Post Cards from Congress – Day 6

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Krista Jensen, RIR-York

How things have changed…

The first Congress I attended was in 2008 at the University of British Columbia. I spent a few days at the ResearchImpact booth talking to people about the work we do. Back then, I spent a lot of time talking about what knowledge mobilization was. People weren’t familiar with the term and were often confused by it. Usually after sharing a story or two about a research project that used knowledge mobilization they would understand.

This time around, I have spent a lot less time explaining what knowledge mobilization and more time talking about how we do knowledge mobilization. I’ve been getting the sense that researchers I’ve been talking to here at Congress get the concept of knowledge mobilization and are actively engaged in it.

And it hasn’t just been researchers from only certain disciplines; I’ve talked to people in Geography, Communications and Culture, Women’s Studies, Political Science and more. I’ve also talked to a lot more community based researchers than I have at other academic conferences.

It has been a great to see a shift in the conversation and to have substantial discussions about different knowledge mobilization activities and methods with researchers from across Canada.

Post Cards from Congress – Day 5

Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake

View of Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake

Krista Jensen, RIR-York

What are the chances?

On Wednesday morning at breakfast, I grabbed the first seat I could find at a table where five people were chatting with each other.  Unlike my fellow York KMb colleagues, Michael and David, I am decidedly not a morning person and don’t have a lot to say before I have some coffee, so I was concentrating on my breakfast when I suddenly heard, “I think Yaffle is the best example of that”. For readers who may not know, Yaffle is an online platform that connects innovators in Newfoundland and Labrador with knowledge and expertise at Memorial University and is a tool used by RIR members The Harris Centre.

It turns out the topic of their conversation was the development a database to help match up researchers and community partners for collaborative research projects. I talked to them about our brokering activities at York and how we mainly rely on our networks to identify possible partnerships.

But this question of using a database to identify potential research partners came up a few more times during the day. I was asked by a few visitors to our booth if we use a database in our brokering activities. This got me thinking about the value of using this type of tool for research collaborations.

Besides the usual technical complications of developing and maintaining this type of database, I wonder about its role in identifying and supporting research partnerships- Would it replace face-to-face brokering? Would it compliment it? Would it just be a starting place for the partnership or could you potentially establish a “virtual” partnership, say on a global research project?

Not sure I have the answers to these questions. I would be interested in hearing other people’s views on the subject. Does anyone have any experience using databases for knowledge brokering? How does it fit in with face-to-face brokering?

RIR Brokers – Sharing Stories / Courtiers RIR – Partage Histoires!

A recent Skype teleconference allowed brokers of ResearchImpact – RèsearcuImpactRecherche to share and exchange stories of engagement events, showing we have much in common!

Une récente téléconférence Skype permis courtiers de ResearchImpact – RèsearcuImpactRecherche de partager et échanger des histoires d’événements d’engagement, montrant nous avons beaucoup en commun!


The technology worked well and six RIR brokers were able to convene to share and exchange stories of recent events our offices hosted. The purpose of the conversation was to listen to Manager of Knowledge Mobilization, Bojan Fürst, of Memorial University, share details of the highly successful MUNbuttoned events last fall which saw three back-to-back-to-back evenings hosted in St.John’s around topics of natural sciences, social and economic research, and arts and heritage.  Based on activities and projects supported by KMb at MUN, researchers engaged with the public in quick roundtable presentations in a beautiful community space in St. John’s.   The real success, as shared by Bojan, was engagement and allowing MUN researchers a chance to talk about their research off campus.  The creative use of space – the events took place in open community space above a bakery in St. John’s – which allowed for inclusive participation from community members and is a critical consideration for any successful KMb event.  The team at the Harris Centre provided excellent support to help make the evenings a success and now part of regular annual service by KMb at MUN.  With this fall being the 10th Anniversary of KMb at MUN, there promises to be more exciting events!

