Human centred innovation / L’innovation centrée sur l’humain

The Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences (“The Federation”) made a submission to Canada’s Innovation Agenda. The Federation argues that “we need to bring creativity and imagination to bear on complex problems and understand the human process at the heart of innovation”. This includes strengthening connections and knowledge flow among humanities and social sciences (HSS) researchers and other partners from governments, civil society, academia and business.

La Fédération canadienne des sciences humaines (« la Fédération ») a suggéré des orientations au Programme d’innovation du Canada. La Fédération soutient que « nous devons rivaliser de créativité et d’imagination pour dénouer des problèmes complexes et comprendre le processus humain au cœur de l’innovation ». Cela suppose notamment le renforcement des liens et des échanges de connaissances entre les chercheurs des sciences humaines et leurs partenaires du gouvernement, de la société civile et du milieu des affaires.

Federation logoLed by Minister Bains (Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development), Canada is developing a new innovation strategy and is soliciting input from individuals and organizations across Canada. The Federation, drawing on their representation of over 160 universities, colleges and scholarly associations and a community of over 91,000 researchers and students, made a submission that promoted the human element of innovation.

The Federation’s submission contains three areas of focus including:
• expand experiential learning for all students through an expansion of the Post-Secondary Industry Partnership and Cooperative Placement Initiative to include HSS.
• increase fundamental research into human thought, behaviour and experiences. This will increase HSS research funding to be a minimum of 20 percent (=approximately double current levels) of Canada’s federal research portfolio within 10 years.
• strengthen connections and knowledge flow among HSS researchers and other partners from governments, civil society, academia and business to help Canada find innovative solutions to pressing complex social challenges.

This last area deals with knowledge mobilization. This third section of the submission cites examples from SFU, OCAD U, Ryerson and Concordia to illustrate mechanisms to connect HSS research(ers) to society. While individual examples of knowledge mobilization abound, mainly in individual research programs and research centres, there are fewer examples of institutional supports such as those practiced by the 12 universities in ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR), Canada’s knowledge mobilization network. The submission calls for “a supportive national framework for such collaborations to enable scaling up of local innovations”. It then proceeds with recommendation #3 which includes the following:

Significant federal funding should be devoted to the creation and expansion of university-based innovation and cross-disciplinary hubs to address the broad range of social and economic complex challenges facing Canadians. For example, the government should enhance support for multi-disciplinary knowledge-mobilization networks, such as the ResearchImpact Network (, to scale up existing services that connect the public, private, not-for-profit and higher education sectors

Minister Bains will hopefully take note when presented with these recommendations. Canada needs a pan-Canadian knowledge mobilization strategy that will build on the lessons learned by the 12 RIR members and strengthen knowledge flows in communities and campuses across Canada.

Collectively these three recommendations from The Federation create the call to action for a human centred innovation strategy. Tony Surman (CEO, Centre for Social Innovation) has written in the Globe & Mail that Canada’s ‘innovation agenda’ isn’t dependent on just tech – it is also dependent on social factors and social innovation. This is critical to answering the call of Daniele Zanotti, CEO of United Way Toronto & York Region, who says we will not charity our way out of complex social issues. We need new combinations of knowledge and expertise that employ a human centred model of innovation.

Thanks you to The Federation for promoting the critical role of HSS in Canada’s innovation system. As part of this innovation Canada needs a pan Canadian knowledge mobilization strategy. Canada needs ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche.

Systems Thinking as Part of a Knowledge Translation (KT) Approach

How Our NeuroDevNet Team Used Systems Thinking to Improve Our Production of Research Summaries

by Anneliese Poetz

Knowledge Translation. Anneliese has experience writing plain language research summaries for policymakers, parents and teachers at the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network and, in her most recent work for the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases, she facilitated national stakeholder consultations, and developed stakeholder-and evidence-informed products to improve public health practice. For more on Anneliese and her work click here. This post originally appeared on the KNAER-RECRAE Blog and is reposted here with permission.

I recently had the pleasure of being able to present at the recent Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum (#CKF16) conference in Toronto, Ontario. It was a 7-minute presentation entitled “Systems and Processes for Knowledge Translation” and focused on one of the examples of how I use systems thinking to inform my work in Knowledge Translation (KT).

Several years ago, I met a business analyst who informed me that what I was doing in my job in the field of KT was essentially what a business analyst does: use stakeholder input to inform the design (and/or re-design) of products and processes. When you think about it, everything we do in KT is either a product or a process. The products I worked on included evidence-informed tools for health care practitioners to apply to their work, and guides for researchers to help them “do” KT. One of the processes that we needed to improve was for our production of clear language summaries called ResearchSnapshots.

Wondering what the difference is between Knowledge Mobilization, Knowledge Translation, and other like terms? Visit Gary Myers’ KMbeing blog post and join the conversation on KMb: Definitions & Terminology.

If you look at slide #6 in the above presentation, you will see a framework that outlines the key concepts in business analysis, according to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK v.3). These are: 1) Need 2) Change 3) Stakeholder 4) Solution 5) Value 6) Context

Each of these is of equal importance, and all must be represented. One of the things we did wrong with our initial process for the ResearchSnapshots was that we transferred the existing process (and writing staff) used by York’s KMb Unit without consideration of the differences in context within NeuroDevNet.

