Knowledge Brokering to Enhance the Impact of Academic Research on Public Policy

This post by David Phipps, RIR-York, first appeared on Politics & Ideas: a think net on December 9, 2014 and is reposted here with permission. 

Rob Hache, VPRI, York University presentingCanadian academic research in all disciplines is among the best in the world but Canada is not extracting full social and economic value from this research. Connecting campuses with local and global communities will provide an important means to maximize the return on government investments in university research. We call this knowledge mobilization. Knowledge mobilization maximizes the economic and social impacts of research by supporting collaborations throughout the research process from inception to impact.

Collaborations are the key to maximizing the economic and social impacts of university research. In the normal course of their scholarly endeavours, academic researchers generally don’t make public policy, they don’t make products for sale and they don’t deliver social services. If we want research to have an even greater impact on the lives of citizens we need to collaborate with partners from government agencies, industry and social service sectors who will be able to translate research and expertise into new policies, products and services.

York University (Toronto, Canada) recently hosted a panel titled “Building collaborations between government and academia to inform public policy”. The panel discussion, which took place at the recent Canadian Science Policy Conference in Halifax, was a pre-cursor to exploring how universities in Canada might facilitate knowledge brokering, supported by knowledge mobilization and research partnership offices on campuses across Canada.

Four panelists joining the discussion included:

The outcomes of the panel discussion included: engaging student interns as a key tool for creating relationships between the federal civil service and academic researchers and recognizing that the “systems” of policy and research need to enable collaborations between federal and academic scientists, while finding a way to address systemic/structural barriers to collaborations.

Other points of interest included the possibility of incorporating senior personnel exchanges to help raise awareness of the cultural differences between the academic environment and administrative environment and to create a shared understanding of the potential for research impact on federal policy, and the recommendation to create structured policy dialogues to increase awareness and to explore creative forms of partnerships.

The session provided strong feedback on the opportunities presented by closer relationships between federal policy makers and academic researchers, creating an opportunity for researchers across Canada to consider undertaking collaborations that will help to maximize the policy impacts of university research.

Universities have a key role to play in informing the debate around public policies from all disciplines but we can only do that if we partner with those government departments and agencies actually making public policy. The panel at CSPC was a first conversation towards a more structured and ongoing dialogue between academic research and policy makers to help Canadians.

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