Knowledge Mobilization and Research Matters

York’s KMb Unit was one of two featured presentations at the March 24 Research Matters talk sponsored by the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. Research Matters is a monthly speaker series which highlights LA&PS researchers, their research and “the way they see the world”. Attendees represented several disciplines within LA&PS (did you know this Faculty, if you add all it’s faculty, staff and students, is the approximate size of McMaster University?!) and there was also guests from outside the University.

The KMb presentation focused on the following three overarching questions :

  • What is Knowledge Mobilization?
  • Why is Knowledge Mobilization important?
  • How do we deliver KMb services at York?

One of the tenants of KMb is that the messenger needs to be a trusted source, and not to belittle the credibility of our unit, but it was felt that having faculty and external collaborators share their experiences to help answer these questions was more appropriate. As a result, I was able to show four videos which the KMb Unit has developed (you can watch them on YouTube here), all of which speak to the questions above. And like any successful KMb event, there were numerous one-on-one conversations afterward with attendees who were seeking a business card, had a question, or in one case, wanted to explore how KMb could assist with their research project.

The second presenter was Dr. Nick Mulé from the School of Social Work. He shared his numerous research projects around LGBT knowledge development and how he has integrated elements of Knowledge Exchange, Knowledge Translation and/or Knowledge Mobilization (which he has coined as KTEM… not to be mistaken with KTEAM… or for those who remember, the A Team). Nick’s emerging interests in KMb, and how he is integrating KMb principles and practices into his research projects was my takeaway on the day. I was pleased to hear Nick share his skills and experience in engaged scholarship, demonstrating that it is possible to advance a scholarly career while engaged in community-based research. By integrating KMb principles and practices, Dr. Mulé successfully demonstrated that, in fact, Research Matters!

My sincere thanks to Associate Dean of Research, Barbara Crow and the Research Officers and support staff in LA&PS for the opportunity to share our work and extend the invitation of the KMb Unit as a service unit to support researchers and their collaborators.

Memorial is missing a mobilizer

The last time we ran into David Yetman he was Manager of Knowledge Mobilization for the Harris Centre which provides KMb services to Memorial and its local communities.  We blogged about him last October as Memorial and York demonstrated KMb leadership at SSHRC’s KIS/Clusters meeting.  David and the Harris Centre are known nationally for yaffle which has also graced this blog. Yaffle is a tool that has profiles and projects of Memorial faculty and local community and seeks to broker relationships between the two… kind of like Lava Life for research (thank you Kathleen Bloom).

Now David has moved to Toronto to become the Director, Programs and Knowledge Transfer for the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. CIFAR “incubates ideas that revolutionize the international research community and change the lives of people all over the world. Through its research programs, CIFAR provides leading scholars with the time, direction, freedom and inspiration to pursue fundamental questions concerning society, technology, and the very nature of humanity and the universe.” Watch their video here.  Last year CIFAR started thinking about developing a KMb strategy and recruited David Yetman to be the inaugural Director for this strategy.

While exploring their second home town, David and his wife Corina met with ResearchImpact York’s David Phipps (the other David from the KIS/Cluster meeting) took them out for brunch.  Their visit included the Jersey Boys, The Leafs, the Royal York, St. Lawrence Market and a whole lot of Toronto.

Q. What do you like most about Toronto?
Corina (quoted with permission): “I loves a lots a shoppin’”
David: the entertainment, the quality of shows and sports

Q. What’s the one thing you wish you knew about Toronto
Corina: where the safest places in Toronto are (Corina grew up in a Newfoundland town of 250 people)
David: where are the good neighbourhoods (to live, to visit)

Q. What concerns you most about this change in your life?
Corina: missing David
David: understanding the new culture (of CIFAR); leaving an established track record (at Memorial)

Q. What looking forward to most about this change in your life?
Corina: visiting Toronto and doing some traveling
David: professionally this is a tremendous opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in the world; personally there is access to so much of great quality in Toronto


In David’s absence, The Harris Centre and Memorial continue to be a valued part of ResearchImpact and we welcome Jennifer Adams Warburton (Operations Manager at The Harris Centre) to the national network of ResearchImpact knowledge brokers.  Jennifer, welcome to ResearchImpact.  David, welcome to Toronto.  And CIFAR… let’s talk about ResearchImpact.