One of the ‘tools’ within the field of Business Analysis is a methodology called root cause analysis. We conducted a root cause analysis in order to pinpoint what the root of the problem was, and create a targeted solution. We discovered the problem was that the writers used by York KMb’s Unit, although highly skilled in clear language writing, had social science expertise but were asked to summarize research papers that were basic science and clinical science based. The researchers complained that they had to rewrite most if not all of the content, and it was a lot of work for them to do so. The result was that we achieved customer satisfaction (buy-in) among the researchers for the new process.

What we did to improve the process was to first identify all the stakeholders directly and indirectly affected by the process. Then we gathered information about their needs (often in the form of the complaints we’d received from researchers) with respect to the process, which were then transformed into ‘requirements’. These requirements informed the re-design of the new process.

The process had to be easy for researchers, and create value for the Network. Since the projects within the Network were so diverse and often specialized, it would have been too difficult (and maybe impossible) to find writers who were content experts. So, the new process begins with the researcher nominating a paper that was produced as a result of one of their NeuroDevNet funded projects, along with one of their trainees (students) who is expert in the content area. Then, we provide training and support toward the production of a clear language summary of their paper that is ready for final review and sign off by the researcher. In this way, it is easy for researchers because they only have to make minimal edits to the draft, and it creates value for the Network not only because of the clear language summary that is produced but the transferrable skills that the trainee acquires.

Let’s break down how this method reflects ‘systems thinking’:

1) A system is composed of parts. The first thing we did was map out the stakeholders and where they were situated within the system (see slide #9).

2) All the parts of a system must be related (directly or indirectly). We mapped out the stakeholders as related, directly or indirectly, to the customer service issue (or ‘incident’).

3) A system has a boundary, and the boundary of a system is a decision made by an observer or a group of observers. The ‘system’ was what facilitated the execution of the process for creating clear language summaries (ResearchSnapshots). In other words, the boundary of the system was the affiliation of researchers as part of NeuroDevNet, and research papers to be summarized were those produced as part of NeuroDevNet funded research projects.

4) A system can be nested within another system, a system can overlap with another system. The ‘system’ for producing ResearchSnapshots within the KT Core with one researcher is nested within the larger ‘system’ of the NeuroDevNet pan-Canadian Network of researchers and projects.

5) A system is bounded in time, but may be intermittently operational. A system is bounded in space, though the parts are not necessarily co-located.We engage with researchers to co-create ResearchSnapshotsat the time that we receive a service request, usually after a researcher has published a new peer-reviewed paper. These requests are sporadic depending on the frequency and pace of publications arising from its pan-Canadian NeuroDevNet-funded projects.

6) A system receives input from, and sends output into, the wider environment. We receive requests but we will also offer services if we see an opportunity. Once the ResearchSnapshots are finalized, they are made available on the NeuroDevNet website.

7) A system consists of processes that transform inputs into outputs. The process for clear language writing of ResearchSnapshots is one of the processes that exist within the KT Core, that transforms inputs (peer reviewed publications, clear language summary drafts in word) into outputs (finalized draft of clear language summary, formatted onto ResearchSnapshot .pdf template, formatted for accessibility).

8) A system is autonomous in fulfilling its purpose. A car is not a system. A car with a driver is a system. Similarly, the KT Core as a department within NeuroDevNet is not a system. The KT Core with a Lead, Manager and Assistant, is a system.

As a systems thinker, remember that a system is dynamic and complex, and that information flows among the different elements that compose a system. For example, information flows among the KT Core Lead, Manager and Assistant. A system is a community situated within an environment. For example, the KT Core is a system situated within NeuroDevNet, and as a result, information also flows more broadly between the KT Core and NeuroDevNet’s community of researchers. Information flows from and to the surrounding environment, for example, the KT Core posts its finalized ResearchSnapshots publicly on the NeuroDevNet website.

The field of Business Analysis has identified (and published in BABOK) a common sense framework and practical methodologies, which I believe can advance the field of KT towards more meaningful and useful products and processes that are responsive to the systems in which they are intended to be used.

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

Knowledge into Practice Learning Network Launch Webinar

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others.”
(African Proverb)

Across the globe, in diverse professional fields, people are working to get knowledge into practice. However, it is well documented that despite widespread commitment in principle, many of the people and organisations who are undertaking knowledge into practice work face considerable challenges in accomplishing this aim.

Does your role involve linking knowledge and practice? Perhaps you’re a knowledge broker or knowledge mobiliser, researcher or practitioner, policy analyst, or a similar role. Whatever your title, whatever your field, the Knowledge into Practice Learning Network offers a rare opportunity to come together as an online community to learn and share advice, expertise, resources and opportunities, develop new international contacts and use our learning to improve our own practice and support each other to work most effectively.

In this launch webinar, you will have an opportunity to:

    find out more about this innovative global network,
    be introduced to the people behind the network,
    introduce yourself and connect with a new set of supportive colleagues,
    tell us about what you would like to get out of the network and the kind of resources and activities you would find useful

Date: 24 October 2016

Time: 16:00 (UK). To calculate your local time go to

Registration & joining instructions:

We hope you will join us for this inaugural webinar and the launch of this network.

