Barriers and Facilitators of Networks / Réseaux bloqués, réseaux fluides

At the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum (CKF), fifteen attendees sat in a circle and discussed their experiences with in person and online networks. The wisdom in the room brought forward lots of ways to enhance participation both online and in real life.

À l’occasion du Forum canadien sur la mobilisation des connaissances, quinze intervenants ont formé, littéralement, un cercle de discussion sur leur expérience de réseautage en ligne et en personne. La sagesse de ce groupe a permis de mettre au jour de nombreux moyens d’activer la participation, en ligne et en vrai.

CKF is not your usual conference. OK, there isn’t the drumming and singing of C2UExpo (and why not???) but the Forum is not dominated by talking heads where three “experts” speak “to” an audience (who often know as much or more about the topic) often elevated on a stage to reflect their status as expert and always separated from the audience by a table.

At CKF there are far more interactive sessions including hands on workshops, artistic presentations and roundtable discussions. The latter was the format we employed to draw the wisdom from participants who were active in networks (that’s almost everyone, by the way). The roundtable (we sat in a circle to encourage equal participation and discourage anyone being perceived as an “expert”) was co-facilitated by Travis Steinhart (Gambling Research Exchange Ontario), Vicky Ward (Leeds University, UK and the international Knowledge into Practice Learning Network), Oludurotimi Adetunji (Brown University, USA and the National Alliance for Broader Impacts) and me representing Research Impact Canada. We had provincial, national, national US and international networks represented with Research Impact Canada being the oldest (+11 years) and KIPL Network the youngest (<1 year); however, it was the contributions of the participants that helped us populate the chart with barriers and facilitators of networks. Networks barriers enablers CKF17

You can read the suggestions in the picture, but it is interesting that the group spent the most time on facilitators of online networks almost to the exclusion of in person networks and barriers to online networks. This suggests that while many of us claim to struggle with participation in online networks we have also devised many strategies to facilitate our participation. A couple of comments on the suggestions:

• RCT: Randomised Coffee Trial. Members of an online network get randomly assigned to pairs of people who don’t know each other and you schedule a 20 minute skype call over coffee. I had a delightful 20 minute chat with a broker from a UK based international NGO and we found many common threads.

• Paid Supports: everyone agreed that having a dedicated, paid person to support the online group was a great facilitator. As keen as volunteers are it often falls to the edge of the desk.

1-9-90: draws from the observation that in many online spaces 90% of the members are actively consuming content but are invisible whereas 9% are commenting and only 1% are creating content. The barrier is that one cannot determine network participation when the 90% consuming are invisible to the network.

• Bloody Minded: another term for persistent. Don’t give up either in person or online.

• British (as a barrier): This was the view of one British participant who viewed Canada as a far more enabling environment for knowledge mobilization.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this session. If you are a member of a network look through this list and pick out something to try if you are feeling that you want to enhance your network activity. Try the Randomised Coffee Trial in your network. It’s easy and as you will see from the KIPL Linked In group we all enjoyed our conversations and only invested 20 minutes over coffee.

Arts Based Translation of Health Research / Application par les arts de la recherche en santé

By day David Phipps (@researchimpact ; @mobilemobilizer) is a knowledge mobilization professional. In the evenings and weekends David is a student in the adult program of Canada’s National Ballet School (@DavidBallet). On April 20, those two identities collided when Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) hosted a knowledge translation workshop focused on Dance for Parkinson’s Disease.

Le jour, David Phipps (@researchimpact ; @mobilemobilizer) est un professionnel de la mobilisation des connaissances. Le soir et les weekends, David est inscrit au programme pour adultes de l’ÉNB, l’École nationale de ballet du Canada (@DavidBallet). Ces deux identités se sont télescopées le 20 avril, jour où l’ÉNB accueillait un atelier d’application des connaissances, dans son volet Dansons ensemble pour les ainés atteints de Parkinson.

Many of us have used arts based methods for knowledge translation. At the KMb Unit at York Univeristy, we have supported theatre and poetry. The KT Core of Kids Brian Health Network (hosted at KMb York) has supported theatre – check out the short video of a play called Jacob’s Story about FASD. But we have never worked with dance as a KT method. That’s one reason the event about KT and Dance for Parkinson’s was so interesting to me.

April 20, 2017 was the launch of the Dance for Parkinson’s Network Canada. The launch coincided with a workshop presenting research from Rachel Bar, a graduate of the National Ballet School and a PhD student at Ryerson University, researching the health benefits of dance for people living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Rachel has combined those two identities as the Manager, Health and Research Initiatives for NBS. The workshop featured very accessible posters describing work to date and some implications of the work for stakeholders (see below). We also did a dance class with dancers from the NBS Parkinson’s program. This class was led by David Leventhal, co-Founder of Dance for PD® and a former dancer with the Mark Morris dance group in New York. We danced seated in a chair, accompanied by live piano. What made it dance and not just movement to music was the imagery David used as we were dancing whether it was running our hand across water, mimicking rain fall, swinging a baseball bat or waving at someone every movement was an image.

