Meet a Mobilizer – David Phipps, York University

David never wanted to be a knowledge broker.  David wanted to be a veterinarian but along the way discovered research (PhD Immunology, Queen’s University, 1991) and subsequently moved into technology transfer at U of T when he identified a novel marker of HIV infection.  Moving from doing research to managing research started a career that continually spanned the boundaries between researchers and research users (companies, government agencies, community organizations).  By connecting researchers with researcher users to help move research into practice or policy, David became a knowledge broker. In his current role as Director of York’s Office of Research Services David leads tradition research services (research grants and contracts) as well as technology commercialization and knowledge mobilization as a service to York faculty and graduate students.  He is the PI on three knowledge mobilization institutional grants (two tri-council IM grants and one SSHRC KIS grant) and one knowledge mobilization research grant.


While wanting to be a veterinarian and subsequently geeking out in a lab David also nurtured a bohemian side as a flute player while also dancing ballet for 20 years (he took a summer off his PhD to dance at Canada’s Wonderland!).  He currently sings in Counterpoint Chorale, a Toronto-based chamber choir but apparently fails to impress either gargoyles or cats….

The Research Help Desk and Graduate Courses

In the early days of the UVic Knowledge Mobilization Unit, a partnership was struck with the Vancouver Island Health Authority that would see the development of a “Research Help Desk”. This virtual help desk involved the soliciting and compiling of VIHA research needs by a Knowledge Broker within VIHA. The UVic Knowledge Broker then worked to identify a faculty or graduate student at UVic that could work with the VIHA practitioner to address the research need.  This model sees practitioners and researchers working together, with the input and support of Knowledge Brokers, to address issues that practitioners would not otherwise have time, resources, or expertise to address.


This service began in December 2006 with two projects, and the Research Help Desk has since expanded to serve the needs of other research users, agencies, and government ministries.


The success of the Research Help Desk led to the development of an interdisciplinary graduate course structured around this model.


The first course (titled GS 500: Practicum in Community-Based Health Research) ran in September 2007. Seven graduate students were each matched up with a question coming from a practitioner in either VIHA or the BC Ministry of Health. The student then worked with the community practitioner over the semester to address the research need and develop a solution. The class met once a week under the supervision of a professor to discuss their progress and receive lectures on topics such as gaps in translation and transfer of knowledge, building partnerships, ethics, research methods, applying research to policy and practice, etc.


The BC Ministry of Environment has asked for a course using the same model for their practitioners, as has the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development. These courses are set to begin in September 2008 and January 2009, respectively.

KM Resources

There are a number of books that could be captured under the broad rubric of knowledge mobilization.  These include The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Practice; Community University Partnerships in Practice and Knowledge Mobilization in the Social Sciences and Humanities.  All have their strengths but one book that I can highly recommend is Using Evidence – How Research Can Inform Public Services by Sandra Nutley and her colleagues Isabel Walter and Huw T.O. Davies from the Research Unit on Research utilization (University of Edinburgh).


This book is an exhaustive survey of the research utilization literature and includes chapters on the meaning of research use, factors that influence research use, models of research use, strategies to enhance research use (in policy and in practice) and evaluating research use.  Of particular use is the extensive bibliography (33 pages long) underscoring the thorough nature of the review and providing lots more material to review should the reader wish to go to the source.  Using real examples this book presents different models of research utilization showing the weaknesses of linear models of research utilization in favour of iterative and interactive models.  Importantly the book describes research utilization as a cumulative, social undertaking which suggests efforts to enhance research utilization need to focus on active engagement of researchers and research users over passive producer push methods that provide enhanced access to research evidence. Chapter 9 (“How can we assess research use and wider research impact”) summarizes the literature on evaluating the impact of research utilization and strategies to enhance research use; however,  this chapter starts out “To date, studies of research use and research impact have shed much interesting light on the former but have to make significant inroads into the latter”.  Not overly satisfying for those looking for the magic formula to evaluate research impact but an honest evaluation of the literature nonetheless.


This book is not an easy read but it is an important read and a must have companion for everyone interested in knowledge mobilization as a vehicle for enhancing research utilization.


Aboriginal Policy Research Forum

“An exciting experiment,” is how David Phipps, Director of the Office of Research Services (ORS) at York University, described the Aboriginal Policy Research Forum, on January 14, 2008. The forum, the first of its kind in Canada, used broadband technology to bring together researchers, policymakers, and citizens from across the country to discuss Aboriginal issues. A key focus of the forum was knowledge translation: the sharing of knowledge between diverse audiences, from academics to community decision-makers….Click here to read more.

ResearchImpact coming soon to a conference near you!

ResearchImpact made its debut at Congress 2007 in Saskatoon.  Since then ResearchImpact has been featured at CUExpo (Victoria, May 2008), Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (Toronto, February 2008), Canadian Association of University Research Administrators (Halifax, May 2008) and Fathers Involvement Research Alliance (Toronto, April 2008).  All of these events have provided excellent opportunities for ResearchImpact to reach out to diverse stakeholders and communities.  ResearchImpact will once again be exhibiting at Congress 2008 (Vancouver, May 30-June 8, 2008) and will be featured in the open session on Knowledge Mobilization on June 3.  Come visit ResearchImpact in booth 51 of the Book Fair.

Welcome to “Mobilize This!”

ResearchImpact, Canada’s emerging national knowledge mobilization network, is pleased to launch its new blog. Welcome!



For those of you who are new to knowledge mobilization (KM), this blog is a space where you can learn:


  • what KM is
  • who our people are
  • what they do
  • and how all of this can help you.


For those who are already familiar with KM, this blog will give you an opportunity to keep up with the latest activities at ResearchImpact: events, funding opportunities, success stories, and interesting articles on diverse aspects of KM.


Whether you’re a university researcher, a policy-maker, a representative of a community organization, or just an interested observer, this blog is for you! Please come back next week for regular content, including updates from the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, where we’ll be featured in an open session on June 3. You can also check out our Web site at for more information.

Thanks again for visiting!