York U Champions Research Mobilization Through Graduate Experiential Education Program

The following article appeared in York University’s YFile on April 24, 2012 and is reposted here with permission.

York U welcomed 22 graduate students and their respective community partners on Monday, Sept. 19 to celebrate the launch of an exciting new award opportunity at the University.

Internship meeting photo

The meeting between 22 graduate students and their community research partners took place Monday, Sept. 19

The Office of the Vice-President of Research & Innovation (VPRI) and the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) were awarded $100,000 of funding from York for a university–wide graduate student paid internship experiential education program. The Academic Innovation Fund was established to support initiatives that advance York’s strategic priorities in relation to teaching, learning and the student experience.

“Congratulations to those 22 interns who were awarded funding for their innovative projects. We look forward to seeing them shape the future of teaching, learning and the student experience at York University,” said Robert Haché, vice-president Research & Innovation. “The ever-intensifying research enterprise at York provides an ideal environment to foster scholarship, creativity and innovation for young minds. These interns will benefit from, and become integral contributors to, this vibrant intellectual community.”

Facilitated through the Knowledge Mobilization Unit (KMb) and FGS, the program connects York graduate student researchers with organizations from the broader community who are pursuing research questions of interest to the students.

David Phipps, executive director, Research & Innovation Services, said he was very pleased to see that the 22 interns represented seven of the University’s Faculties “which makes this a pan–University initiative.”

Students have forged partnerships locally and internationally, with partners hailing from Brazil, Jamaica and Australia and spanning the spectrum from non–profit organizations, governments and the private sector. “At York, we’ve got a rich tradition of knowledge mobilization supporting research,” said Phipps.

Recent Conference Board of Canada statistics show that only 18.6 per cent of PhD graduates are employed as full-time university professors. This increases the urgency to prepare graduate students for other careers through skill-building, career development and experiential education opportunities. Providing graduate students with enhanced opportunities for integrated work and learning and skills acquisition is crucial to enhancing both the student experience and post–degree outcomes.

Mike Zryd, associate dean in FGS said, “There’s a strong connection between what you’re doing as students and researchers and the needs of community organizations. One of the things we’re finding is graduate students often don’t realize the professional skills they’re learning as part of their studies.”

Mylini Saposan

Mylini Saposan

One internship was awarded to Mylini Saposan, a master’s student in the Graduate Program in Health. Under the supervision of Dr. Emma Richardson, Saposan’s internship is with external partner St Michael’s Hospital’s Centre for Ethical, Social and Cultural Risk.

The opportunity at St. Michael’s Hospital will encourage Saposan to take a critical perspective in analyzing real and current issues affecting health quality both globally and locally. She will assist her team in developing a model for community engagement to be used as a resource for global health researchers to enable them to better adapt their research to local international contexts and facilitate greater community support.

Graduate students can apply for a one year part-time internship, an eight month part-time internship, or a four month full-time internship. Further application details can be found at:

The ultimate aim of the initiative is to place York University at the forefront for cutting-edge experiential educational opportunities for students at all levels of study, from undergraduate to doctoral, in support of their learning and goals.

What Are Universities Doing for Social R&D? / Que font les universités pour la RD dans le domaine social?

David Phipps was invited to participate in a retreat to explore ways of introducing social research & development into Canada’s innovation policies. He reflected on the long tradition of university research and the relatively recent experience at partnering to develop that research into impacts on society. Thanks to Social Innovation Generation, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and all the participants for making the retreat possible.

David Phipps a été invité à effectuer une retraite pour réfléchir aux différents moyens d’intégrer la recherche sur le domaine social et son développement aux politiques canadiennes concernant l’innovation. Cela lui a permis de mettre en rapport la tradition séculaire de la recherche universitaire et l’expérience relativement récente des partenariats visant à transformer cette recherche en impact sur la société. Merci à Social Innovation Generation, à la Fondation de la famille J.W. McConnell et à tous les participants qui ont rendu possible ce moment de réflexion.

University of Bologna

University of Bologna

Picture this: Bologna, Italy in the year 1088. The first and still oldest western university was founded. That was 968 years ago. Oxford University was founded 8 years later in 1096.

Universities have had almost a millennium of teaching and research and only recently (ok, as far back as the 1880s for US land grant universities) have universities and the researchers that work in them been asked to consider the potential social impacts of their work. The trouble is, universities have also had almost a millennium to become really resistant to change. After all, universities were established as places for research and teaching without the pressure of external influences.

But only in the last ten years in Canada have researchers been required to develop a knowledge mobilization plan (SSHRC) or a knowledge translation plan (CIHR). Since 2014, UK institutions have been assessed and financially rewarded based on economic, social and/or environmental impacts of their research. It is through knowledge mobilization/translation that research(ers) can have an impact. And when research informs a new social policy or social service then that research(er) is contributing to social R&D – research & development.

Academic researchers do research (R in R&D). They rarely do development (D in R&D). If universities are now expected to contribute to social R&D we have to do that by working in collaboration. Researchers don’t make products, industry partners do. Researchers don’t develop public policies, government partners do. And researchers don’t (usually) deliver social services, community partners do.

If universities are now expected to contribute to social R&D we need development partners to complement our research. This isn’t new – Bowen & Graham wrote about this in 2013 and Sarah Morton wrote about this in 2014. What is new (unless you’re a land grant university with a 140-year tradition of agricultural extension!) is that some universities, including those in the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) network, are developing institutional mechanisms to enhance the contribution of research to development and ultimately impact.