Dance for Parkinsons

Next, Rachel moderated a panel discussion with a David Leventhala clinical neurologist, a dancer from the Parkinson’s program and a researcher (Joe DeSouza, York University). The panel was an example of KT in action when lived experience is joined with research and clinical practice. This was backed by some of Rachel’s work showing the literature underpinning the effects of dance in PD which included original peer reviewed papers, randomized controlled trials and literature reviews.

Rachel also presented implications for stakeholders including patients, family members, clinicians and researchers. And here’s where I hope to help. I observed to Rachel and to NBS that there are policy implications of this research including ministries of health, seniors and heritage. Dipikia Damerla (@DipikaDamerla), Ontario Minister for Seniors Affairs, provided remarks at the event so there is already a doorway into provincial policy makers. Joe DeSouza is one of York’s researchers. I am dancing at NBS. I hope to join my profession and my passion by exploring how I can help bring this important research and amazing PD program to the attention of the right policy makers. I hope to help Rachel as well as her research and dance colleagues to engage in good KT planning to identify goals, partners, activities and evaluation of their KT plan. For more on how we support KT planning at KMb York and Kids Brain Health Network see our recent paper about KT planning in grant applications.

Day 1 – Blueprint: Affordable Housing

This guest post first appeared on ventureLAB’s blog on October 19, 2016 and is reposted here with permission.

communityBUILD Design Lab brings out passion and fierce competition for the best solutions that address affordable housing

communitybuild1On October 15, 2016 over one hundred high school students, post-secondary students, housing experts, entrepreneurs, designers, advocates and educators gathered at Seneca College, Markham Campus for Blueprint: Affordable Housing, a two-day design lab that works towards solutions to create affordable housing, an issue that affects many communities across Canada.

It would be an understatement to say that this was a significant step forward to solving this ever-persistent issue. There was tangible passion and energy in the room throughout day one, from participants, facilitators, data analysts and design thinkers. It was clear that creating solutions for affordable housing was a passion for all who attended.

The goal of Blueprint: Affordable Housing is to generate solutions from York Region residents and organizations, in an effort to solve the global issue. On day two, on October 22nd , the top three ideas will be selected to participate in a three month incubator, provided by the communityBUILD program within ventureLAB.

Last Saturday, participants were taken through a series of design thinking exercises by Kelly Parke and Jennifer Chan, that would help inform solutions for the three challenges posed by the champion organizations, The Regional Municipality of York, Evergreen (GTA Housing Action Labs) and The Ontario Ministry of Housing. Each champion organization presented their challenges at the beginning of the day and participants were placed in to 13 teams to begin working on their ideas for solutions.

communityBUILD participantsFacilitators and data analysts assisted each team with solution development, and representatives from each champion organization provided additional insight into each challenge. Participants worked together to develop plans and strategies until 4:00 p.m., when teams left for the day. Before the day concluded, teams exchanged contact information and created DropBox accounts to work throughout the week on their solutions.

On October 22, 2016 participants will return for another full day of design thinking and solution development for their assigned challenges. Teams will be treated to a keynote presentation by Neil Hetherington, CEO of Dixon Hall in the morning, and in the afternoon they will present their solutions to the judges who will select three ideas to move forward in the communityBUILD incubator.

If day one was any indication, there will be some fierce competition this coming Saturday! Stay tuned to hear the results next week.

Blueprint supportersHuge thanks to our sponsors, including The Regional Municipality of York, Ontario Centres of Excellence, the Ontario Ministry of Housing, Evergreen, TranQuant and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation who supported the event.

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

Knowledge Mobilization Symposium on Research Impacts / Symposium sur la Mobilisation des connaissances et les retombées de la recherche

David Phipps is the KT Lead for NeuroDevNet and was chair of the NCE Knowledge Mobilization Symposium on June 27, 2016. This report provides a summary of each section and the detailed notes from participant discussions. This report highlights NCE practices for Governing for Impact and Monitoring/Evaluating Impact.

Chef du transfert des connaissances pour NeuroDevNet, David Phipps présidait le Symposium des RCE, le 27 juin dernier. Le rapport qui suit présente, pour chaque question centrale, un résumé des principaux points et des notes détaillées sur les discussions entre participants. Le rapport met en évidence les pratiques en vigueur dans le RCE en ce qui concerne la gouvernance axée sur les retombées, et le suivi et l’évaluation des retombées.

NCE-RCE logoNetwork of Centres of Excellence
Knowledge Mobilization Symposium 2016
June 27, 2016
Peter Gilgan Centre, Hospital for Sick Children
Toronto, Canada

Message from the Chair

NeuroDevNet was pleased to host the second annual NCE Knowledge Mobilization Symposium held in conjunction with the 10th anniversary celebrations of York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and the 5th Annual Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum. The Symposium focused on the impacts of research: how we govern for impact (morning) and how we assess and monitor impact (afternoon). The NCE program is uniquely designed to generate socioeconomic impacts for Canadians from investments in research and training. The Symposium attracted over 50 participants from NCE Networks, NCE Knowledge Mobilization Networks and Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research.