Having RIR Brokers meet on Skype allowed for questions and chances to learn good practices in KMb. Several brokers have less than two years’ experience in their role and this regular conversation space allows for dialogue on issues which are important to us in supporting KMb within our respective institutions.  The success of Memorial’s MUNbuttoned event provided us all an opportunity to share recent outreach and engagement successes.  University of Victoria knowledge broker Tara Todesco share of her work in leading IDEAfest which had 58 separate activities taking place across campus over the course of a week.   For the Ontario RIR brokers who were on Skype, we shared our recent SSHRC supported Pecha Kucha-style events which were supported under the Imagining Canada’s Future events which SSHRC recently released.

The conversation flowed freely and there were several questions which people had throughout our hour long talk. We have agreed to share and exchange workplans and lessons learned from this work.  The opportunity to help each other and provide ongoing and active support in our roles as knowledge brokers is the essence of the RIR network.   On April 30, Anne Bergen from University of Guelph will lead the next conversation where she will provide an overview of her work at Guelph which – like all of us – has unique local and institutional elements which shape the development and delivery of KMb services.

A New University Paradigm / Un nouveau paradigme pour l’Université

Gary Myers, KMbeing

In this guest blog Gary Myers (@KMbeing) advocates for a greater integration of research services, knowledge mobilization and technology transfer. Greater integration from research grant application to research impact is a new university paradigm. This blog was first posted on Gary’s website,, on February 15, 2014 and can be found at

Dans ce billet, notre blogueur invité Gary Myers (@KMbeing) plaide en faveur d’une meilleure intégration des services à la recherche, de la mobilisation des connaissances et du transfert technologique. Une véritable intégration, depuis la demande de subvention jusqu’à l’impact de la recherche : voilà un nouveau paradigme pour le fonctionnement de l’Université. Ce billet a été publié sur le site Web de Gary Myers,, le 15 février 2014. Vous pouvez le lire à l’adresse suivante :

Picture of university buildingUniversities are considered one of our most reliable and cherished knowledge sectors with great expectations of delivering quality education and world-leading research. There has been increased pressure on universities for financial income and resources along with increased pressure from government granting agencies that expect a valuable public and/or private return of investment for providing research funding. With the creation of CIHR in 2000, Canadian health researchers were required to articulate knowledge translation strategies in their grant applications. Some NSERC funding programs require commercialization strategies. In 2011 SSHRC launched its renewed program architecture which requires all grant applications to have a knowledge mobilization strategy. This created an expectation that universities will effectively address social and economic issues and spend their money wisely – along with a mandate from the granting councils to incorporate knowledge mobilization and technology commercialization strategies into research grant applications.

So why aren’t some universities still not doing this?

If universities are to deliver the most promising benefits of knowledge and research for society and meaningfully follow funding guidelines an approach needs to be considered about how research is conducted. This approach needs to include those inside and outside the university who contribute to the research and social/economic innovation process. This is where knowledge mobilization comes in.  Yet many universities still have an unenthusiastic and unresponsive attitude to integrating knowledge mobilization and social innovation strategies into the university structure itself.  Many universities still do not have an actual knowledge mobilization unit within their university, or worse have a great misunderstanding of what knowledge mobilization actually is and how to do it successfully – which is also often the reason why they fail to receive funding from granting agencies and continue to struggle financially.

The old university paradigm of receiving funding without a knowledge mobilization strategy is dead.

Universities see themselves to be in a risky situation as a result of economic pressures combined with increasing demand for quality research to provide social benefit.  In a climate of uncertain funding and a greater demand for valuable research, understanding how knowledge mobilization can bring opportunities to improve research, create social and economic innovation and affect government policy needs to be considered. When this is done it leads to important social and economic change.

Community-University partnerships and engagement are not new and have been around for at least a decade. Some examples include CUPP Brighton UK, CUP Alberta, Canadian Social Economy Hub, Emory University Center for Community Partnerships, and Concordia University’s Office of Community Engagement. In an informative journal club post David Phipps also discusses Mobilising knowledge in community-university partnerships.