Message to SSHRC: as you remodel the house don’t forget the foundation

Renovations are all the rage. Witness the Home Improvement Tax Credit (I’m looking forward to my $1,350 that will help pay for the new furnace, air conditioner and water heater), all the DIY shows on Home & Garden Channel and the boom in stores like Home Depot, Rona and Lowes. SSHRC has jumped on the reno bandwagon. The first time I heard about the new SSHRC Program Architecture was at the KIS/Cluster meeting in Ottawa on October 23-24, 2009 (see our blog post on that meeting). Since then SSHRC has released increasing amounts of information to SSHRC academic leaders (December 2009) and to research administrators in a CAURA webinar (January 29, 2010) and on March 1, 2010, Chad Gaffield released the new architecture and draft call for applications for consultation.

KMb practitioners take note: you no longer have to pose as researchers

SSHRC has retooled their programming into 3 broad categories of insight (= research), talent (= training) and connections (= knowledge mobilization). The three are not mutually exclusive, in fact, in many constructions of SSHRC funded scholarly endeavours they are intrinsically linked (think of a CURA which fosters engaged research, training and KMb). Moving from a prescriptive, program directed mode of grant seeking, SSHRC is allowing applicants to define the funding package that fits their own scholarship within some very broad frameworks.

KMb community take note: there is funding for KMb

Whether you want to hold a small workshop, publish a journal, develop a KMb tool kit or create a national framework for community engaged scholarship, there’s a welcome mat out for you. If you wish to study the science of KMb, that’s research (sorry, insight) but if you want to do KMb that’s connections. Look for programs supporting partnerships, workshops and conferences, journals, tools and outcomes to be launched over the next 2 years.

But SSHRC take note to maintain the foundation as you remodel the house

Not every NSERC Discovery Grant should result in a patent. Not every research grant under the insight umbrella should be mobilized or connected. When MRC became CIHR in 2000 and assumed a mandate for knowledge translation, new funds were given to the CIHR Operating Grant competition. Sure, new funds were provided for strategic competitions as well but CIHR not only protected but grew their support for fundamental research.

Not all will welcome this new program architecture but as KMb practitioners we are pleased to see SSHRC champion a connections agenda. We are also pleased to see funding maintained for research grants and priority funds as directed by federal budget priorities set by the Federal Government. As far as the limited allocations in Federal Budgets allow please continue to invest in the foundation of social sciences and humanities research. KMb is great but is must be built on a sound base of fundamental scholarship.

And federal government, listen up

The vast majority of public servants has degrees in the social sciences and humanities and were taught by professors, many of whom were supported by SSHRC. If you want informed policy makers you need a strong social science and humanities community. If you want a strong social sciences and humanities community you need a strong SSHRC. SSHRC receives 13.5% of the total federal investments in the three granting councils but supports over 50% of Canada’s academic researchers and graduate students. You do the math.

Thank you for the $3M increase to SSHRC’s budget in Budget 2010 but SSHRC needs more, much more, in 2011 if you expect informed debate and responsive public policies in security, finance, immigration, homelessness, mental health, education, aboriginal affairs, globalization, climate change, racism, multiculturalism, urban planning, rural economies, northern Canada, politics, heritage, literacy, employment, peace keeping, sport, volunteerism, federation, government reform, bilingualism, equity, infrastructure, economic renewal, sustainability, the arts, accessibility, digital literacy, transportation, poverty…

525,600 Minutes- How do you measure a year of KM?

Tuesday, March 2nd was the third annual KM Expo where York and it’s (mainly community) partners celebrated the past year of KM and looked forward to another. We were pleased to welcome over 95 participants to examine how KM can help broker relationships over, under, around and through Boundaries: between research and practice/policy; between community and university; between research and partner.

One always surprising and satisfying session is the un-conference time where participants identify topics of interest, including evaluation, training for KM careers, what is/are knowledge(s), changing the university culture, and social media. Danielle Zanotti (CEO, United Way of York Region) is always entertaining and thoughtful as he compared York’s KM Unit to his Nona (grandmother) who was strategic in her choice of partner – his Nono (grandfather). Tim McConnell (President and CEO, McConnell Foundation) reflected that putting voices around a table who wouldn’t normally sit together creates a clash of different understandings that creates new knowledge. He also recognized that policy makers (provincial and federal) where mainly absent from our KM table.