The session was designed in a world café format where the wisdom from networks was distilled through an experiential process. Attendees were asked to self-select into groups around the discussion table (focus question) of their choice. Discussions around each breakout table addressed a different focus questions related to governance and monitoring for impact. The wisdom was collected through verbal report back and through the written reporting from each table.

This report summarizes some of the key points arising from the discussions and presents the feedback received on each topic based on large group report back and written notes collected
from each breakout table. There are no definitive answers to these very complex challenges but what is clear is the diversity of approaches used among the networks based on the type and stage of each. This report does not provide recommendations; rather, it is the beginning of an important conversation and can serve as a catalyst for further discussion on these issues.

Thank you to the amazing organizing committee: Anneliese Poetz (NeuroDevNet), Michael Joyce (SERENE-RISC), Joanne Cummings (PREVNet), Kim Wright (AllerGen). Thanks also to Rick Schwartzburg (NCE Secretariat) for his support of the committee.

David Phipps, Ph.D., MBA
Executive Director, Research & Innovation Services, York University
Knowledge Translation Lead, NeuroDevNet
Board Member: NeuroDevNet, PREVNet, CYCC Network, Cell CAN

Read the full report here


NCE-RCE logoRéseau de centres d’excellence
Symposium 2016 sur la mobilisation des connaissances

Le 27 juin 2016
Centre Peter-Gilgan, Hospital for Sick Children
Toronto, Canada

Message du président

NeuroDevNet a eu le plaisir d’organiser le deuxième Symposium annuel sur la mobilisation des connaissances des RCE, qui s’est tenu en même temps que les célébrations soulignant le 10e anniversaire de l’Unité de mobilisation des connaissances de l’université York et que le 5e Forum canadien annuel sur la mobilisation des connaissances. Le Symposium portait principalement sur les retombées de la recherche, la façon dont nous les gérons (matinée) et la façon dont nous les évaluons et les surveillons (après-midi). Le programme des RCE est spécialement conçu pour générer des retombées socio-économiques découlant des investissements dans la recherche et la formation au profit des Canadiens. Le Symposium a attiré plus de 50 participants des réseaux de centres d’excellence, des réseaux de mobilisation des connaissances des RCE et des centres d’excellence en commercialisation et en recherche.

La séance a pris la forme d’un « World Café » où l’on a recueilli les connaissances des réseaux passées au crible de l’expérience. On a demandé aux participants de choisir eux-mêmes des groupes autour de la table de discussion (question centrale) de leur choix. Les débats tenus à chaque table portaient sur des questions différentes ayant trait à la gouvernance et à la surveillance des retombées. Les Connaissances ont été recueillies au moyen de comptes rendus oraux et de rapports écrits établis par chaque table.

Le présent rapport résume les principaux points découlant des discussions et fait état des commentaires formulés sur chaque sujet dans le compte rendu du groupe en séance plénière et les notes écrites recueillies à chaque table de discussion. Il n’y a pas de réponse définitive à ces défis très complexes, mais ce qui ressort clairement, c’est la diversité des approches adoptées par les réseaux en fonction de leur type et de leur évolution. Le rapport ne formule pas de recommandations et se veut plutôt le point de départ d’un débat important qui pourra servir de catalyseur à toute discussion ultérieure sur ces questions.

Je remercie notre extraordinaire comité organisateur : Anneliese Poetz (NeuroDevNet), Michael Joyce (SERENE-RISC), Joanne Cummings (PREVNet) et Kim Wright (AllerGen). Tous mes remerciements également à Rick Schwartzburg (Secrétariat des RCE) pour son appui au comité.

David Phipps, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Directeur exécutif, Services de recherche et d’innovation, Université York
Chef du transfert des connaissances, NeuroDevNet
Membre du conseil d’administration : NeuroDevNet, PREVNet, Réseau EJCD, CellCAN

Lire le rapport complet ici

York Leads Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum to a New Level of Excellence

This post originally appeared in YFile on July 6, 2016 and is reposted here with permission.

York University hosted the fifth annual Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum (CKF16) on June 28 and 29.

By all standards this was the largest and most comprehensive gathering of knowledge mobilization scholars, students and practitioners in the world, said David Phipps, executive director of research and innovation, York University.

Participants gathered for the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum, which was hosted by York University

Participants gathered for the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum, which was hosted by York University

York University hosted this year’s forum as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, which located in the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation.

The forum, the only venue in Canada and the largest in the world, brings together the scholarship and the practice of knowledge mobilization across all disciplines. Some 232 registrants attended the forum, which had more than $50,000 in sponsorship. Participants came from across Canada and the United States, and from the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The hashtag #CKF16 trended on Twitter in Canada on both June 28 and 29. There were some 80 presentations, performances and posters.

Michael Johnny

Michael Johnny

“The Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum is the premier event for knowledge mobilization in the world,” said Robert Haché, vice-president, Research & Innovation at York University. “Hosting this year’s forum is testament to York’s international reputation for knowledge mobilization.”

Michael Johnny, manager of York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, chaired CKF16, and led a program committee that included Krista Jensen, York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Officer and partners from Gambling Research Exchange Ontario, Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Bloorview Kids Rehab, Hospital for Sick Children, Treasury Board Secretariat of the Ontario Public Service.

