What About the Elephants in the Room?

by Rick Austin May 1, 2014 04:22 PM

ResearchImpact honcho and long-time friend of Research Into Action, David Phipps, recently published a journal club discussion of this fairly widely-known article by Grimshaw, et al., “Knowledge translation of research findings,” about KT and its effectiveness.


The ResearchImpact journal club is intended to foster discussion, so David raises more questions than he answers, but then, that’s the point.


His very first question has to do with the Grimshaw article’s assertion that the most valuable unit of knowledge is the “up-to-date” systematic review. David points out that systematic reviews, by their nature, take time, cost lots of money, and are not popular projects for original researchers. He asks, who will pay for them, who will do them, and do we really know that they are influential in decision- and policy-making?


The Grimshaw article’s emphasis on systematic reviews reveals, in my mind, a narrow view of what is effective, and why. The implicit attitude is that if we can just get good evidence into people’s hands, they can’t help but make useful, evidence-informed decisions. Particularly in the political policy arena, evidence is never sufficient; politicians view policy through the lens of what’s good for them. Self-interest trumps science every time.


Since he’s writing a journal club review for ResearchImpact, of course David is going to point out that the Grimshaw article barely mentions the role of knowledge brokers in knowledge translation. That’s indeed a curious omission when you consider that three of the five authors of the paper are Canadian, and are intimately familiar with the goals of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).


Perhaps it was beyond the reach of either the Grimshaw article or David’s discussion, but two major considerations that receive no play here are the issues of scope and sustainability. A consideration of the scope of a KT effort is implied in the Grimshaw article’s fifth key question, “With what effect should research knowledge be transferred?” Unfortunately, this is disposed of in a single, brief paragraph. Scope considerations are also indirectly raised in Melanie Barwick’s KT Planning Template, as it asks questions about partner roles, goals, strategies, and impact. What’s needed is an explicit discussion of what the researcher or knowledge broker expects to achieve: how wide, how deep, how many people?


The other elephant in the room is sustainability. Human nature being what it is, no one-shot knowledge translation campaign is going to achieve much. If you dispute that, consider tobacco. The Surgeon General’s office, the CDC, the FDA, the National Cancer Institute, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and innumerable local health departments have been flogging the dangers of tobacco for more than 40 years, and yet we still have more than 50 million Americans using tobacco in one form or  another.


Discussing these big issues up front carries no guarantee that they will be resolved; time, money and energy are all finite resources. But at least they can be part of a realistic debate. What other issues should we be including in a realistic discussion of knowledge translation goals?

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , ,

Some Cool Tools From the KT Measurement Conference

by Rick Austin December 3, 2013 03:37 PM

Aaand… Following right up on the KT planning webinar with Melanie Barwick, KTDRR recently produced an ambitious, information-packed three-day online seminar on measuring and evaluating KT.

Whether an online conference with voiceover and PowerPoint slides spread over three days was the best way to tackle a subject this densely packed is a topic for another conversation. Perseverance was rewarded with access to a broad spectrum of worldwide expertise, and some cool tools which demonstrated that it is possible to evaluate the impact of your knowledge translation efforts.


Some of the cool tools were:


CIHR’s KT Planning Report – A comprehensive workbook prepared in 2012 under the supervision of Ian Graham, PhD.


RE-AIM – A framework for evaluating health interventions with more than 14 years of documentation.


Payback Framework – A data collection and cross-case analysis tool originally formulated by Stephen Hanney, PhD at Brunel University.


Go and browse the archived materials, and let me know in the comments what you found particularly useful.

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , ,

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?

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , ,

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.

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , ,

Help Us Build Communities, Cases and Practices

by Rick Austin July 23, 2013 03:23 PM

We’re building a new feature on KTExchange, and we’d like your help in filling it out.


It’s called “Communities, Cases and Practices,” (C,C&P) and you can find it under the “KT Tools” menu at the top of the page. This feature is driven by Google Maps, and as you can guess from the name, we’re looking for some specific data to fill it out.


We’re looking for communities of knowledge translation practitioners, like KTExchange itself, or like ResearchImpact, the consortium of Canadian universities.


We’re looking for specific case studies about the implementation of knowledge translation, like our own work with the Houston City Council on noise pollution.


Finally, we’re looking for examples of best practices, like Melanie Barwick’s work with Scientist Knowledge Translation Training at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.


Send your suggestions for these categories to us at Researchintoaction@uth.tmc.edu, and we’ll follow up and add it to the C, C&P page.



Bookmark and Share

Tags: , ,

Sign In

My Portal Sign Up
Page Survey
How useful is this page?
Poor Good Great
Comments (optional)
Facebook   Twitter  


Comment RSS