So some universities get it and are definitely ahead of the game as the public sector benefits from these community-university collaborations.  Yet there are other universities who continue to ignore the broader benefits of such synergies. This is where greater work needs to be done to help the universities who continue to be stuck in old academic-infrastructure paradigms and help sustain community-university partnerships programs that do exist by the institutions themselves.

Developing long-term knowledge mobilization and social innovation strategies involves commitment and greater cooperation from all bodies of the university – staff, students, faculty, deans, vice-presidents, and governing councils; and most importantly from the university president.  It’s about multi-disciplinary and inter-departmental conversations to provide differing views from varying capacities to create an academic environment that provides social benefit that includes engagement within and beyond the walls of the university from many directions.

The greater return on investment for social benefit requires a broader approach to have faculty, university research services, knowledge mobilization unit knowledge brokers and university industry liaison offices work together across sectors instead of as separate university contacts and entities. A great start of this integrated approach comes from the University of Alberta which has amalgamated the Industry Liaison Office, the Research Grants Office and components of Research and Trust Accounting into an integrated Research Services Office. U of A thinks “the move to a “one-stop shop” provides researchers with more effective and streamlined services, with enhanced accountability and productivity.” However, a truly integrated approach that maximizes the impact of university research would also include a knowledge mobilization unit.

Canada has ten universities that are part of ResearchImpact – a knowledge mobilization network with further examples of such integrated structures. UQAM engages both research services and technology transfer in their support of knowledge mobilization; Offices of research services at both Wilfrid Laurier University and York University include technology commercialization as well as York’s KMb Unit as research grant support; and University of Victoria combines research partnerships and knowledge mobilization (but this does not include grants).

Another interesting pan university approach to supporting innovation is the appointment of Angus Livingstone and Innovation Catalyst. Formerly head of the UILO, Angus took up this new post in February 2014. It is too early to know what impact this new position will have but one can only hope that it embraces social as well as economic and technology innovation.

A further set-back for Canadian universities is the recent Canadian government announcement in its 2014 budget of a $10-million College Social Innovation Fund connecting colleges with community-based applied research needs of community organizations.  Colleges and polytechnic institutions have traditionally been places for trade learning and apprenticeship. It now looks like they are stepping up into the league of universities to create social and economic innovation. It may be great news for colleges – not so much for universities; especially those who haven’t already started community-university engagement.

This infusion of capital into Canadian colleges for social innovation development has set back any future benefit and funding for Canadian universities who have not yet understood the connection between knowledge mobilization and social innovation, thereby creating a missed opportunity for certain universities to gain the lead on investment in knowledge mobilization and social and economic innovation.

As the saying goes…you snooze, you lose! So is your university a winner or a loser? 

Combining university knowledge mobilization units with university research services and industry liaison offices that engage with both community partnerships and business innovation opportunities all in a “one-stop-shop” can bring great returns on investment – socially and economically – for universities and communities – but some universities are sadly still far behind.

Knowledge mobilization or knowledge stewardship? The ethically complex research world of biobanks / « Mobilisation » ou « intendance » des connaissances? La complexité éthique de la recherche pour les biobanques

Anne Bergen1, Kieran O’Doherty2, and Bronwynne Wilton3, University of Guelph

This blog post was originally published on the Agri-Food and Rural Link blog on February 18, 2014 and is reposted here with permission.

Ce billet a été publié sur le blogue Agri-Food and Rural Link le 18 février 2014. Il est repris ici avec la permission des auteures.

As practitioners in the field of knowledge mobilization, we tend to work from the value assumption that research knowledge should be shared. And that knowledge should be shared as openly and freely as possible.  But what happens when researchers are working with genetically identifiable human tissue samples stored in biobanks?

On January 24, 2014, the Guelph Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) Community of Practice set out to explore this very question.  Dr. Kieran O’Doherty from the Department of Psychology at the University of Guelph walked the group through an eye-opening and informative presentation about the social and ethical implications of biobanks with regards to knowledge translation and transfer.