“Michael Johnny and his entire team put together an exemplary program of content describing knowledge mobilization research, practice, theory, methods and tools,” said Peter Levesque, president of the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization. “The outstanding response from the Canadian and global community is a result of Michael’s leadership this year and reflects York’s leadership over the last 10 years.”

Examples of knowledge mobilization research and practice shared at the forum came from research areas that included mental health and addictions, agriculture, the Arctic, Aboriginal issues, gambling, education, housing, social services and many other disciplines. Representatives shared their stories, tools and methods they used to maximize the economic, social and environmental impacts of research.

David Phipps, centre, watches the proceedings

David Phipps, centre, watches the proceedings

The Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum was started in 2011 by the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization and has since been hosted in Ottawa, Mississauga, Saskatoon and last year in Montreal drawing 172 registrants. Next year the forum will return to Ottawa as part of celebrations to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary.

What I Thought Knowledge Mobilization Would Look Like 5 Years Ago

At the 1st Annual Knowledge Mobilization Forum I looked into my crystal ball and predicted what the field would look like in five years. Now, five years later, it’s time to check in and see if my predictions bore any similarity to reality.

David Phipps at CKF12

David Phipps at CKF12

At the first Knowledge Mobilization Forum held in Ottawa in 2012, I gave a keynote address that included a gazing forward to imagine where the field would be in five years. I also took suggestions from the audience and improvised responses based on those suggestions. The audience predictions fell into three broad themes: culture & practice, impact & outcomes, networks & systems. You can read about those predictions in the report of the first Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum starting on page 15.

Many of my predictions have come to pass and the majority of audience predictions have either happened or are in progress. From my list the prediction that remains unfulfilled (marked in red below) concerns evidence based knowledge mobilization practice. We have lots of evidence about knowledge mobilization yet many researchers fail to mobilize their knowledge mobilization evidence to knowledge mobilization practitioners. Some exceptions are Vicky Ward who makes her scholarship accessible on her blog, John Lavis’ team who do a good job providing his research in alternative formats on the McMaster Health Forum and Melanie Barwick who actively supports capacity building of knowledge mobilization practitioners in her evidence based SKTT and KTPC courses.

Similarly many (I dare to say most) knowledge mobilization practitioners are aware there is an evidence base but do not engage actively with that evidence nor do we often form partnerships with knowledge mobilization researchers.

Collectively we remain knowledge hypocrites, something that hasn’t changed since the first Knowledge Mobilization Forum.

Reflecting on the audience predictions that have not come to pass (see below):

  • I do not believe we can easily differentiate between “good KT” and “Bad KT”. I think we agree on certain principles of KT (build trust, understand context, build capacity, engage stakeholders, etc.) but how we do those varies in each context. It is thus hard to say what is “good” and what is “bad” since how to build trust well in one context may not work in another context.
  • I have no idea if we are seeing impacts sooner. It has been reported that KT interventions produce either unclear or minimal benefit but I am not aware of evidence that KT is speeding up the time it takes to move research into practice/policy.
  • I do not believe we spend enough time building capacity of non-academic partners (including community partners) to engage as authentic partners in the research to impact journey. If partners are key to generating impacts (see here and here) then we need to spend time building their capacity engage with research(ers) and researchers’ capacity to engage with partners and their evidence/expertise.

See below for where we are in 2016 and where we thought we would be back in 2012:


Topic In 2012 In 2016 Comments
K* as a profession Yes Yes OPS has a +130 member CoP; many organizations are hiring KMb positions
Training for K* Sort of Yes Melanie Barwick as KTPC and SKTT; iKMb and KT Canada each have a summer school; many grad courses in knowledge mobilization.
Social Media


5-10 years Sort of Ubiquitous for dissemination, some channels (i.e. LinkedIn) for discussion but not yet using for engagement; ethics of capturing data from social media unclear
Systems and networks Yes Yes RIR planning for international connections; UKKMb Forum 2015 initiated a global CoP conversation
Single term No No I don’t think it matters but others do
Evaluation No Sort of We have greater appreciation of methods of research impact assessment and how planning for KMb establishes who to collect the evidence of impact but not in wide practice
KMb evidence informed practice & vice versa Yes No Some, but few, KT researchers engage with and mobilize their outputs to KT practitioners. Many practitioners are aware there is evidence behind their practice but aren’t able to critique the evidence
Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum Yes Yes CKF16 was a resounding success with 232 registrants, 80 submissions of content, $50K in sponsorship


Audience suggestions that have come to pass:

  • New structures dedicated to KMb
  • Brokers in and out of universities
  • Established a well-known KM channel
  • Cross sectional, cross discipline relationships
  • Credibility (as a valid profession) and be Cross-cutting (from multiple disciplines)
  • Establish a global knowledge network to connect knowledge producers, researchers, end-users,

Audience suggestions that have not come to pass:

  • Ability to differentiate “good KTs” vs. “bad KTs”
  • See impacts sooner
  • Expanded community capacity to engage in research

Audience suggestions that are in progress:

  • More KT-driven legislation and more examples of evidence-based medicine
  • Return on investments from KT
  • Clarity (distinction from communication)
  • Establish the KMb galactic empire
Participants of CKF12

Participants of CKF12


Reflections of CARA 2016 / Réflexions sur l’ACAAR 2016

The ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) network has begun our annual spring road show exhibiting to stakeholders to listen to their needs and raise awareness of institutional supports for knowledge mobilization. We kicked off the road show with the Canadian Association of Research Administrators in Vancouver.

