How does integrated knowledge translation compare to other collaborative research approaches to generating and translating knowledge?

Nguyen, T., Graham, I.D. et al (2020) How does integrated knowledge translation (IKT) compare to other collaborative research approaches to generating and translating knowledge? Learning from experts in the field. Health Research Policy and Systems. 18:35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12961-020-0539-6

 

Abstract

Background: Research funders in Canada and abroad have made substantial investments in supporting collaborative research approaches to generating and translating knowledge as it is believed to increase knowledge use. Canadian health research funders have advocated for the use of integrated knowledge translation (IKT) in health research, however, there is limited research around how IKT compares to other collaborative research approaches. Our objective was to better understand how IKT compares with engaged scholarship, Mode 2 research, co-production and participatory research by identifying the differences and similarities among them in order to provide conceptual clarity and reduce researcher and knowledge user confusion about these common approaches.

 

Methods: We employed a qualitative descriptive method using interview data to better understand experts’ perspectives and experiences on collaborative research approaches. Participants’ responses were analysed through thematic analysis to elicit core themes. The analysis was centred around the concept of IKT, as it is the most recent approach; IKT was then compared and contrasted with engaged scholarship, Mode 2 research, co-production and participatory research. As this was an iterative process, data triangulation and member-checking were conducted with participants to ensure accuracy of the emergent themes and analysis process.

 

Results: Differences were noted in the orientation (i.e. original purpose), historical roots (i.e. disciplinary origin) and partnership/engagement (i.e. role of partners etc.). Similarities among the approaches included (1) true partnerships rather than simple engagement, (2) focus on essential components and processes rather than labels, (3) collaborative research orientations rather than research methods, (4) core values and principles, and (5) extensive time and financial investment. Core values and principles among the approaches included co-creation, reciprocity, trust, fostering relationships, respect, co-learning, active participation, and shared decision-making in the generation and application of knowledge. All approaches require extensive time and financial investment to develop and maintain true partnerships.

 

Conclusions: This qualitative study is the first to systematically synthesise experts’ perspectives and experiences in a comparison of collaborative research approaches. This work contributes to developing a shared understanding of collaborative research approaches to facilitate conceptual clarity in use, reporting, indexing and communication among researchers, trainees, knowledge users and stakeholders to advance IKT and implementation science.

 

Full disclosure…I am part of the et al in the author line. This paper was driven by Tram and Ian and I was pleased to offer my support to get the co-production lens focused among the many experts quoted in this article.

 

There are 160 references in this paper. This is an exhaustive and up to date repository of the literature on iKT, co-production and all the other forms of collaborative research designed to make a difference. That alone makes this paper useful.

 

As the authors state, “our objective was to better understand how IKT compares with engaged scholarship, Mode 2 research, co-production and participatory research by identifying the differences and similarities among them in order to provide conceptual clarity and reduce researcher and knowledge user confusion about these common approaches.”

 

While I say above I was pleased to be invited to this party, I am personally not motivated by definitions of things that mostly mean the same thing (that’s a conclusion of the paper, by the way). Nonetheless, definitional clarity is important, and this paper interrogates that.

 

For those who love definitions, check out table 1: “Terms and Definitions”. Here you will find references to the minutiae of definitions for: co-creation, co-production (as if those were really any different!), decision makers, dissemination, engaged scholarship, implementation science, iKT, knowledge exchange, knowledge translation, knowledge to action processes, knowledge synthesis, knowledge use, knowledge users, linkage and exchange, mode 2 research, partnership, participatory research, research partnerships, stakeholders.

 

Phew…pretty sure there’s nothing missing…oh, except knowledge mobilization!

 

The result of the participant interviews is clear: “most participants emphasised the similarities among the approaches as the differences are minimal”.

 

Nonetheless, the differences are explained in table 4 which compares different terms according to: original purpose, primary motivation, epistemological stance, theoretical underpinnings, implicit/explicit theory, geographic origin, disciplinary origin, health vs other research, unique features, what partners are called, role of partners, power sharing.

 

Again, phew…that’s a long table but that’s where the minutiae can be found.

 

Bottom line from this paper: “Similarities among the approaches included (1) true partnerships rather than simple engagement, (2) focus on essential components and processes rather than labels, (3) collaborative research orientations rather than research methods, (4) core values and principles, and (5) extensive time and financial investment. Core values and principles among the approaches included co-creation, reciprocity, trust, fostering relationships, respect, co-learning, active participation, and shared decision-making in the generation and application of knowledge.”

 

Questions for brokers

  1. What do you call it and why?
  2. Based on this paper will you consider calling your practice/method anything different? i.e. how married are you to your term and do you understand why you chose that term to describe your practice/method?
  3. Do you care about the minutiae? Why or why not?

 

Research Impact Canada is producing this journal club series to make evidence on KMb more accessible to knowledge brokers and to create online discussion about research on knowledge mobilization. It is designed for knowledge brokers and other knowledge mobilization stakeholders. Read this open access article. Then come back to this post and join the journal club by posting your comments

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