We just concluded the release of three podcasts by our friends Jane Gibson and Ben Amick from the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto. Here are some important gems from what they had to say:
Include the end users’ perspective and educate them about research.
Gibson: “(Researchers) were working in the field and realizing how much they were learning from being in workplaces, from working with clinicians… so I think there was very much a sense that this applied research needed input from the outside to be relevant and to be useful.”
“We’ve had 10 years now to talk to our audiences about what is good research, when do you know when you have enough research to act, what kinds of things should you be looking for in the research if you’re going to be reading it yourself… We spend a lot of time doing capacity building with those audiences, to understand what the research process can and cannot do.”
Create long-term access for long-term results.
Gibson: “The other thing that we have done, when you’re talking about access, is that we have actually created a series of networks with some of our audiences, so that we meet with them on a regular basis. Some of them are clinical, some in the health and safety/prevention system. This allows us to actually be much more structured in building [their] capacity about understanding research. In our meetings, we’ve started out by having researchers present research and talk about the strength of the evidence, talk about how it might be used. We also talk to them a fair bit about the importance of having a body of literature, and not just a single article.”
Make sure you’re asking relevant questions.
Amick: “We don’t generate research questions from the peer-reviewed literature. We actually engage our stakeholders, so that early on in the process, we are doing research which is relevant to the stakeholder community. We’re not doing science and then evaluating it, we’re actually embedding the evaluation in the science, and it starts with asking the questions [of your stakeholders] that are relevant.”
Define the “messages” that have come out of your research.
Gibson: “We don’t change the findings – the findings belong to the researchers. I often say to the researchers that methodology is your currency; our audiences expect you to do that well, they expect you to know how to do it, and when you get together with other researchers, that’s what you argue about. But they (the end users) don’t have that knowledge and they can’t argue with you about the methodology. They want to know, what does it mean and how do I use it.”
Understand which goals are realistic, and where and when you can achieve them.
Gibson: “Particularly when we’re talking about policy-makers … there is some literature out there, particularly done by John Lavis, that shows that if all you can do is inform the debate, then you’ve done very well with your research, because policy-makers have so many other factors they’re dealing with.”
Amick: “I think that you can’t have a short-term perspective in terms of trying to do work that has some clear relevance to different constituencies. Instead, what you have to do is recognize that, in order for those constituencies to remain engaged, you have to provide them with short-term products [and] intermediate products and have, hopefully, some long-term impact.”
If you’re a registered member of KTExchange.org and you’d like to hear these podcasts in their entirety, go to the “KT Tools” menu, then to “Podcasts.”