Le RéseauImpactRecherche–ResearchImpact (RIR) a entamé sa tournée printanière annuelle, qui nous permet de rencontrer les intervenants pour les écouter et connaitre leurs besoins, et de sensibiliser les responsables du soutien dans les établissements à la mobilisation des connaissances. Notre premier arrêt : l’Association canadienne des administratrices et des administrateurs de recherche (ACAAR), à Vancouver.

CARA ACAAR logoIt’s an annual occurrence for the RIR network. The opportunity to exhibit at CARA (formerly Canadian Association of University Research Administrators), the Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA) provides brokers within RIR time and space to engage with research administrators from universities, colleges and academic health research institutions. Exhibiting affords us visibility to promote our network and the important work we do in Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) across Canada. We also field questions and expressions of interest from people who have KMb in their portfolio, or, understand their institution has emerging interests in KMb.

Set in a stunning part of Vancouver, RIR set up for two days of conversation and engagement in early May. Looking back, there are a few reflections that stand out:

Knowledge Mobilization is an increasing priority for research administrators. Pending roles, of course, attendees of CARA are much more familiar with KMb and the questions have shifted from ‘what’ to ‘how’. RIR is well positioned to answer both streams of inquiries. Fielding more than 40 participant conversations the discourse from research administrators is more sophisticated. People are seeking access to information, tools and resources to integrate responsibilities of KMb into their work. Here, I am very pleased to advise that RIR is listening and will be building services which will be accessible for the public in 2016-17. The questions from research administrators over the years have helped to inform this service development.

Michael at CARA

Michael Johnny at the RIR booth at CARA-ACAAR

CARA is an important space for RIR member engagement. Building on an excellent opportunity for networking and professional development, CARA is an excellent venue for RIR members who participate to meet and discuss unique aspects of our work (local and national). RIR members had a brief meeting (and photo). RIR members from Kwantlen,were able to present on their engagement work in KMb to a full room. The meeting opportunity also afforded myself a chance to have a separate meeting and deliver a workshop to Kwantlen staff, faculty and students.

Lastly, as an annual event CARA provides unique space for reflection. The questions and comments from participants are aligned with the growth, knowledge base and complexity of KMb service development and delivery. RIR members utilize a host of different staffing models and services to meet the KMb needs (and opportunities) of their institution and neighbouring community. In nine years now, it has been a privilege to see how this field of work has matured. Reunions with RIR alumni also make the time fun. Sharing stories and laughs of the early days of RIR further reflect the growth and development of our network.

Thanks to CARA for allowing us the space to meet and interact with an important group of people who have strong interests in our work. Vancouver was a success for us and your work around this annual conference has helped support our development in a very important way.

Vancouver scenery

Post Cards from Congress – Day 6 – Until next time!

It’s been another great Congress! We have talked to over 180 delegates representing 40 different post-secondary institutions.

The conversations have been engaging and informative. There has been a lot of interest from researchers at institutions who are not currently part of ResearchImpact to learn how they can become part of the network.

We added a few new items to our booth this year and people seem to really like our new RIR postcards and the KMb planning checklist we brought.

Thanks to the Federation for organizing another excellent Congress. Everything ran very smoothly for us as always.

And a special thanks to the University of Calgary and the City of Calgary for hosting the delegates. I have really enjoyed my time here.

See you next year in Toronto at Ryerson University!

Bow River

Post Cards from Congress – Day 5- Begin at the Beginning

Bow River walking trailThe last few years I have been at Congress, I have noticed that the conversations have changed from the ones I used to have in the early years. Back then, I spent a lot of time explaining what knowledge mobilization is, whereas now I talk a lot about how to do KMb.

While I have enjoyed this shift in the conversation, it has made me assume that everyone knows about knowledge mobilization. I realized this isn’t always the case yesterday when I was talking to a young woman who stopped by the booth. After giving her my usual pitch about who we are and how we help our researchers at York with their knowledge mobilization needs, she asked a number of questions about what KMb was exactly. So I switched to my KMb 101 talk instead and gave her some foundational information about the principles of KMb and some of the common methods used by researchers to connect their research with community partners.

As someone about to start her Masters degree, she had never heard of KMb or even the concept of making research accessible and relevant to society. The quote of the day was when she exclaimed, “This is so exciting!” She had worked in her local community on a social enterprise project and really liked the idea of doing research what would be relevant to her community.

It was an exciting conversation for me as well, as it reminded me why I enjoy working in KMb. And it also reminded me not to assume everyone who stops by the booth already knows what KMb is and that I sometimes need to begin at the beginning.