There are many ways we do this including investments in public engagement, community service learning, community based research and engaged scholarship all of which can be understood to fall under the umbrella of knowledge mobilization (and if you want to have the definitional debate feel free – just not here – we don’t get stuck in definitional dystopia).

One example of research responding to a need identified by community and creating both academic and community benefits is York’s example of the Life Skills Mentoring Program at the Youth Emergency Shelter of Peterborough. You can see a short video of this example or read the deep case study in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education.

And there are many more examples from the RIR universities including the seven we presented on Parliament Hill in February 2014.

It is working.

Canadian research is successfully contributing to social R&D. Yet while Canadian researchers have a long track record of engaging with non-academic partners the institutional commitment to social R&D is less robust. Notwithstanding the 30 years’ experience institutions have investing in commercialization / technology transfer / industry liaison, the institutional investments for knowledge mobilization and related activities are not yet wide spread.

The RIR universities are 12 examples of these different investments.

It is working.

Recommendations for Universities Seeking More Effective Collaborations / Recommandations aux universités en quête de collaborations efficaces

Interaction report coverThe CarnegieUK Trust recently released InterAction, a report that examined how universities and non-profit organizations can collaborate to influence public policy. Much of it reflects what York University is already doing but also points out where we can improve.

Le fonds Carnegie UK Trust vient de publier InterAction, un rapport qui examine les moyens pour les universités et les organisations à but non lucratif de collaborer afin d’influencer les politiques publiques. En grande partie, ce rapport reflète ce qui se fait déjà à l’Université York, mais il indique aussi des pistes à suivre pour nous améliorer.

“The future for influencing public policy involves the co-production of knowledge.”

The report makes nine recommendations for universities, six recommendations for community organizations and four recommendations for funders all designed to enhance community campus collaborations for policy impact.

The nine recommendations are below along with reflections on how York University fulfils or fails on these recommendations:


York University

Provide embedded gateways through which third-sector organisations and other publics can make contact with relevant researchers in what are perceived to be impenetrable and siloed institutions.

York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit (KMb Unit) uses a systematic approach to respond to requests for knowledge brokering from non-academic organizations (70%) and faculty (30%). The TD Community Engagement Centre (CEC) is located in community to provide access to York expertise and services

Employ specialist knowledge exchange workers to facilitate interaction between the worlds of social science, policy and practice. These will be more effective if accorded recognition, security and career pathways.

York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit employs two full time knowledge brokers and the CEC has one full time manager.

Invest in mechanisms to develop and support long-term relationships with selected third-sector partners and networks.

In addition to supporting collaborations between researchers and non-academic partners York University has had a knowledge mobilization partnership with United Way Toronto and York Region since 2006.

Explore innovative ways of providing spaces for intersection of vertical and horizontal knowledge flows.

The KMb Unit, CEC, and EE (see below) are all examples where vertical (within the university) intersects with horizontal (engaging beyond the university) knowledge flows.

Encourage secondment opportunities (both inward and outward) as a means of facilitating knowledge exchange and ‘boundary spanning’.

York does not have formal secondment opportunities.

Develop training and staff development programmes to build the capacity of academics to work with third-sector organisations, to understand their worlds, and to include codes of practice towards mutual benefit.

The KMb Unit has a series of workshops that it delivers to the York community and their non-academic partners on an annual basis. Workshops include KMb planning, KMb evaluation, social media, clear language writing and design. These workshops can be tailored to academic units and to Organized Research Units. York does not have a code of practice but the KMb Unit promotes the use of the Position Statement on Authentic Partnerships from Community Campus Partnerships for Health.

Develop training and staff development programmes to build an understanding amongst staff of policy processes and how to engage with policy worlds. Consideration should be given to involving third sector partners in such programmes.

York does not have specific training on the policy process; however, we could explore partnering with the School of Public Policy and Administration to contribute a policy specific session to our knowledge mobilization workshops.

Embed the use of Project Advisory Groups including policy and practice partners relevant to the research project, as a means of informing the research, promoting impact and developing relationships. Representatives from VCOs should be paid for their contribution and valued for their insight as well as their role in dissemination.

This is an area where we can do better. The KMb Unit had a Joint Advisory Committee with equal representation by faculty and community but it was the faculty who were hard to recruit and retain. The CEC has an Advisory Committee including York and Community members.

Explore further the role which service learning might play in building engagement with the third sector, in addition to its other merits.

York is building a campus wide experiential education (EE) program led by the Assoc. VP Teaching & Learning . In addition the Faculty of Health Agents of Change is a faculty-wide initiative designed to help health students develop the skills and abilities to create a positive impact.

So how are we doing? We are excellent in many places and clearly have room to grow in others. Most promising is the emerging Experiential Education program being led by Assoc. VP Teaching and Learning. This has the potential to transform how we teach and how students learn and, if we do it right, how to create positive impacts on communities.

How does your institution stack up?

