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, www.kmbeing.com, on February 15, 2014 and can be found at http://kmbeing.com/2014/02/15/a-new-university-paradigm/

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, www.kmbeing.com, le 15 février 2014. Vous pouvez le lire à l’adresse suivante : http://kmbeing.com/2014/02/15/a-new-university-paradigm/.

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 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 KMbeing.com 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.

A Thai Express, a Roots and an Innovation Panel / Un Thai Express, un Roots et un panel sur l’innovation

By David Phipps,  RIR-York

Imagine eating in a food court and listening to research that could have an impact on your life? Is this turning research into action? Maybe not but it would contribute to public awareness of the impact of research on society.

Imaginez-vous, attablé dans une aire de restauration, écoutant des recherches qui pourraient avoir un impact sur votre vie. Est-ce vraiment mettre la recherche en action? Peut-être pas, mais cela pourrait contribuer à sensibiliser le public à l’impact que peut avoir la recherche sur la société.

The actual quote was “Every shopping mall needs a Thai Express, a Roots and an Innovation Panel.” We heard this at the Symposium of the Ontario Research Chairs in Public Policy that York University organized on behalf of the Council of Ontario Universities.  The eight Ontario Research Chairs were joined by panelists from academia, the media as well as speakers from the public, private, community and health care sectors.  The audience (over 100) was mainly provincial policy makers, researchers and students. Knowledge mobilization underpinned the theme of “turning research into action”, the action being Ontario research informing Ontario public policy.

The second day (March 6) opened with the panel “Job Creation: What’s Research Got To Do With It?” which featured Suresh Narine, the Ontario Research Chair in Green Chemistry and Engineering at Trent University.  In his opening remarks, panel moderator Paul Wells (Maclean’s Magazine) said, “Every shopping mall needs a Thai Express, a Roots and an Innovation Panel.” The COU Symposium was in York’s Osgoode Professional Development Centre located on the 26th floor of the north tower of the downtown Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall.  While the public are the ultimate beneficiaries of public policies informed by the research of the Ontario Research Chairs the COU Symposium was open to the public but the public did not attend.

Why is that? Knowledge brokers are ultimately concerned about maximizing the impact of research on society yet we broker almost exclusively between institutions. In 2009 we published a whimsical paper that presented lessons learned from knowledge mobilization with inspiration from Machiavelli and Dr. Seuss. Lesson #1 was: Concludero’ solo che al principe, e necessario avere il popolo amico – I will conclude then that it is necessary for the prince to have the people as friends. The lesson here is “no silo research. Research partnerships must be broad and most importantly, engage the people impacted by the outcome.” York embodies this by hosting Mobilizing Minds, a five year knowledge mobilization project working with a number of universities and community partners seeking pathways to young adult mental health. Young adults are part of every stage of the program and have a voice on each committee including the leadership committee.  Our strong presence in social media (@researchimpact, this blog, our You Tube channel) also connects our research to a very broad public.

Engaging the people affected by the outcome is great but why don’t we take research to the broader public beyond our social media? Why don’t we place an innovation panel in a shopping mall?

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research program Café Scientifique funds Canadian health researchers taking their research to public spaces like coffee shops or bars so this is happening on an individual researcher basis. On February 15, UBC hosted presentations by 13 Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC), some of the leading researchers globally in their fields. Each CERC spoke for 5 minutes and it was open to the public but it wasn’t in a mall.

What if we learn from Machiavelli and combine the public access of Café Scientifique with the open access of the CERC presentations and hold a special presentation of the eight Ontario Research Chairs in a shopping mall to complement their engagement with policy makers? Imagine sitting in the food court of your local mall eating at Thai Express and listening to leading research that had relevance to your life? I would pair each Ontario Research Chair with a journalist who would turn the “wow” of research into “so what” for the public.  Five minutes where you get not only research steak but research sizzle as well (thank you Jeremy Burman).   This would help meet the goals advocated by Gary Myers (@KMbeing) who takes a more holistic view of knowledge mobilization encouraging everyone to share their own knowledge for social benefit.

It might not turn research into action (we’ll leave that to the policy makers) but it would turn research into attention.