Post Cards from Congress – Day 4 – 3, 31 and 45

Yesterday was one of the busiest days the RIR booth has ever had at a Congress.  We’re always pleased to talk #KMb at Congress and over the years we’re experiencing a shift toward a culture of engaged scholarship to which KMb is a central part of.  The title may seem odd, and I have not shared my locker combination.  Allow me to explain:

3 – Yesterday saw three organizations approach us with strong interest in our services.  While this is nothing new, they are national organizations with interests in engaging with academic research (and researchers).  Learning more about RIR there are clearly opportunities for us to actively engage these organizations.  Making these contacts at Congress are invaluable, as it is always possible that these relationships can flourish across our network into something substantive.

31 – One of our central purposes for exhibiting at Congress is to engage with universities who are not members of RIR.  We provide information to help researchers take back to their institution to inform senior research administration around the value proposition of RIR membership.  We have an open call for new members.  Yesterday, we had 31 distinct universities and colleges approach us seeking information on RIR.  So much so we need to print more information packages for others who may drop by over the next three days.

45 – this is how many purposeful conversations we hosted yesterday.  And while I can’t confirm it was a record, it was impressive to see faculty, students and interested non-academic organizations seeking to engage around KMb and the services of RIR.  People are impressed with the institutional investments our member universities have made in KMb.  Many of my colleagues may get an email or call from researchers who have grabbed your card and will be seeking more information on how you can support them.

It was a great day yesterday at University of Calgary.  I suspect today will produce more of the same!

Post Cards from Congress – Day 3 – Hump Day at Congress

The days of the week become less relevant when you’re participating in an 8-day conference which includes the weekend.  Including set up day, last Friday, yesterday was the mid-point of what has been a productive and enjoyable Congress.

For RIR, our objectives for exhibiting are to speak about KMb with conference delegates and also to promote RIR to institutions who are currently not members.  But over nine years now, and given our leadership in KMb, Congress has become much more than just promotional conversation.  Yesterday was a great microcosm of our engagement at Congress:

  • Networking – We have developed significant relationships with key national leaders such as SSHRC, the Federation and MITACS. Congress is an important space to meet and interact, to update and explore possibilities.
  • Information Sharing – RIR are now being approached to participate in meetings, panel presentations and scholarly interviews around KMb and Engaged Scholarship. It was a busy day for us at the RIR booth, and within Congress.  We’re pleased to be seen in this way and make important contributions in KMb.
  • Exhibiting – Yesterday we had over 25 dedicated conversations about RIR and KMb with more than 10 universities who are not currently in our network. We’re sharing information which researchers can share back to their senior administration about RIR membership.  We’re also sharing some KMb tools on how we provide service and support at our member institutions to help demonstrate the value proposition of our service model.

Conversations ranged yesterday from prospective graduate students, to senior faculty (including retired faculty) all of whom come at KMb with differing experiences and opinions.  The dialogue is important to help push us to better understand KMb from the researchers’ perspective.  We’re halfway done for 2016…but in terms of RIR and its commitment to service…we’re just beginning!  If you’re at Congress come visit us!


Post Cards from Congress – Day 2 “This is so amazing”

Building your knowledge mobilization strategy in grant applications

The audience at Congress is primarily faculty and students in the humanities and social sciences. And since every SSHRC grant requires a knowledge mobilization strategy today was filled with researchers asking how to create a knowledge mobilization plan. We shared the process we undertake at York while pointing out that each ResearchImpact university will have its own unique services and tools.

We first sit with the researcher to understand the research. We then ask the researcher four questions that we have synthesized from Melanie Barwick’s Knowledge Translation Planning Template (

  1. Who are you partners and/or audiences you will work with?
  2. With those partners co-construct the goals of your knowledge mobilization – what are you hoping to accomplish together?
  3. What are the activities you will do to help meet your goals?
  4. What are the metrics and indicators you will use to assess if your activities have helped you reach your goals?

If you have one page for your knowledge mobilization strategy write four paragraphs. If you have four pages dedicate one page to each of these questions.

It was gratifying to see the light bulb go off for researchers who struggle to articulate a coherent knowledge mobilization strategy. One researcher exclaimed, “This is so amazing!”

We were asked if we have an on line tool to create a knowledge mobilization strategy by answering questions. The answer is no. Each research project is unique and it requires a unique  knowledge mobilization strategy. It is not something that lends itself to formulaic processes. Instead knowledge brokers work hands on with researcher, students and their partners to craft specific knowledge mobilization strategies.

For more tools and tips on knowledge mobilization drop by the ResearchImpact booth at Congress.
congress logo

Post Cards from Congress – Day 1

How to do knowledge mobilization and how to join ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche?

Welcome back to Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities (#congressh) organized every year by the Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences and this year hosted by the University of Calgary. Each year ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) exhibits as a leading Canadian example of knowledge mobilization services and supports to help researchers, students and their non-academic partners work together to maximize the impacts of research.

At Congress our primary audience is researchers and students. Nine years ago when we first attended Congress the delegates had no clue about knowledge mobilization. We usually get two questions:

1. I know I need to know about knowledge mobilization but….what is it?
2. Why isn’t my university a member of RIR and how can we join?

