Knowledge Mobilization Documents Best Practices for Clear Language Research Summaries

The following was originally posted in YFile, York University’s Daily News, on October 23, 2012 and is reposted here with permission.

When it comes to conveying the important research to the broader community, clear language summaries are the best choice, this according to a new article published in the peer-reviewed journal, Scholarly & Research Communications.

Led by David Phipps, executive director of research & innovation services, and colleagues from York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit (KMb), the group put pen to paper to highlight their experiences in summarizing academic research according to clear language writing and design principles over the past four years and how that practice has made research more accessible to the community.

The article titled, “A Field Note Describing the Development and Dissemination of Clear Language Research Summaries for University-Based Knowledge Mobilization”, highlights best practices for the development, evaluation and dissemination of clear language research summaries as tools for research outreach, research communication and knowledge mobilization.  It is co-authored by Michael Johnny, manager, York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, Krista Jensen, knowledge mobilization officer at York University and Gary Myers, a community based researcher and author of the blog.

“Working with our partners and faculty to identify relevant research helps make York’s research accessible and useful to our community partners” says Phipps.

York University piloted institutional knowledge mobilization with the University of Victoria in 2005 under a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Since then, York University has grown its knowledge mobilization collaboration with the University of Victoria to include the other four ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche universities: Memorial University of Newfoundland & Labrador, Université du Québec à Montréal, University of Guelph and University of Saskatchewan.

York currently has more than 220 clear language research summaries in a series titled ResearchSnapshot, which is published on Research Impact blog. Working with a cohort of senior undergraduate work study students, the University’s KMb Unit produces between 40 to 50 research summaries every summer.

“York is proud of the work of our award-winning KMb Unit in connecting researchers and students with community partners for social innovation.  As a recognized leader in knowledge mobilization initiatives, York’s work and reputation in this field continues to grow both nationally and internationally,” said Robert Hache, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “The article written by David Phipps and his KMb colleagues provides a framework for others interested in learning more about best practices and York’s initiatives in this area.”

”SRC and its readers are very interested in the communication and use of knowledge as mediated by processes such as knowledge mobilization,” says Rowland Lorimer, SRC editor and director of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University. “The work of David Phipps and his knowledge mobilization colleagues at York University is of growing interest to scholars and research partners who are interested in communicating and using knowledge to benefit Canadians. SRC is pleased they have chose to publish their work with us.”

York University’s KMb Unit and the University of Guelph Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship have recently partnered in support of a project funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to produce clear language summaries of research at the University of Guelph. The KMb Unit is also working on clear language research summaries with the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health Evidence Exchange Network and the Knowledge Network for Applied Education & Research, a knowledge mobilization network funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Education of which York’s Faculty of Education is a partner. With these partnerships in place, York will be hosting over 500 ResearchSnapshot clear language research summaries.

To read the full text of the article, click here. To view the ResearchSnapshot for this article, click here.

Just do it / Faites le!

David Phipps, RIR-York

David Phipps has taken a break to read some journal articles that have been piling up. Reading about the science of knowledge mobilization is good. Getting out and actually mobilizing knowledge is better.

David Phipps a pris une pause pour lire quelques articles de journaux qui s’étaient empilés. Lire sur la science de la mobilisation des connaissances, c’est bien. Sortir et vraiment mobiliser les connaissances, c’est mieux.

I had some time to sit back and read some recent issues of Evidence and Policy and came across the following article- Adrian Cherney and Brian Head (2011) Supporting the knowledge-to-action process: a systems-thinking approach. Evidence and Policy. 7(4): 471-488.

Cherny and Head developed a holistic model supporting the knowledge-to-action (KTA) process based on systems thinking. It is based on 9 C’s: communication, capacity, competency, compatibility, committment, collaboration, creativity, compliance, champions (see figure). Like the Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (PARiHS) framework (see below), this is another model that helps practitioners think about our practie but it is not a practice per se. Cherny and Head say, “We have purposely focused on the principle and processes that should underpin a support system for enhancing the KTA process.  While infrastructure is central to the delivery of such support it is important to specify principles rather than physical activities because we want to highlight the building blocks for an effective support system relevant across a range of contexts.” Cherny and Head are explicitly saying that they chose to focus on thinking about it rather doing it.

It reminded me of a recent article in Implementation Science- Cheryl B Stetler, Laura J Damschroder, Christian D Helfrich and Hildi J Hagedorn (2011) A guide for applying a revised version of the PARIHS framework for implementation. Implementation Science. 6(99).