Many participants were asked the same question, “If you could tell the university to do one thing over the next year, what would it be?” We heard the following:

1) Engage in more brokering
• ResearchImpact-York has received over 150 requests for research brokering and will continue to do more

2) Create time/incentives/rewards for faculty to engage in KM
• We see this frequently. CHSRF has held some conversations with VPs Academic and Provosts but little progress has been made on including community engaged research in tenure & promotion

3) Create a learning cycle around KM
• ResearchImpact-York has created the KM P2P network, we’re developing KM tools, and we are active in the Ontario KTE CoP

4) “Universities are leaders in tradition” – become more open
• York has recently released the Provost’s White Paper providing a vision of York as Canada’s engaged university

5) Develop evaluation tools for KM
• Summer 2009 York conducted a formal evaluation of the last 4 years of KM. This report and recommendations arising from the repor will be presented on this blog soon.

6) Support digital literacy as an emerging skill-set
• See York’s initiatives like the Institute for Research on Learning Technologies, our work on O3, ABEL and other resources such as we wrote in this blog post

Throughout the 2010 Expo the theme was bees. We asked ourselves the question, “to b or not to b” and we decided to b. Starting with the 2010 Expo and following the lead of other knowledge mobilization leaders in Canada, including Peter Levesque, the Harris Centre, and SSHRC, York will adopt the acronym KMb.

ResearchImpact – York will be posting videos and presentations from the Expo on this blog and on KMb in action but for now, please see here for 525,600 minutes of KMb.

GURU = Great University-Based Research Utilization

Guru. That’s what we think of when we think of Carole Estabrooks and her more than two decades of research and teaching in KT, and we weren’t disappointed when she was the inaugural speaker for the Ontario KTE Community of Practice (CoP) 2010 season (see the presentation slides here). The event attracted 28 knowledge brokers, researchers and practitioners who braved a blizzard to enjoy 2 hours of presentation (“Exploring the Applicability of Research Through the Practice of KT”) and dialogue with one of Canada’s leading KT researchers.

Carole holds a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in KT at the University of Alberta and runs the Knowledge Utilization Studies Program (KUSP). She walked us thorough her experience working under different theoretical frameworks of knowledge utilization from diffusion of innovation to evidence based medicine to implementation science [see Madon et al (2007) Science 318: 1728]. Look for her presentation soon on the KTE CoP web site but I wish to focus on two areas that are of particular interest to KM practitioners at ResearchImpact.

[OK, as an aside, because it’s not really something I want to focus on, she did say she is coming round to recognizing the potential for knowledge brokers in a knowledge utilization framework… Carole, call me, we’ll talk… now, back to the blog]

1. Practice what you preach:

Carole indicated nurses don’t routinely read nursing or medical literature to inform their practice. I propose that neither do knowledge brokers. We are so busy doing what it is we do that we don’t create the time to sit back, read, reflect and most importantly, write about our practice. We preach evidence informed practice but upon what evidence are we basing our practice? As KM staff we’re measured on how many interns we placed, collaborations we supported, research summaries we wrote and who used all of this activity to do what with it. Read Carole’s paper about busyness as a barrier to effective research utilization [Journal of Clinical Nursing, 17(4), 539-548. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2007.01981.x] and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. But we’re changing this at ResearchImpact. We have already published a couple of papers on our work (see blog posts here and here) and have one more submitted to the journal Education & Training. After my earlier blog post and this one, I am going to ask the ResearchImpact-York knowledge brokers to take one day each month to spend catching up on reading and perhaps we can move towards an annotated broker bibliography which we can post on the ResearchImpact web site.

2. Attention

Carole made a remark while she was talking about busyness as a barrier to research utilization. She said, “effective KT requires attention”. That got me thinking of an article I recently read on twitter thanks to York’s KM Unit volunteer, Gary Myers. Huberman, Romero and Wu said in their online paper Social Networks that Matter: Twitter under the microscope,  “attention is the scare resource in the age of the web”.

Here’s my issue:

In a world of twitter induced attention deficit, I remain convinced that there is a role for social media to mediate KM which is based on networks that are enabled by transparency, trust and relationship closeness – all of which are facilitated by social media. At least in theory (the academic literature on social media is only starting to emerge, but the blog literature is convincing on this point – however, don’t forget your source criticism… would a blogger really be a good critic of social media?). Absent any evidence we’ll put it to a vote:

Is social media an effective tool for KM? Say yes or no and tell us why using the comment feature above.

So Carole, thank you. You engaged us and made us laugh and made us think. Thanks also to the Ontario KTE CoP for kicking off a great year with a great speaker. And for the rest of us remember to create the time in your schedule to give the KM evidence your attention so that you can practice what you preach. At least on my train trip I took the time to reflect on Carole’s talk and write this blog while enjoying the scenery around Trenton.