The answer to #1 includes providing some tools for researchers to consider when crafting knowledge mobilization strategies in grant applications and/or working with partners. The answer to #2 involves sharing information on the benefits and responsibilities of institutional membership in RIR.

These remain substantially similar to our call for new members in 2013.

Come by the RIR booth at Congress for more insights into institutional knowledge mobilization.

Michael Johnny at the RIR booth

Critical Appraisal of Research Impact Pathways / Éloge critique des moyens d’amplifier l’impact de la recherche

David Phipps (RIR-York) and Julie Bayley (Coventry University)

The National Institute for Health Research (UK) and the Association of Medical Research Charities held an impact forum on April 27, 2016. We were invited to kick at some of the popular impact pathways by asking five critical questions.

Deux établissements britanniques, le National Institute for Health Research et l’Association of Medical Research Charities, organisaient un forum sur l’impact de la recherche, le 27 avril dernier. Nous avions été invités à poser cinq questions délicates afin de déboulonner les moyens populaires de mettre la recherche en action.

The presentations and discussions started NIHR and ARMC on a path to a shared vision of understanding impact of health research on patients. This was not their first shared event. On October 2015 they co-sponsored an event titled “Getting the Most Out of Clinical Research – which aimed to instigate more collaborative working between charities and the NIHR; examine areas where the charity sector and NIHR can work together and identify issues that require further work”. Clearly health research impact was one issue demanding some closer attention.

In preparing for this presentation, Mark Taylor, Director of Impact (such a cool title), at NIHR, asked for a critical appraisal of impact pathways to help government funders as well as medical research charities (large and small) take a critical approach to impact planning and impact assessment.

Pic of presentation slide


Julie Bayley (Coventry University and my ACU Fellowship partner) and I started from the premise that impact is a permanent feature of the research landscape whether through centralized research assessment exercises (such as the Research Excellence Framework in the UK) or as a function of the research grant application. We then developed five questions to guide critical appraisal of the pathways. Our questions and the pathways we appraised [Knowledge to Action Cycle (KTA), Payback Model, Co-produced Pathway to Impact (CPPI)] are in our presentation posted on slide share.

For the sake of argument we will put aside the fact that KTA isn’t a pathway to impact but a conceptual framework; however, it is mis-used as a pathway (especially in Canada) so we will continue that tradition of mis-use for the purposes of critical appraisal.

With so many ways to conceptualise impact, it can be difficult to determine how best to draw from these models in practice. So we devised a set of five questions to guide thinking, and identified how each model ‘scores’ in each category. The questions and scorecard (graded A to F) are:

  1. Does your impact pathway accommodate and enable collection of evidence for patient benefit?

In health research it is critically important that impact be patient centric and be measured as a benefit to patients, their caregivers and families. None of the pathways did this explicitly although each included an evaluation stage where patient benefit could be assessed. CPPI had “citizens served” as an ultimate impact so this could be read to be patients in a health research paradigm.


Payback: B


  1. Does your impact pathway support engagement of end users (incl. patients, policy, service providers) throughout?

This is hugely important because academic researchers only make an impact beyond the academy by engaging stakeholders and collaborating with end users and partners throughout the research process. KTA does not have any allowance for collaborators beyond the research space, in fact is explicitly separates the knowledge creation “funnel” from the action cycle. Payback doesn’t explicitly separate knowledge production from its use but it also doesn’t explicitly engage partners. CPPI is built on co production between researchers and partners throughout the pathway.


Payback: C


  1. Does your impact pathway Work at the level of the project, the program, the organization, the system?

This is of particular interest to the NIHR/AMRC collaboration on impact since they are seeking a common language that works for the +£1B NIHR and the small medical research charities that may be investing $£1-2M. KTA isn’t a pathway and doesn’t work for any single organization. A citation analysis of papers “using” KTA cited that the original authors of KTA never expected a single organization to operationalize the entire pathway. Payback is the basis for the Albert Innovation Health Solutions impact assessment framework that is used at the level of the research project and the research funding agency. CPPI has been used as a model for a single research project, and $4-6M/year Networks of Centres of Excellence such as NeuroDevNet as illustrated in our presentation.


Payback: A


  1. Does your impact model enable planning by providing general logic informing specific adaptation?

An impact pathway is just a model. It is just the start of your impact journey. Impact must be planned with specific goals, specific activities, and indicators specific to the research in question. The pathway provides the general logic but it must also guide specific implementation.  All three models are logic models that describe activities from research to impact, all three get a B…they would get an A if they could simplify the specific implementation but that’s the job of the pathway user be it a researcher, research user or a research funder.

  1. Does your impact model drive uptake/adoption?

Researchers don’t make products, their industry partners do. Researchers don’t make public policies, their government partner do. Researchers don’t usually deliver social services their community partners do. Therefore research must be taken up and adopted by partners from the private, public and non-profit sectors to have an impact on end users (i.e. patients). All three pathways have a dissemination moment. KTA has a transfer point from the knowledge creation stage to the action cycle (at the bottom of the funnel). Payback and CPPI both explicitly include dissemination; however, in CPPI dissemination is in collaboration with partners/end users so is more an engaged exchange instead of a unidirectional transfer.


