Fourteen knowledge translation competencies and how to improve yours

By Genevieve Creighton and Gayle Scarrow

Genevieve Creighton
Genevieve Creighton (biography)

Knowledge translation encompasses all of the activities that aim to close the gap between research and implementation.

What knowledge, skills and attitudes (ie., competencies) are required to do knowledge translation? What do researchers need to know? How about those who are using evidence in their practice?

As the knowledge translation team at the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, we conducted a scoping review of the skills, knowledge and attitudes required for effective knowledge translation (Mallidou et al., 2018). We also gathered tools and resources to support knowledge translation learning.

Gayle Scarrow
Gayle Scarrow (biography)

What should you know to effectively engage in knowledge translation? Here are the top 14 competencies identified:

  1. Understand the context: Develop an understanding of what goes on in organizational settings and/or local health care systems, day-to-day practices and “how things really work”.
  2. Understand the research process: Know the process of how to conduct research including how to develop a research question, use search strategies and how to identify appropriate databases to gather evidence on a specific topic.
  3. Know how knowledge is disseminated: Understand the range of meaningful ways to share knowledge/evidence to ensure that it is available and accessible to different audiences.
  4. Be aware of evidence resources: Know a variety of ways to find evidence including library databases and information contained in listservs, blogs, social media and newsletters. Understand the importance of oral tradition, practice and tacit knowledge as sources of evidence.
  5. Know theories, frameworks and models for doing knowledge translation and evidence-based practice: Understand the definitions of evidence-based practice and knowledge translation, and understand models and theories of knowledge translation.
  6. Understand knowledge translation and dissemination activities: Be able to interpret research findings for various audiences and uses. Understand the processes and uses of knowledge synthesis, knowledge translation planning templates, dissemination and implementation strategies and integrated knowledge translation.
  7. Know how to engage in collaboration and teamwork: Be able to develop effective, authentic and respectful working relationships with peers and others in order to collaborate, network, share information and engage in research.
  8. Engage leadership: Have an ability to scan the context, facilitate stakeholder involvement in evidence-based decision-making, influence skill development and act upon stakeholders’ views and needs.
  9. Know how to share knowledge: Be able to share information and data with diverse stakeholders. You should also have the skills to conduct research that is relevant to the intended users so that it is more likely to inform practice and policy.
  10. Be able to synthesize knowledge: Have the skills to use robust practices to combine research findings and grey literature, synthesize the evidence and appropriately use/apply the findings.
  11. Disseminate research findings: Know how to share research findings with various stakeholders. This competency includes the ability to summarize research findings, communicate and highlight key findings in a way that may influence decision-making.
  12. Make use of research findings: Know some strategies to apply research findings to clinical or policy decisions or to inform further research.
  13. Know how to foster innovation: Be able to use novel tools and strategies to improve practice or policy, address issues, assess and build service improvement approaches, and evaluate the impact of an innovation.
  14. Be a knowledge broker: Have the ability to act as a bridge between evidence and implementation; applying knowledge translation strategies to facilitate the flow of knowledge, improve practice and policy and increase research findings’ uptake.

Assess Yourself

It’s great to know what the knowledge translation competencies are, but how can you measure your own knowledge translation skills and knowledge? Knowledge Translation Pathways (https://ktpathways.ca/) is an online tool designed to enable researchers, knowledge brokers and those who use research evidence in their practice to rate themselves on the range of knowledge translation competencies and get the tools and resources to support further learning.

So how does it work? First, you…

Pick a pathway

There are three knowledge translation pathways, one each for those who produce, apply, and broker knowledge, as shown in the screenshot below. Because many of us play multiple roles (eg., we may both collect and use research), you are encouraged to reflect on what you do most in your work, and choose that pathway.

Three knowledge translation pathways
Screenshot from the Knowledge Translation Pathways website (https://ktpathways.ca/about/how-use-kt-pathways)

Next, you…

Choose a bucket

Knowledge translation competencies are grouped into ‘buckets’ such as: “Research Skills”, “Implementation Skills”, “Bringing People Together” and “Dissemination”. You can choose to do just the buckets that are most relevant to your work right now or you may choose to complete the entire tool to get a full assessment of your knowledge translation competence.

Finally, you…

Do the assessment, get your results and receive knowledge translation learning resources

When you complete the assessment, you’re provided with a knowledge translation learning profile that details your current areas of knowledge translation strength and areas for professional development. You’ll then be directed to knowledge translation resources that will build your competence (eg., articles, videos, blogs, websites, templates and/or online reports).

You can also explore the Knowledge Translation Pathways’ resources database on topics such as arts-based knowledge translation, behaviour change, bringing people together, critical appraisal of research evidence, co-production of knowledge, knowledge translation evaluation, knowledge translation planning frameworks, implementation science and more, as shown in the screenshot below.

Learning resources on the Knowledge Translation Pathways website
Screenshot of some of the learning resources on the Knowledge Translation Pathways website (https://ktpathways.ca/resources)

Feedback and additional resources:

Do you have knowledge translation resources you’ve found helpful? Let us know!

Have you identified other knowledge translation competencies? What about in other disciplines that could inform how we practice knowledge translation?

Reference:
Mallidou, A. A., Atherton, P., Chan, L., Frisch, N., Glegg, S. and Scarrow, G. (2018). Core knowledge translation competencies: A scoping review. BMC Health Services Research, 18, 1: 502. (Online) (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3314-4

Biography: Genevieve Creighton PhD is manager, knowledge translation at the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, a research funding agency in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She is responsible for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Foundation’s knowledge translation strategy.

Biography: Gayle Scarrow is director, knowledge translation at the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She leads the development, implementation, and ongoing management of the Foundation’s knowledge translation plan for the purposes of fostering and accelerating the impact of health research in British Columbia and beyond.