In the KTT field, we try to move information into active service as evidence-informed practice and policy. We also try to move community-level information and knowledge to inform research questions and directions. From a societal or ethical standpoint we can also see that some information is not always suitable for mobilization or dissemination – for example, identifiable information that violates research participants’ rights to privacy. The tensions between privacy and open data are particularly clear in the case of biobanks.


Image courtesy of dream designs /

Genetic material is inherently identifiable – linked to each of us through DNA code.  Biobanks of human tissue are collections that may be used for research as well as other purposes (e.g., criminal investigations).  That is, biobanks allow researchers access to genetic material for research purposes, circumventing the need to recruit human participants. Although some biobanks have existed for decades, the combination of advances in genomics and  bioinformatics are opening up new avenues for research and health care, yielding genomic knowledge at both the individual and the sub-population or population level.

For the most part, research ethics policies have struggled to keep up with these advances. Current frameworks may both impede effective biobank operation and at the same time lack adequate protection for research participants. How would researchers ensure that there is informed consent for future and unknown use of a tissue sample? But how realistic is it to re-contact donors before each research project? Especially when samples collected may continue to be used decades after the original collection point?

Biobanks invoke a lot of difficult questions. A research project may incidentally discover that the donor of a particular tissue sample is at risk of disease. Would you want to be told if you are at risk? Would you be willing to keep your name associated with your tissue sample if you could be informed about such risks? What if that information was also shared with employers or insurance companies or linked to your health records? Do you retain ownership of tissue that you donate? What if the tissue is used in a discovery that makes a lot of money?

One concept that the Guelph KTT CoP group discussed that seemed to resonate with both the ethical challenges of research associated with biobanks and with the knowledge mobilization questions raised about this type of research was the notion of stewardship. By developing and maintaining carefully thought out stewardship plans for the genetic materials contained within the biobanks, the research and data management protocols, and the subsequent KTT activities coming out of the research, biobanks can play an important role in life science research.  The word stewardship, by its definition, implies the responsible and careful management of something entrusted to your care (Merriam-Webster, n.d.).  There are no single answers to the question that this discussion raised. But the dialogue and discussion of these issues as a society is essential as biobanks are an important part of our research futures. Mobilizing and stewarding knowledge, one genetic marker at a time.

1. Dr. Anne Bergen is the Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator for the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences and the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of Guelph

2. Dr. Kieran O-Doherty is an Assistant Professor, Applied Social Psychology, in the Department of Psychology, University of Guelph

3. Dr. Bronwynne Wilton is the Manager, Knowledge Mobilization and Communication Programs in the Office of Research, Strategic Partnerships at the University of Guelph

Merry Mobilizing from the KMb Unit at York!

Merry Mobilizing picture

Merry Mobilizing from the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York University!

From left to right:

Stacey Kimmett, Research Translation Assistant, NeuroDevNet KT Core

Elle Seymour, KT Coordinator,  NeuroDevNet KT Core

Michael Johnny, Manager, Knowledge Mobilization

Paula Elias, Research Translation Assistant,  NeuroDevNet KT Core

Anneliese Poetz, Manager,  NeuroDevNet KT Core

Christina Ransom, Data & Communications Assistant

Hilda Smith, Research Translation Assistant,  NeuroDevNet KT Core

David Phipps, Executive Director, Research & Innovation Services

Krista Jensen, Knowledge Mobilization Officer

Practicing New Skills and New Vocabularies: Reflections on Student Training in Knowledge Mobilization: Part 2 / Nouvelles habiletés et nouveaux vocabulaires en pratique : réflexions sur la formation des étudiants en mobilisation des connaissances (2 e partie)

Rachel Salt, Brianne Brady, and Anne Bergen, Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship, University of Guelph,

Knowledge mobilization is an emerging field of practice, and there are currently relatively few explicit knowledge mobilization training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. However, this perceived gap is due, in part, to a naming problem – although relatively few students are aware of jargon related to KTT and KMb, students engage in KTT and KMb activities relatively often. At the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of Guelph, we are trying to overlay the vocabularies associated with KMb and KTT on student work related to curating, sharing, and exchanging information. In some cases, this takes the form of social media accounts, but this can also relate to logistics surrounding intra-organizational KMb – in this case, our in-house updates to graduate student interns. We present here two reflections on both beginning KMb work and labeling that work as KMb. This week we hear from Brianne Brady.