There Are No New Ideas Part 3: The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

In this blog series I visit some old (and I mean old) literature to illustrate how ideas of knowledge mobilization and research impact have very deep roots. Part 3 looks at an essay by Abraham Flexner from 1939 (yes, 78 years ago). Abraham Flexner (1866-1959) was an American educator whose 1910 report is credited with 20th century reform of medical education in Canada and the US. He cited the German model of medical education that was based on biomedical research and knowledge setting up his appreciation for research and its eventual impact on medical practice. On the surface his essay makes the case for the protection of basic science without need for application or impact and thus doesn’t seem to tell today’s story of knowledge mobilization and impact. However, reading between the lines he makes the case for excellent basic research as the underpinning of excellent research impact.

Harper's October 1939Flexner, A. (1939, October). The usefulness of useless knowledge. Harpers, 179, 544-552.

Flexner begins his essay recalling a conversation he had with George Eastman who proclaimed Marconi (credited with inventing wireless transmission in 1896) as the “most useful worker in science in the world”. Flexner’s response was “Marconi’s share was practically minimal”. By that he meant that Marconi was the last person in a long line of scientists including Maxwell, who first joined electric and magnetic forces to develop the theory of electromagnetism in 1865, and Hertz, who worked on electromagnetic waves between 1886-1889. Flexner claims that Marconi was just a “clever technician”. “Hertz and Maxwell were geniuses without thought of use. Marconi was a clever inventor with no thought but use”.

This is Flexner’s thesis, that research should be supported without thought to its use.

Institutions of learning should be devoted to the cultivation of curiosity and the less they are deflected by considerations of immediacy of application, the more likely they are to contribute not only to human welfare but to the equally important satisfaction of intellectual interest which may indeed be said to have become the ruling passion of intellectual life in modern times.”

However, by linking Marconi’s “useful” invention with the “useless” knowledge created by Maxwell and Hertz, Flexner has joined up research with impact and created a logical pathway from one to the other. This is what we do when creating a knowledge mobilization plan or when collecting the evidence to write a research impact case study.

Flexner also describes the reverse.

Not infrequently the tables are turned, and practical difficulties encountered in industry or in laboratories stimulate theoretical inquiries which may or may not solve the problems by which they were suggested, but may also open up new vistas, useless at the moment, but pregnant with future achievements, practical and theoretical.”

This describes stakeholder engaged research where the challenge felt by non-academic stakeholders informs subsequent academic research. We know this today from folks like Bowen and Graham, who describe the critical role of engaging end users in research. However, Bowen and Graham didn’t reference any literature before 1997!

Flexner essentially describes the model of the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF). The REF is a centralized research assessment exercise which includes the institution’s ability to describe the impacts of research beyond the academy. The REF is not concerned with creating future impacts but requires institutions to collect the evidence of research impact that had already occurred. 80% of the REF score is the excellence of the research with 20% being the impact of that excellent research. Maxwell’s work on electromagnetism, if linked to Marconi through evidence describing an impact pathway from one to the other, would have scored highly on both research excellence and research impact.

Research impact was introduced in the 2014 assessment exercise. Flexner described the need for excellent research and its ability to inform impact in 1939.

There really are no new ideas.

Read the rest of this blog series:

There Are No New Ideas Part 1: Scholarship and Social Agitation

There Are No New Ideas Part 2: Politics and the English Language

There Are No New Ideas Part 2: Politics and the English Language

In this blog series, I visit some old (and I mean old) literature to illustrate how ideas of knowledge mobilization and research impact have very deep roots. Part 2 looks at an essay by George Orwell from 1946 (yes, 70 years ago) which makes the case for clear language. Orwell advises writers to use “the fewest and shortest words that will cover one’s meaning”.

George Orwell

George Orwell

Orwell, G. (1946). Politics and the English Language. 

The essay provides five examples of less than clear language and it is important to note that three of the five are from scholarly sources. Each of these examples uses two common qualities that contribute to unclear language: staleness of imagery and lack of precision. Orwell states that,

The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not….prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse

Short words not long phrases contribute to clear communication. Orwell uses what he calls “modern English” to re-write an excerpt from Ecclesiastics

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness….The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek.

The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness”. Orwell issues a call for using clear words to clearly express meaning. He points out how phrases have replaced words such as,

Break: render inoperative

Protest: militate against

Touch: make contact with

Cause: give rise to

Usually: exhibit a tendency to

We are also making grammar more complicated.

The passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining)

He also claims that the “attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say ‘In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption’ that than to say ‘I think’.”

Is this sounding familiar, especially to those trained in clear language writing and design principles? Orwell points out that:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself…Could I put it more shortly?” And “Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?”

He creates further parameters to guide writing in clear language:

 (i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

While not at the end of the essay, I think the essay can be summed up by his statement, “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity”.  By this he means that we should “make pretentiousness unfashionable” by paying attention to our meaning and make it as clear as possible by making it as short as possible and avoiding anything ugly.

All of this should resonate with knowledge mobilization practitioners seeking to translate the results of research into clear language.

For more on clear language, see our paper on the ResearchSnapshot clear language research summary format. You can also full text search the online database of research summaries.

Read the rest of this blog series:

There Are No New Ideas Part 1: Scholarship and Social Agitation

There Are No New Ideas Part 3: The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

The Co-Produced Pathway To Impact / La Trajectoire D’impact Codéterminée

York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit regularly publishes peer reviewed articles on various aspects of institutional knowledge mobilization. The most recent publication describes a pathway from research to impact that can be used by research organizations seeking to monitor their projects as they progress towards impact.