Learning from interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research ‘failures’

By Dena Fam and Michael O’Rourke

Dena Fam
Dena Fam (biography)

What makes interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research challenging? What can go wrong and lead to failure? What has your experience been?

Modes of research that involve the integration of different perspectives, such as interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, are notoriously challenging for a host of reasons. Interdisciplinary research requires the combination of insights from different academic disciplines and it is common that these:

  • bear the stamp of different epistemologies; and,
  • involve different types of data collected using different methods in the service of different explanations.
Michael O'Rourke
Michael O’Rourke (biography)

Transdisciplinary research involves not only disciplinary integration, but also the integration of non-academic stakeholder perspectives, such as non-governmental organisations, policymakers, and community members. These projects confront large differences in the values, priorities, and cultures of the participants.

Failure in interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research can manifest in a variety of ways, including projects that:

  • don’t get off the ground
  • don’t have the correct personnel
  • don’t meet their original objectives
  • fail to anticipate important differences among collaborators
  • don’t integrate the perspectives of the collaborators; and,
  • produce results that don’t support their hypotheses.

Failures like these could be major and catastrophic, resulting in the end of a project, or they could be more minor, forcing revision in project plans. They can also happen at any point in a project, from the initial planning stage to the final, dissemination stage.

Of course, all projects require adjustments on the fly, and not all adjustments should be understood as failures. Modification in response to a failure, as opposed to a normal adjustment, occurs when the project team attempts to execute a substantive project plan (eg., write a proposal together, collect data together, collaboratively write a paper) and fails to execute it, resulting in a fundamental change to the plan.

Documenting the detail of project failure matters, for three reasons:

  1. it supplies an instructive illustration of specific challenges that should be on the minds of interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary scholars
  2. it highlights ways in which projects can depart from step-by-step protocols or preconceived and theorized processes; and,
  3. it provides a scholarly space for conversations about the difficulty of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches.

What has your experience been?

If you have engaged in collaborative interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research, we’d love to learn about your impressions of project failure. We invite you to take part in our brief survey at:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SHM8X6M

The survey closes on September 5th, 2019.

Preliminary results will be presented at the International Transdisciplinary Conference 2019: Joining Forces for Change, Gothenburg, Sweden, 10-13 September 2019, in the workshop, “Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary ‘Failures’: Lessons learned”.

Biography: Dena Fam PhD is a Research Director at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. Over the last decade she has worked with industry, government and community actors to collaboratively manage, design, research and trial alternative water and sanitation systems with the aim of sustainably managing sewage and reducing its environmental impact on the water cycle. Her consulting/research experience has spanned socio-cultural (learning for sustainability), institutional (policy analysis), and technological aspects of environmental management. With experience in transdisciplinary project development, she has been involved in developing processes for transdisciplinary teaching and learning, in particular methods/techniques supporting the development of transdisciplinary educational programs and projects.

Biography: Michael O’Rourke PhD is Professor of Philosophy and faculty in AgBioResearch and Environmental Science & Policy at Michigan State University (MSU), East Lansing, Michigan, USA. He is Director of the MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity and Director of the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, a National Science Foundation-sponsored research initiative that investigates philosophical approaches to facilitating interdisciplinary research. His research interests include epistemology, communication and integration in collaborative, cross-disciplinary research, and linguistic communication between intelligent agents.

Four patterns of thought for effective group decisions

Community member post by George P. Richardson and David F. Andersen

George Richardson
George P. Richardson (biography)

What can you do if you are in a group that is trying to deal with problems that are developing over time, where:

  • root causes of the dynamics aren’t clear;
  • different stakeholders have different perceptions;
  • past solutions haven’t worked;
  • solutions must take into account how the system will respond; and,
  • implementing change will require aligning powerful stakeholders around policies that they agree have the highest likelihood of long-term success?

Continue reading

Five lessons for early career researchers in interacting with policymakers

Community member post by Aparna Lal

Aparna Lal
Aparna Lal (biography)

How, as an early career researcher, can you get started in developing a working relationship with government policy makers? What do you need to be prepared for? What benefits can you expect?

Here I present five lessons from my first self-initiated engagement with policymakers. I am a computer modeller exploring the links between water-quality, climate and health. As such, my research sits at the crossroads of environmental science and public health. At the end of 2018, I decided to present some of my work to the Australian Capital Territory Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.

My anticipated outcomes from this presentation were to start a conversation around water and health in the Australian Capital Territory and to leave the meeting with new insights. I also learnt the following lessons: Continue reading

Five principles of co-innovation

Community member post by Helen Percy, James Turner and Wendy Boyce

Helen Percy (biography)

What is co-innovation and how can it be applied in practice in a research project?

Co-innovation is the process of jointly developing new or different solutions to a complex problem through multi-participant research processes – and keeping these processes alive throughout the research.

James Turner (biography)

Our experience has been applying co-innovation as a research approach to address complex problems in an agricultural context, however, the principles apply well beyond agriculture. Co-innovation is most suited to hard-to-solve technical, social, cultural and economic challenges. Such challenges have no obvious cause and effect relationships, as well as many different players with a stake in the research problem and solution. These include policy makers, industry, community members, first nations representatives and others who are involved in the research as partners and stakeholders. Continue reading

How to support research consortia

Community member post by Bruce Currie-Alder and Georgina Cundill Kemp

Bruce Currie-Alder (biography)

A research consortium is a model of collaboration that brings together multiple institutions that are otherwise independent from one another to address a common set of questions using a defined structure and governance model. Increasingly consortia are also being joined in cross-consortia networks. How can connections be made across the institutions in individual consortia, as well as in cross-consortia networks, to ensure that such collaborations are more than the sum of their parts? Continue reading