OK, so we didn’t see it when it came out last year but Sandra Nutley and her team (including Huw Davies and Isabel Walter) associated with the University of Edinburgh’s Research Unit for Research Utilization published another excellent article on KM. They published “Why ‘knowledge transfer’ is misconceived for applied social research” in the Journal of Health Services, Research & Policy (Vol 13 No 3, 2008: 188–190). As leaders in the theory of research utilization, Sandra and her team point out why terms such as knowledge transfer and knowledge translation under represent the complexities and iterative nature of most strategies aimed at facilitating or enhancing research utilization. Such terms privilege “scientific” knowledge and marginalize other forms of knowledge and ways of knowing. They also ignore the frequent need for un-learning as part of the research utilization process. As an alternative they suggest:
“While any term is likely to open itself up to fresh critique, we suggest that ‘knowledge interaction’ might more appropriately describe the messy engagement of multiple players with diverse sources of knowledge. We also suggest that ‘knowledge intermediation’ begins to articulate some of the managed processes by which knowledge interaction is promoted.”
KM isn’t mentioned and we use it to describe a suite of services that enhances the two-way connection between researchers and research users so that research and evidence can inform decisions about public policy and professional practice. KM encompasses methods of knowledge transfer, translation and exchange and extends them to include the co-production of knowledge. This managed process could be described as knowledge intermediation…or knowledge mobilization…
Whatever we call it, it is clear that the communities engaged in such practices are growing and over time we are confident we will coalesce around a term or terms on which there is substantial agreement. Until then such dialogues are interesting but we know what we mean and know it when we see it so as practitioners, let’s get on and “just do it”.