The PARiHS framework was developed to help understand those elements that contribute to successful implementation of evidence into practice in health care settings. The PARiHS framework is a function of the interplay of three core elements: 1) the level and nature of the evidence; 2) the context or environment into which the evidence is to be placed; and 3) the method or way in which the process is facilitated. By 2010 there had been 32 papers published on the PARiHS framework, but according to Stetler et al (2011), “No published studies were identified that used the framework comprehensively and prospectively to develop an implementation project. The ability to fully evaluate its usefulness thus has been limited.” The authors mean that this framework is a way of thinking about practice, not a practice per se. For more on the PARiHS framework see the KMb Journal club post.

It must be nice to be able to think about something and never have to do it.

But then that’s the role of researchers in many fields. Researchers think about things and study things without actually doing the things they study. Then there’s the role of practitioners.  We do things without having incentives or rewards (ie the time) to sit back and think about and reflect upon what we do.

I wrote about this on February 1, 2012 when I wrote that we were all knowledge hypocrites. We need more mobilization of knowledge about knowledge mobilization. Researchers need to move beyond thinking about frameworks to working with practitioners who are putting those frameworks into practice. Practitioners likewise need to embed researchers in their practice. At York we are starting a conversation among our engaged scholars and knowledge mobilization projects and their embedded knowledge brokers. Our goal is to inform our practice by working directly with our researchers. That’s also what the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum will start to address. By mixing knowledge mobilization researchers and practitioners it will sow the seeds of mutually beneficial researcher-practitioner relationships. Join many of your knowledge mobilization colleagues in Ottawa on June 19-20.

I have also written that what we do as knowledge brokers isn’t rocket science (see point #2 in a recent journal club).  Knowledge brokering is as much common sense as it is implementation of frameworks. But these frameworks are the opposite, presenting complicated inter-relations of elements, stages and components all designed to maximize the impact of research and evidence on decision making without ever having been evaluated to see if the outcomes support that design. If I had to think of all the elements and sub elements of the PARiHS framework and all 9 C’s of the systems thinking model before addressing any knowledge mobilization opportunity I would be paralyzed, unable to figure what to do first.

I read the literature.  I engage with researchers.  That is important, for sure. And then I just do it.

KMb Journal Club / Le comité de lecture de la MdC

The ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche journal club is a new web feature that will make KMb related academic research accessible to knowledge brokers.

Le comité de lecture de ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche est une nouvelle initiative en ligne qui va rendre la recherche académique sur la mobilisation des connaissances accessible aux courtiers de connaissances

What were you doing on April 30, 2010? It was a Friday and that day we posted the results of our web survey. Our respondents gave us great feedback and we have acted on some of those by adding to our KMb in Action and introducing Delicious KMb bookmarks of KMb associated web sites. We know that finding information on KMb is one of the top two reasons people come to the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche website.

We are now pleased to introduce a new feature to our web services to help our stakeholders get KMb related information – the KMb Journal Club.

We have previously written that knowledge brokers need to practice what they preach and seek out KMb evidence on which to base their KMb practice. The trouble is, like so many of our community partners, we lack the time to seek out, digest, evaluate and apply research to our own situations. The journal club will present a summary of KMb related academic journal articles in a standard format that will make KMb research accessible to KMb practitioners. This won’t be a researcher’s perspective.

Each journal club will be presented with the following sections:

  1. Article reference
  2. url if the article is open access
  3. Abstract
  4. Article summary
  5. Key observations from practitioner’s perspective

We will be using a publicly accessible discussion forum on the ResearchImpact O3 site to host the journal club. Each journal club will be posted, with the paper attached if it is open access, and readers will be able to use the reply feature to comment or ask questions of the journal club author. We will be posting the first KMb journal club in a couple of weeks.

If you are reading a journal article that you think would be relevant to KMb practice you are invited to submit a journal club summary to us for consideration by e mailing to

From Local to National to International – KM is in the News!

ResearchImpact universities were in the news as we ended 2009 and started 2010.

On December 23, 2009 York’s work on Green Economic Transformation with partners in South Simcoe was featured in the Bradford West Gwillimbury Topic and received wider readership in Metroland. You can read the whole article here. ResearchImpact (York) brokered relationships between a researcher (Gerde Wekerle, FES), 2 graduate students and Nottawasaga Futures which is hosting the graduate students who are funded through the MITACS Accelerate program. According to one of the students, Susan Swail, “The plan is to develop a summary of best practices or benchmarks to work toward in creating sustainable communities by focusing on economic development that considers the triple bottom line” (economic, social, environmental impacts). These best practices will inform green decisions made by local businesses and local governments. Taking a lesson from ResearchImpact (Memorial), this is ResearchImpact (York)’s first move into regional economic development which is the domain of the Harris Centre at Memorial. We will seek to build on this success with Nottawasaga Futures and partners in the South Simcoe Economic Alliance.