Payback: B


Our goal of the presentation was to give the attendees these questions to take away as they begin to engage with impact pathways. We did not make any recommendations as to which pathway to choose as that will be influenced by deliberations ongoing between NIHR, AMRC and their stakeholders. It will also be influenced by the local context of the research and impact in question. But remember, choosing a pathway that makes sense for a particular context is just the beginning. Every pathway needs to be made specific and evaluated by collecting evidence on indicators that are specific to each stage of the pathway.

Impact Cousins, but Maybe Not (yet) Siblings / Cousins par l’impact, mais pas encore tout à fait frères…

A Canadian, a Brit, two Dutch and someone from Flanders went to Philadelphia for three days. We found an impact tribe, but one that turned out to be more diverse than anticipated.

Un Canadien, un Britannique, deux Hollandais et un Flamand s’en vont à Philadelphie pour trois jours. Au-delà de leur parenté certaine, ils se découvrent des différences plus importantes que prévu…

NABI logo

The National Alliance for Broader Impacts is a network of folks supporting the broader impacts arising from US National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. The NSF funds research and training in science & technology including some social sciences (but no humanities). Each grant application must have a “Broader Impact” section that describes how the research will have an impact beyond the impacts on scholarship. Sounds familiar? Like a SSHRC knowledge mobilization strategy or a CIHR KT strategy, right?

Well yes, and no.

According to NSF Broader Impacts (BI) can be one of nine categories:

  1. Full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
  2. Improved STEM education and educator development at any level
  3. Increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology
  4. Improved well-being of individuals in society
  5. Development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce
  6. Increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others
  7. Improved national security
  8. Increased economic competitiveness of the United States
  9. Enhanced infrastructure for research and education

The annual summit of the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI, Philadelphia, April 20-22) is a place where BI is discussed, BI practitioners and supporters network and plans are shared for moving from individual supports to campus based BI offices. I learned that while NABI members share a goal of creating impacts of research beyond the academy, the concepts of impact are construed very differently from our work in Canada.

At the NABI conference the two primary modes of creating impact were “broadening participation” (Category 1, above) and engaging schools in science communications/outreach (Category 2). The vast majority of presentations at the NABI summit featured examples of outreach and engagement with schools. This was underscored by an NSF program officer telling the audience that what “sells well” for BI strategies in grant application is “engagement with schools, engagement with K-12 teachers, engagement with museums and/or archives”.

This certainly isn’t wrong but this is in contrast to the specific KT/KMb planning Canadian research impact practitioners undertake to create a specific impact pathway with specific indicators to include in a grant application’s KT/KMb section.

There were no examples of BI practitioners seeking to move beyond engagement to seek to influence change in policy, practice or product. While I understand that economic impact is welcomed as a BI strategy (see #8 on the list above), it was widely acknowledged that commercialization, technology transfer and entrepreneurship were not part of the NABI conversation and were managed by other offices on campus.

This doesn’t make NSF BI wrong or less important that KMb/KT efforts. The US experience is being driven by NSF policy directives which privilege broadening participation and science outreach. The U.K. experience is being driven by the Research Excellence Framework that seeks to assess the impact of University research in all disciplines. The Canadian KT/KMb experience is being driven by funders such as CFHI (formerly CHRSF), CIHR, and the Health Charities that have a mission to create impacts of research on health services, clinical practice and patient benefit. The Canadian Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences has defined impacts to include impacts on the economy, on society/culture and on practice/policy.

Different goals from different funders will drive differences in impact cultures and practices.

It was our differences not our similarities that made the NABI conference interesting. In the way that Canadian and UK research impact practitioners are related (see an earlier post about the UK/Canada comparison), I went to NABI expecting to find some new impact siblings. But instead I found research impact cousins, not as close in practice as impact siblings. With a focus on broadening participation, a focus on STEM and outreach to schools, the NABI experience is quite different from the Canadian research impact experience.

But this is a relatively new field for the US. Most BI practitioners work as sole practitioners in their project, school, unit or Faculty. There are no more than a handful of institutional BI offices in all of the US (see the BI Network at U Missouri as an example) and none more than a few years old. NABI itself is in its fourth year. This is in contrast to the 10 years of experience in ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR). The Harris Center, (Memorial University of Newfoundland) and the Community University Partnership Program (University of Brighton) are both well past their 10 year anniversaries.

Nonetheless NABI and RIR have a lot to learn by continuing to build on this relationship. To that end, Susan Reno (U. Missouri BI office and head of NABI) is attending the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum (Toronto, June 28-29). Some NABI personnel are attending the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum (London, May 10-11). Susan is also coordinating a group of impact cousins from University of Ghent (Flanders/Belgium), Leiden University (Netherlands), KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), Cathy Howe (UKKMbF), and me representing Canada/RIR.

This group will sow the seeds of an international knowledge mobiliz(s)ation community. Some will be siblings. Some will be cousins. All will be better off sharing and broadening our own participation in impact whether it is school engagement and/or policy influence.