Planning for Knowledge Translation? I've Got Some Questions.

by Rick Austin November 18, 2013 03:54 PM

My neighbors at KTDRR have excellent timing! Shortly after I blogged about developing KT curricula, and got a “not so in Canada” comment from Melanie Barwick, they posted a new webinar featuring Melanie’s KT planning course and her pioneering KT Planning Template.


Thanks to folks like Melanie, KTDRR, and PHSSR, among others, we’re finally having increasingly productive conversations about the importance of KT here in the U.S.


Melanie’s planning template is pretty comprehensive, but after going through her recent webinar, I have some questions about its efficacy for public health in the U.S. For instance:

  • What’s the true value of research synthesis in public health knowledge translation? In her template, Melanie asserts that all published research deserves a KT effort. Since so much of public health research has public policy implications, does a standalone research result really cut it?
  • How do we overcome the acute obstacles of budget, time, and energy when there’s virtually no incentive to do KT here in the U.S.? Public health researchers here are still incentivized by the traditional “publish or perish” model, with nothing comparable to the Canadian Institutes for Health Research driving change.
  • Is merely “generating awareness” ever enough? During the webinar, Melanie leads the discussion about goal-setting for KT with “generating awareness” and “sharing knowledge.”  Is this ever enough? Social marketers here in the U.S. will tell you no:



Conversations about the importance of knowledge translation in public health will have to include the broader needs of public health researchers, policy-makers, and the public. Where do we start? What do you think?

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If We Build It, Will They Come?

by William Calo October 24, 2013 03:35 PM

In the movie “Field of Dreams,” farmer Ray (actor Kevin Costner) heard a voice in his corn field telling him "If you build it, he will come," and saw a baseball field. He interpreted the voice as an instruction to build a baseball field on his farm. After he almost faces financial ruin, they came: baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson (his ghost) and hundreds of people happy to watch baseball.


Let’s “translate” the movie plot to knowledge translation (KT). While walking in our corn field (the literature), we have heard many voices telling us to develop innovative strategies to move research into practice and we have seen an interactive website (Ray’s baseball field). We developed not one but many such websites equipped with Web 2.0 gadgets to facilitate a more dynamic user-centered experience. And they came… thousands of people (researchers, community stakeholders, decision makers, you name it) visit such websites.


Although many advances have been made, the gap between knowledge and its actual use is still there. Some may argue that the chasm is going deeper. So I have two questions: How can we build better systems to carry out the marketing and dissemination of knowledge? And If We Build It, Will They Come?

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Checking Off the Boxes for Effective Knowledge Translation

by Rick Austin October 10, 2013 01:24 PM

Airline pilots do it. Engineers do it. Surgeons are known for resisting it.


“It” is the checklist. Could the use of checklists move knowledge translation toward measurable, reliable results?


The folks at KTDRR recently published a new webinar, “Assessing the Quality and Applicability of Systematic Reviews (AQASR),” which focused on a single facet of this issue.


Public health researchers who are interested in the effective knowledge translation of their research often rely on systematic reviews to bolster their own results. KTDRR’s webinar points up the wide variation in quality and reliability amongst systematic reviews, leading very much to a Caveat Emptor situation for researchers who would like to use them. Their AQASR instrument is a comprehensive checklist, which may be a strike against it; it’s very comprehensive, and takes training, time, and energy to use effectively.


There is much discussion amongst KT practitioners about the difficulty of reliably measuring the results of KT efforts. The only tool that I’m aware of right now which attempts to tackle this issue is Melanie Barwick’s KT planning template, which you can see here.


Melanie’s checklist only exhorts the user to consider the variety of measures available, and how they might be applied to the particular KT effort. What would a quality assessment checklist for KT results look like? Are there any already available? Tell me in the comments if you know of any other tools that can help us move toward measurable, reliable knowledge translation results.

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How do we do Knowledge Translation on Antimicrobial Resistance?

by Nick Rocha October 1, 2013 02:04 PM

A few days ago on my drive into work I was listening to a radio talk show. The topic was how many antimicrobials is enough when talking about animal products (meat) used to feed humans? The crux of the issue was that farmers/corporations are using too many antimicrobials in commercial meat farming, contributing to the rise in antibiotic-resistant germs.


This is not just a U.S. concern, but a global one. A recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report put the spotlight back on this issue. This CDC factsheet supports the perspective that “agricultural use of antibiotics in food-producing animals also contributes to the emergence, persistence, and spread of resistant bacteria. Resistant bacteria can be transmitted to humans through the foods we eat.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has also advocated for decreasing the use of antimicrobials in animal husbandry because of their contribution to antimicrobial resistance (AMR).


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) resulting in prolonged illness increases the risk of death, healthcare costs, threatens health security, damages trade and economics, and negatively impacts us in other ways.  As we can see, many different entities are getting in on this ongoing debate: government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, the meat industry, think tanks etc. So how does knowledge translation fit into all of this? As is usually the case, the messages from these different entities are mixed. We as consumers need to take a more proactive approach on this issue, considering we (meat eaters) are impacted by this issue on a daily basis. Could the issue of AMR be a case study on translating a complex public health issue, one with many gray areas, to consumers?

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Where's My Knowledge Translation Curriculum?

by Rick Austin September 26, 2013 04:01 PM

What a world we live in! Google Scholar just recently served up this master’s thesis by Eleni Wener. I think I would have been very self-conscious if my master’s thesis had been instantly available online.


Of course, she’s Canadian, at the University of Manitoba. The mandate for knowledge translation planning from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research has now filtered down to the level where graduate students are writing their theses about KT.


In exploring the use of knowledge translation in disability research, Wener, I think inadvertently, adds to the word salad of KT when she coins a new term, “inclusive knowledge translation.”


Now we can debate the relative merits of the terms knowledge translation, inclusive knowledge translation, knowledge translation and exchange, knowledge exchange, knowledge mobilization, and clinical translation.


Or not.


Instead, let’s debate the merits of ratcheting up the emphasis on knowledge translation in public health education in the United States.


There are fragments of KT resource materials available at such disparate places as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Almost all of this is aimed at people working on the front line, executing programs in the real world.


Even the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Systems and Services Research, housed at the University of Kentucky, focuses primarily on studies in real-world settings.


For a subject that’s getting this much attention on the front line, there seems to be very little focus on the academic preparation of our public health professionals. Which public health schools in the United States have built a knowledge translation curriculum that meets this growing need?

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