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Tag Archives: knowledge transfer and exchange

A Comparison Of Knowledge Broker Websites

I am very pleased to have been a guest blogger for ResearchImpact – Canada’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 the The 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.

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.

KMb “In for the long haul”

KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)


I just finished reading and tweeting about In for the Long Haul: Knowledge Translation Between Academic and Nonprofit Organizations. (I was only able to access the full document through our university’s journal licence).  Although the paper specifically focuses on researchers and non-profit organizations (NPOs), the authors rightly point out three essential factors that influence any effective knowledge mobilization: strong interorganizational partnerships, using skilled knowledge brokers (like those found at York University’s KMb Unit and ResearchImpact – Canada’s Knowledge Mobilization Network) and meaningful involvement of “front-line personnel”, those involved in direct contact between researchers and community organizations.

The paper uses KT (Knowledge Translation) to describe what is also known as KMb (Knowledge Mobilization), and states that KT is “a two-way process” by “equal and engaged partners”. This may be a simple way of describing the ideal reciprocal nature of knowledge exchange between what has been referred to as the two-communities view (social scientists and policy makers living in two different worlds), which – by extension – includes researchers in academia and community-based organizations.

I suggest that using KMb goes further to describe a more multi-directional aspect of knowledge utilization. Knowledge can be translated and/or exchanged in several multi-directional and engaging ways:

  • mobilized from researcher to researcher within the academy
  • mobilized from researcher to practitioner or vice versa
  • mobilized from one NPO working with another
  • mobilized from NPO(s) to practitioners to researchers
  • mobilized from NPO(s) to researchers
  • mobilized from researcher(s) to researcher(s) via a community-based tool such as blogging or Twitter
  • mobilized from a tweeter/blogger that informs the research in academia
  • mobilized from word-of-mouth story-telling to NOP(s) to researcher to researcher – as only a few examples.

All of these multi-directional modes of KMb inform and can also involve policy makers and knowledge brokers.

Knowledge Mobilization is a more precise and encompassing term that speaks to more current social relationships and tools used in a world of knowledge that continues to evolve with and from web 2.0 technology. Using social media tools to inform and enhance knowledge mobilizaiton helps create a channel of equal and engaged communication- not only in academia and the realm of policy makers, but also within the world of social media and networks – but only if it is accessible to all.

The paper states that it offers some KT lessons learned from close partnerships with vulnerable populations like sex-trade workers and street-youth. It should be noted that the dedicated work and time-consuming efforts of over a decade of research and community involvement are a testament to excellent KMb efforts by the authors and community contributors to the article.

Yet, there are three points I’d like to conclude with and leave you with for any comments:

1) Why are two papers I have linked to in this blog only accessible through academic channels and not at a community level? (Did you try the title link and the two-communities link above to get the articles?)

2) Why are we still using a variety of terms (Knowlege Transfer, Knowledge Exchange, Knowledge Transfer and Exchange, Knowledge Utilization, etc.) to describe all of what Knowledge Mobilization does?

3) Why did the authors of In for the Long Haul not make reference to the knowledge broker and KMb Unit at the University of Victoria as part of this paper? (Two of the authors are affiliated with UVic, and one was involved in early discussions about the start up of the KMb Unit at UVic. The UVic knowledge broker learned of the paper through Twitter).

The paper talks about the “Snail’s Pace of KT” and urges readers to “Pick up the KT pace”.  Perhaps it’s time they followed their own advice. Perhaps it’s time those researchers picked up the KMb pace.