Signals Blog

I’m delighted that, despite the title, you’ve decided to read this post! For some academics, knowledge translation is not the most exciting aspect of their job, but it is a requirement that must be fulfilled as part of their funding obligations. No offense to those who are professionals in the field and embrace the importance of this practice. Even you know that knowledge translation isn’t always popular (but I think that’s because it isn’t really understood).

So what is it? Knowledge Translation, or Knowledge Translation and Exchange, or Knowledge Mobilization…although the terms are slightly different and the definitions change too, the philosophy behind each is to move research from those who discover and develop it into the hands of end users who will put it to some practical use, especially for public policy. There is clearly great value in this, but it requires using tools that may be somewhat foreign to researchers and that’s why there is sometimes ambivalence or fear of getting started.

The KTExchange says that “the concept of translating research knowledge into action, ‘knowledge translation (KT),’ can be traced to the field of agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century.” People verbally shared their agricultural research findings so farmers and ranchers would benefit from the discoveries.

Various disciplines developed their own models of KT and by the 1990s, the U.S. government was requiring that funded researchers employ KT activities. The Canadian government followed suit in 2000 with the chartering of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). According to the KTExchange, CIHR has the distinction of developing the most widely used definition of KT:

“Knowledge Translation (KT) is defined as a dynamic and iterative process that includes synthesis, dissemination, exchange, and ethically-sound application of knowledge to improve the health of Canadians, provide more effective health services and products and strengthen the health care system.”

There is a great deal more to say on the subject of KT, but that will have to wait for a future post. For now, here is Knowledge Translation Australia with an explanation of KT. Months ago I went to a lecture by Dr. Tamika Heiden, Principal and Founder of KT Australia, and I like this easy to understand video on the topic. I hope you do too. (I also like the fact that the definitions used to describe KT come from Canadian institutions!)


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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.