L’Unité de mobilisation des connaissances de York produit régulièrement des articles scientifiques sur différents aspects de la mise en application du savoir universitaire. Sa publication la plus récente décrit un itinéraire permettant de passer de la recherche à l’impact, au moyen d’une démarche que les organismes de recherche peuvent employer pour superviser la progression de leurs projets vers l’impact souhaité.


Research impact is dominated by a few major frameworks including the Payback Model and the Knowledge to Action Cycle. The Payback Model was used as the basis for the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) Research Impact Assessment Framework which itself was antecedent of the Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS) impact assessment framework. The Knowledge to Action Cycle isn’t a good model for monitoring progress to impact in an organization since it was never meant to describe actions of a single organization. Payback (and hence CAHS and AIHS) separate the research (at the beginning) from impact (at the end) and do not embed collaboration throughout the research something that we know is key to mediating impact. Neither creates an explicit role for the end beneficiary (i.e. the patient) as part of the process.


The co-produced pathway to impact addresses some of these limitations. It mirrors the 5 stage model of CAHS/AIHS but it embeds collaboration at every stage. It also articulates some of the benefits accruing at each stage of the pathway that informs the choices of specific indicators. The pathway can be used as a model for policy impacts, commercial impacts and practice impacts but in all cases the end user (“citizens served” = patient, consumer, public) is embedded in the impact stage and thus engaged upstream in the design of the research phase by way of the feedback loop from impact back to research.


But here is the most significant contribution of this model. Check out the arrow pointing to impact. Impact is a function of non-academic partners not researchers. Researchers don’t make products, business partners do. Researchers don’t develop public policies, government partners do. And researchers generally don’t deliver social services, community partners do. Non-academic partners use the research evidence to inform products, policies and services that then have an impact on the lives of end beneficiaries. Therefore, to collect the evidence of impact you need to ask the non-academic partner not the academic researcher.


Published in the Journal of Community Engagement & Scholarship the pathway was illustrated by co-produced projects from the bullying prevention knowledge mobilization network PREVNet. It is this element of co-production throughout the pathway from research to impact that differentiates the co-produced pathway to impact from the other models which separate the research from the impact.


In addition to PREVNet, the co–produced pathway to impact is being used by some large research networks including NeuroDevNet and AllerGen as their impact framework. But it is only a model. It serves as a template that can be adapted and made specific to each project’s stakeholders, partners, research and activities all of which drive the choice of unique indicators to monitor the progress from research to impact. So enjoy your journey (with your academic and non-academic partners) from research to impact because now you have a map to guide you. The reference for the article is:


Phipps, D.J., Cummings, J. Pepler, D., Craig, W. and Cardinal, S. (2016) The Co-Produced Pathway to Impact describes Knowledge Mobilization Processes. J. Community Engagement and Scholarship, 9(1): 31-40.

There Are No New Ideas Part 1: Scholarship and Social Agitation

In this blog series I visit some old (and I mean old) literature to illustrate how ideas of knowledge mobilization and research impact have very deep roots. Part 1 looks at a paper from 1896 (yes, 120 years ago) making the case that social science scholars have an obligation to create impacts beyond the academy. This is summarized in the last sentence, “May American scholarship never so narrow itself to the interests of scholars that it shall forfeit its primacy among the interests of men!”

Picture of the articleSmall, A. W. (1896). Scholarship and social agitation. American Journal of Sociology, 1(5), 564-582.

This article was written by the founding chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago and appeared in the first volume of the American Journal of Sociology. It’s certainly not written in clear language and refers only to “men”,

I cannot wonder that hard-headed men of affairs have nothing but contempt for those garrulous peddlers of reform programmes who can find no fallacies in the postulates upon which industrial and political administration is based, but declare implacable feud with the consequences of the postulates (Page 571)

There are many pages devoted to the author’s illustration of his thesis using distinctions between ownership and proprietorship of property…but that’s not the point of this post. 120 years ago he was advocating many of the knowledge mobilization messages we advocate today. Early on in the article he links scholarship to impact (which I love he calls “something better than science”) which he describes as the endeavour to realize the vision derived from social science scholarship and link “thought with action”,

let us go about our business with the understanding that within the scope of scholarship there is first science, and second something better than science. That something better is first prevision by means of science, and second intelligent direction of endeavor to realize the vision.

I would have American scholars, especially in the social sciences, declare their independence of do-nothing traditions. I would have them repeal the law of custom which bars marriage of thought with action. I would have them become more profoundly and sympathetically scholarly by enriching the wisdom which comes from knowing with the larger wisdom which comes from doing.

He claims that scholarship must not just be a recorder of history but must also have an activist (the social agitation of the title of the article) aim looking to the future,

Scholarship must either abandon claims to the function of leadership, and accept the purely clerical r6le of recording and classifying the facts of the past, or scholarship must accept the responsibility of prevision and prophecy and progress.