And speaking of ResearchImpact (Memorial and York)… our two KM operations were featured in an article by the Globe and Mail’s Elizabeth Church on how York University and Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador are making research and researchers accessible through on line formats. We have previously blogged about York’s Research Snapshots and Memorial’s yaffle and now these tools made it into the national media with an article released on January 2, 2010. You can read the whole article “Web tools aim to open the gates to the ivory tower” and also join the readers who are commenting on the article.

Both of these stories were reported in Y File on January 5 and January 6.

And finally, ResearchImpact (Memorial) and yaffle were also featured in a story by the Washington DC based Chronicle of Higher Education on January 6, 2010. Part of the Chronicle’s Wired Campus series, the article was titled “Canadian University Creates Matchmaking Tool for Research”.

Such local, national and international press helps to grow the impact of ResearchImpact.

After 12 years… I’m back!

Evidence & PolicyYou’re used to reading about York’s KM Unit and ResearchImpact in this blog as well as on Twitter @researchimpact. Occasionally we get some press that we don’t have to write like the article on KM in Canada done by University Affairs (April 7, 2008). Now we’ve passed peer review. In the August 2009 edition of Evidence & Policy, David Phipps and Stan Shapson published “Knowledge mobilisation builds local research collaborations for social innovation”. Read the abstract here. The paper positions York’s KM Unit amongst other initiatives to link research to practice including the ubiquitous technology transfer office but also offices such as the University of Brighton’s Community University Partnership Program (shout out to Angie Hart for her wonderful work). We ground our work in Lavis’ KTE methods of producer push, user pull and knowledge exchange [J. Health Serv. Res. Policy (2003) 8(3):165] and we extend those to include the co-production of knowledge.

From the paper, key lessons learned (ok, learning) include:

  • Angie HartmanDeveloping an institutional capacity to support KT (as institutions support technology commercialization) results in benefits to the institution, researchers, graduate students and research users
  • It takes time to break down community–university barriers and develop trust. Care must be taken to manage expectations on both sides.
  • The use of broadband technology to connect stakeholders over distance and over time can facilitate research utilization over a large geographical area
  • Community/government partners are earlier adopters of the services of the KT unit than faculty
  • Decision-maker partners must be engaged throughout the planning, funding, delivery and evaluation of the KT Unit

We are delighted that Evidence & Policy agreed to receive our article and that its peer reviewers recommended it for publication. Evidence & Policy is an important journal for KM. Kathleen Bloom“Evidence & Policy is the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to comprehensive and critical assessment of the relationship between research evidence and the concerns of policy makers and practitioners, as well as researchers” (Read more here). We are delighted because our work is hitting a wider audience. We’re delighted because of the validation this provides to our work. And I am delighted because this is my first peer reviewed publication in 12 years but I remain grounded because I recognize that recognition of peers is nice but the continued validation provided by partners is more valuable. As Kathleen Bloom wisely points out, “impact is determined by the user” not by academic peers.

What do Machiavelli and Dr. Seuss have to do with Knowledge Mobilization?

Machiavelli and The Cat in the Hat

Concludero’ solo che al principe, e necessario avere ilpopolo amico – I will conclude then that it is necessary for the prince to have the people as friends.

Lesson: No silo research. Research partnerships must be broad and most importantly, engage the people impacted by the outcome.

ResearchImpact and a key community partner, the United Way of York Region recently published an article in Issue 22 (June 2009) of Research Global, the magazine of the Global Research Management Network published by the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

All we could do was to sit, sit, sit. And we did not like it, not one little bit. Then something went bump. How that bump made us jump.

Lesson: Enter all partnerships with an initial plan, a willingness to change depending on the circumstances and, when something goes bump, be present. Full commitment, engagement and openness are critical. If not, do not enter.

Research Global June 2009The article titled “Lessons learned from knowledge mobilisation: turning research into action” is a whimsical look at 10 lessons learned from 3 years of growing Canada’s first institutional knowledge mobilization unit broadly serving the needs of university faculty, graduate students and their non academic research partners.  Each lesson is inspired by and offered with apologies to either Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli’s The Prince or Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and we back up each lesson with a real life example drawn from our own knowledge mobilization practice.

The lessons are instructive and the stories are real.  The article concludes “Universities need to work hard to develop relationships that include but also transcend individual researchers, projects and partners, in order to maximize the impact of the university on its communities, both local and global. Collaborating is not easy and you will encounter bumps along the road. The key to riding out the bumps is trust, a shared commitment, and never forgetting to communicate, communicate, communicate with funders, faculty, students and collaborators.”

Read the article and all 10 lessons here and see a PowerPoint presentation of the 10 lessons here.