La mobilisation des connaissances (MdC) est un domaine qui émerge à peine dans le champ universitaire, et il existe à l’heure actuelle assez peu de possibilités de formation destinées aux étudiants des universités qui lui soient explicitement consacrées. Cependant, cette perception d’un manque est attribuable en partie à un problème de dénomination : bien que le jargon de la mobilisation, de la transmission ou de l’application des connaissances ne soit familier qu’à un nombre relativement restreint d’étudiants, ceux-ci mènent pourtant assez souvent des activités qui relèvent de ces domaines. À l’Université de Guelph, l’Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship s’efforce donc de recouper le vocabulaire de la mobilisation et de la transmission des connaissances avec celui de travaux d’étudiants qui portent sur l’organisation, la diffusion et l’échange d’information. Dans certains cas, cela prend la forme de comptes rendus dans les médias sociaux. Mais cela peut concerner également la logistique de la MdC au sein d’une même organisation, et prendre la forme, comme c’est le cas ici, des mises à jour que nous préparons à l’interne pour nos stagiaires des cycles supérieurs. Les deux commentaires que nous présentons abordent à la fois les premières étapes d’un travail de MdC et la reconnaissance de ce travail en tant que mobilisation des connaissances. Nous accueillons cette semaine Brianne Brady.

Knowledge Mobilization Experience From an Undergraduate Student’s Perspective – Brianne Brady

University of GuelphI am a third year undergraduate Bachelor of Science student majoring in Psychology: Brain and Cognition with a minor in Family and Child Studies at the University of Guelph.  This summer I had the amazing opportunity to work as a knowledge mobilization assistant. I worked for an incredible individual who was passionate about her job as a knowledge mobilization specialist and explaining what knowledge mobilization is all about.

I worked for the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of Guelph, in Guelph, Ontario. I facilitated the distribution of information and updates through email to graduate student interns. The graduate students were interns who volunteered about five hours a week in community-based research and knowledge mobilization positions. I compiled information about new and upcoming opportunities potentially of interest to the graduate students. I used email communication to transmit the information from those who sent it to me to those who could benefit from having the information.  The graduate student interns were sent information about upcoming jobs, volunteer positions, conferences and other opportunities in knowledge mobilization.

Working as a knowledge mobilization assistant, I gained many new experiences and new skills. My communication skills were enhanced through this experience as I used email communications to relay the information. My organization skills improved through my experience this summer as I had to organize the information is a coherent manner. I gained a basic understanding of the importance and advantages of sharing knowledge and research between individuals and organizations. I learned how to effectively compile information and organize the information. I gained skills in knowledge mobilization and I gained skills in understanding how to connect people and information.

Through my experience as a knowledge mobilization assistant, I gained a basic understanding of the importance and advantages of sharing knowledge and research between individuals and organizations. This summer, I experienced the bridging of the gap between knowledge and application. Working as a knowledge mobilization assistant I also gained a better understanding of the opportunities available within my field of study. This experience allowed me to discover knowledge mobilization as an entire new field of work that I did not previously know about. I discovered this interesting field which I might now purse as I further my education. Knowledge mobilization is an amazing area of work because it helps bridge the gap between people and information as well as it connects people. I learned about how when people share information it creates a community of people and everyone within the community benefits from the information sharing. When people share information everyone involved benefits from the connections and information and this I learned through my experience as a knowledge mobilization assistant this summer.

This experience was truly an enriching experience and the best experience I have had thus far in my undergraduate degree.