The author closes the loop between scholarship and the public as end beneficiaries and also points to the responsibilities of institutions to support these endeavours “in larger and larger proportions”,

These conditions are the setting of the urgent problems that confront today’s men. Scholars are shirkers unless they grapple with these problems. It is for this that society supports us. We are presumed to be exponents of the higher excellencies of thought and action. We are expected to hold up ideals of the best, to guide the endeavors of the masses of men. It is squandering money to put more endowments into the keeping of educational institutions that are not devoting their energies in larger and larger proportion to search for solution of these moral problems.

The author also makes these efforts a moral obligation (“betrayal of his social trust”) and links social scholarship to community benefit,

I content myself with saying that scholars might exalt both their scholarship and their citizenship by claiming an active share in the work of perfecting and applying plans and devices for social improvement and amelioration. It is not only betrayal of his social trust, it is surrender of the best elements of his professional opportunity, for the sociological scholar to withdraw from affairs…If men will be the most productive scholars in any department of the social sciences, let them gain time and material by cooperating in the social work of their community.

The article ends with an appeal to social scholars to break out of the traditional patterns of scholarship,

It is timely to proclaim a different ideal for American scholars from that which has dominated the learned world for the last fifty years. May American scholarship never so narrow itself to the interests of scholars that it shall forfeit its primacy among the interests of men!

He says it is time to change from the patterns of the last 50 years. And that was 120 years ago! Is that really the pace of change in academics and academic institutions that are only now starting to turn attention to supporting these “energies in larger and larger proportion”? For more on this see “Changing a 600 year old business”.

120 years and academic researchers are now, finally, starting to listen (thank you @JulieEBayley)?

Read the rest of this blog series:

There Are No New Ideas Part 2: Politics and the English Language

There Are No New Ideas Part 3: The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge


Knowledge Mobilization Summer School – August 15-17, Carleton University, Ottawa

This post first appeared on the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization website and is reposted here with permission. For full details about the KMb Summer School, click here.

Knowledge Mobilization Summer School – 2nd Annual, Carleton University, Ottawa

August 15 @ 8:00 am – August 17 @ 5:00 pm EDT | $452

Please save the dates of August 15-17, 2016 for the 2nd Annual Knowledge Mobilization Summer School at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

What is the KMb Summer School? Three days of learning and skill development in the field of knowledge mobilization.  Hands-on workshops and networking with professionals will provide a unique opportunity for early career  KMb individuals to develop a solid foundation of understanding of the key principles of KMb, collaboration, stakeholder engagement, and evaluation.

Who should attend? Early career professionals working in the area of Knowledge Mobilization or Knowledge Translation and Transfer; this includes researchers, knowledge brokers, research facilitators, and graduate students.  Participants will come from a broad cross-section of organizations such as universities, not-for-profit organizations, research institutions, government agencies, National Centres of Excellence, and industry.

Where will the KMb Summer School take place? In 2016, we are pleased to offer this institute at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.  Accommodations are available at nearby hotels, inns, hostels or via AirBnB.

Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be provided.

Cost: $400 + HST = $452.00 – (registration open)

Includes three days of:

  • instruction from leading Knowledge Mobilization practitioners and scholars
  • support materials
  • expert keynote speaker
  • dinner on Tuesday evening
  • breakfast
  • break snacks
  • lunch


Day 1 – 15 August 2016

1) Morning Session: Knowledge Mobilization 101
Peter Norman Levesque, KSJ, President, Institute for Knowledge Mobilization

Knowledge mobilization is an umbrella term that captures multiple practices and has significant history. This session provides a baseline of historical developments that have led to the current state of practice.  We will also unbundle some of the confusion around the 90+ multiple terms used for moving the best of what we collectively know into what we do.  Key readings and resources will be provided to participants.

2) Afternoon Session: Knowledge Mobilization @ Work
Facilitated Invited Panel of practitioners, policy-makers and researchers

Facilitator, Shawna Reibling, Knowledge Mobilization Officer, Wilfrid Laurier University

Evening: Open Socialization with peers

Day 2 – 16 August 2016

3) Morning Session: Process Mapping
Kate Wetherow, Knowledge Management Specialist, Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA)

Process mapping can be used for greater collaboration and consensus with staff teams. Rooted in LEAN, a business methodology for process improvement, this session will look at how you can improve the efficiencies and effectiveness of key processes, build capacity and enhance creativity by freeing time to focus on priority work. This includes visual management strategies, tools and techniques.

4) Afternoon Session: Innovation to Implementation
Liz Wigfull, Manager, Knowledge Exchange,  Mental Health Commission of Canada

There is a substantial gap from the time new knowledge is created to when it is put into practice. The field of Knowledge Translation (KT) has emerged as a response to this gap. The Innovation to Implementation (I2I) guide is a how-to resource for driving change using KT activities. The guide illustrates how to move from innovation to implementation in a thoughtful manner to achieve the desired outcomes of a project or initiative.

Evening: Dinner in Byward Market or Ottawa River Cruise

Day 3 – 17 August 2016

5) Morning Session: The art and science of influence: mobilizing compassion and behavioural economics
Harry Stefanakis, PhD, Clinical Psychologist

When mobilizing knowledge, it is important to consider the recipient’s capacity to receive and act on the knowledge. Without understanding some basic human biases in how we think our communication can have unintended consequences. This session focuses on understanding how to cultivate contexts that open space for possibility and change through compassionate based processes and how to respectfully nudge or influence recipients towards life affirming choices.

