strategy is dead.

Universities see themselves to be in a risky situation as a result of economic pressures combined with increasing demand for quality research to provide social benefit.  In a climate of uncertain funding and a greater demand for valuable research, understanding how knowledge mobilization can bring opportunities to improve research, create social and economic innovation and affect government policy needs to be considered. When this is done it leads to important social and economic change.

Community-University partnerships and engagement are not new and have been around for at least a decade. Some examples include CUPP Brighton UK, CUP Alberta, Canadian Social Economy Hub, Emory University Center for Community Partnerships, and Concordia University’s Office of Community Engagement. In an informative journal club post David Phipps also discusses Mobilising knowledge in community-university partnerships.

So some universities get it and are definitely ahead of the game as the public sector benefits from these community-university collaborations.  Yet there are other universities who continue to ignore the broader benefits of such synergies. This is where greater work needs to be done to help the universities who continue to be stuck in old academic-infrastructure paradigms and help sustain community-university partnerships programs that do exist by the institutions themselves.

Developing long-term knowledge mobilization and social innovation strategies 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 differing views from varying capacities to create an academic environment that provides social benefit that includes engagement within and beyond the walls of the university from many directions.

The greater return on investment for social benefit requires a broader approach to have faculty, university research services, knowledge mobilization unit knowledge brokers and university industry liaison offices work together across sectors instead of as separate university contacts and entities. A great start of this integrated approach comes from the University of Alberta which has amalgamated the Industry Liaison Office, the Research Grants Office and components of Research and Trust Accounting into an integrated Research Services Office. U of A thinks “the move to a “one-stop shop” provides researchers with more effective and streamlined services, with enhanced accountability and productivity.” However, a truly integrated approach that maximizes the impact of university research would also include a knowledge mobilization unit.

Canada has ten universities that are part of ResearchImpact – a knowledge mobilization network with further examples of such integrated structures. UQAM engages both research services and technology transfer in their support of knowledge mobilization; Offices of research services at both Wilfrid Laurier University and York University include technology commercialization as well as York’s KMb Unit as research grant support; and University of Victoria combines research partnerships and knowledge mobilization (but this does not include grants).

Another interesting pan university approach to supporting innovation is the appointment of Angus Livingstone and Innovation Catalyst. Formerly head of the UILO, Angus took up this new post in February 2014. It is too early to know what impact this new position will have but one can only hope that it embraces social as well as economic and technology innovation.

A further set-back for Canadian universities is the recent Canadian government announcement in its 2014 budget of a $10-million College Social Innovation Fund connecting colleges with community-based applied research needs of community organizations.  Colleges and polytechnic institutions have traditionally been places for trade learning and apprenticeship. It now looks like they are stepping up into the league of universities to create social and economic innovation. It may be great news for colleges – not so much for universities; especially those who haven’t already started community-university engagement.

This infusion of capital into Canadian colleges for social innovation development has set back any future benefit and funding for Canadian universities who have not yet understood the connection between knowledge mobilization and social innovation, thereby creating a missed opportunity for certain universities to gain the lead on investment in knowledge mobilization and social and economic innovation.

As the saying goes…you snooze, you lose! So is your university a winner or a loser? 

Combining university knowledge mobilization units with university research services and industry liaison offices that engage with both community partnerships and business innovation opportunities all in a “one-stop-shop” can bring great returns on investment – socially and economically – for universities and communities – but some universities are sadly still far behind.

 

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.

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.