6) Afternoon Session: Design Thinking and Telling the Data Story
Creativity is to innovation what necessity is to invention. It leads to social change (built on the past/present) and transformation (creation of the future). In order for change to happen though, a story needs to be told…information needs to be mobilized to those who will make the best use of it. In other words, we need to have data and we need to be compelling in how we present it. Using IBM’s design thinking principles to inspire our creativity, we will unleash the power that data has in storytelling.

The hosts at Carleton have provided some suggested accommodations for those that are budget conscious:

Name: Cost per night: Extra info.
HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel75 Nicholas Street, Ottawa


$ 34.00-36.00 (dorm style)$ 40.00-92.00 (single private room) *Includes breakfast, note that bathrooms are shared for each room type.
Ottawa Backpackers Inn203 York Street, Ottawa


$ 26.00-35.00 (dorm style)$ 60.00-100.00 (single room) *On-site kitchen facilities, free coffee and tea, coin laundry
Barefoot Hostel89 Daly Avenue, Ottawa


$ 34.00 and up (dorm style rooms only)*For private rooms see their sister hotel, The Swiss Hotel below. *Microwave access, tea and coffee, outdoor patio
Business Inn180 Maclaren Street, Ottawa


Approx. $ 95.00 *Kitchen suite options available

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


Strengthening impact through people. Or ‘Why REF is like your mother in law’ / Augmenter l’impact grâce aux personnes, ou Pourquoi le Research Excellence Framework (REF, organisme d’évaluation de la recherche universitaire au R.-U.) ressemble un peu à une belle-mère

Julie Bayley (Coventry University, UK) is collaborating with David Phipps (RIR-York) under a Fellowship from the Association of Commonwealth Universities. They are working on competencies for knowledge brokers and the new concept of “impact literacy”. This first appeared on Julie’s blog on June 22, 2016

Julie Bayley (Coventry University, R.-U.) et David Phipps (RIR-York) sont cochercheurs, boursiers de l’Association of Commonwealth Universities. Ils s’intéressent aux compétences des courtiers de connaissances et au nouveau concept de « littéracie de l’impact ». Ce concept est mentionné pour la première fois sur le blogue de Julie, le 22 juin 2016.

It’s clear that impact is growing swiftly within international research agendas.  I’ve had many discussions recently with colleagues across various ponds for whom the dark cloud of impact is looming. Many seem to be looking to the UK to learn from our REF experience, and to be frank that’s not a bad idea at all.  Where impact is concerned it’s fair to say the UK is both specialised and battle-worn in equal measure. Unlike many of our international peers, our sector has been driven by centralised impact assessment, rather than broader dialogues of ‘benefits’ and ‘knowledge mobilisation’.  It is an approach with pros and cons, many of which we’re still unpicking.  Certainly the wonderfully engaged discussion at the recent ARMA Impact Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting at the annual conference shows just how much we still need to do to integrate, normalise and support impact in its most meaningful terms.

Impact for many of us is a good thing.  We welcome the focus on positively influencing the world beyond the university walls, and let’s face it, this in itself is not a new agenda.  For applied researchers (myself very much included), we have always sought to qualitatively contribute solutions to social problems.  However the more formal assessment driven (REF) impact agenda shifts such virtuous rhetoric towards reductionism and selectivity. REF is a bit like your mother in law who manages to completely overlook the 6 hours of cleaning you’ve done and focus instead on the speck of dust you’ve left behind the TV. It’s a one-off assessment which ignores how frantically you’ve cooked, ironed, and incentivised-your-children-to-behave-less-like-chimps. And like REF, usually results in a large glass of wine.

I don’t say this to dismiss REF.  If anything, REF has accelerated the importance of impact within academia and for that I am thankful.  With the puerile analogy above aside, I strongly urge those for whom impact is emerging to really take time to consider how impact ‘works’.  A formal impact agenda raises challenges across the academic sector, arguably posing most difficulties for fundamental research and that with less easily measurable endpoints (eg. arts and humanities).  Assessment-driven approaches risk reducing impact value to a small subset of narrowly demonstrated effects.  Unless we approach impact literately* and meaningfullywe will only ever firefight paths towards social effects.

In all of this, it’s crucial too that we don’t ignore the people.  Obviously it’s vital that we engage stakeholders and consider wider public benefit, and there’s excellent thought-leadership in these areas. However here I’m referring to a different group – impact practitioners themselves, be they the academic driving their own work or a research manager supporting a broader programme of work.  The impact sector has grown rapidly within the UK, and – as demonstrated through the wealth of experience and expertise in the ARMA Impact SIG – the sector would be foolish not to recognise the skills and capabilities so fundamental to translating research into effects.

Reducing impact to a measured subset of effects obscures the expertise needed for knowledge brokerage, culture change, partnership management, strategic planning and reconfiguration and many other things in combination.  If we are to create ‘good impact’ we need to recognise and invest in professional development amongst all those supporting this agenda.  And avoid bolting impact on as an afterthought. And understand how assessment models may drive behaviour. And how this may be judged by a Mother-in-Law-dust-seeking review**.

Let’s make the research count.  Properly.

*Impact literacy paper to come with the brilliant Dr David Phipps!! (@Researchimpact)

**My mother in law likes me. At least she hasn’t said otherwise