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

What is the Role of Scholarly Publishing in Research Impact? / Comment les publications savantes contribuent-elles à l’impact de la recherche ?

This was the question posed at the Society for Scholarly Publishing in a session on knowledge mobilization. Panelists spoke about the use of social media, videos and other forms of “creative dissemination” such as apps. David Phipps spoke about impacts of research beyond the academy derived from engaged methods of knowledge mobilization.

C’est la question qui était posée par la Society for Scholarly Publishing lors d’une rencontre sur la mobilisation des connaissances. Les panélistes ont parlé de l’utilisation des médias sociaux, de vidéos et d’autres formes de « dissémination créative », comme les applis. David Phipps a parlé de l’impact de la recherche à l’extérieur de l’université quand il est provoqué par des méthodes actives de mobilisation des connaissances.

The Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP), “founded in 1978, is a non-profit organization formed to promote and advance communication among all sectors of the scholarly publication community through networking, information dissemination, and facilitation of new developments in the field.” For SSP impact is measured in bibliometrics. It was a pleasure to receive their invitation to participate on a panel in Vancouver on June 2, 2016 to push them beyond academic dissemination and get them thinking about methods “beyond the PDF”.

Impact beyond dissemination

I was joined on the panel by Sarah Melton (@SVMelton, Emory Centre for Digital Scholarship) speaking about digital humanities and demonstrating an app developed for public history. Ben Mudrak (@BenMudrak, Research Square) spoke about the production of videos to enhance the reach of scholarship and Melinda Kenneway (@MelindaKenneway, Kudos) spoke about social media as tools to extend beyond scholarly dissemination. For creative dissemination methods impact is measured by reach metrics (views, downloads, social media analytics).

My presentation (slides available here) went beyond dissemination methods to speak about engaged methods of knowledge mobilization that create the conditions for impact beyond the academy. These impacts are measured by demonstrable changes in products, policy, practice and processes that benefit end users as told through narratives. The presentation ended with the question posed to the audience “what is the role of scholarly publishing and publishers in the research impact agenda?”

One interesting comment back was “Well unless we can make money doing it then we aren’t going to do it”. Melinda did a great job justifying the need for a new business model. My comment was that question is using an old business model to address a new paradigm. I suggested BetaMax asked the same question of VHS. And, more analogous, the music industry asked the same question about Napster.

Impact is now a regular feature of every grant application in Canada as exemplified by the knowledge mobilization strategy and outcomes statements in all SSHRC applications. The Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences announced a project to articulate impacts in October 2014.  In the UK impact is part of the Research Excellence Framework institutional assessment. In an environment where impact is becoming a regular part of academic scholarship and where funders such as CIHR, SSHRC and NSERC are requiring publications to be open access, publishers have yet to figure out their role and land on a new business model where research is available beyond the academy to be engaged in knowledge mobilization efforts.

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

SSHRC Strategic Plan Sets the Stage for Knowledge Mobilization / Le Plan stratégique du CRSH met la table pour la mobilisation des connaissances

Congratulations SSHRC on a new strategic plan. Implementing this plan will help social sciences and humanities research have an impact on the lives of Canadians.

Toutes nos félicitations pour ce nouveau plan stratégique ! Grâce à lui, la recherche en sciences humaines et sociales aura encore plus d’impact sur la vie des Canadiens et des Canadiennes.

SSHRC strategic plan image

SSHRC recently released its new strategic plan to guide its investments and impact from 2016-2020. The plan is organized around the three pillars of SSHRC’s funding: research (=insight); training (=talent) and knowledge mobilization (=connections). All three underpin SSHRC’s traditional impacts on scholarship and training; however, the strategic plan also provides direction on how the social sciences and humanities can have an impact on Canadians outside of the academy. For more information on the potential impacts of the social sciences and humanities please see the Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences who launched a project in late 2014 to explore how to measure these impacts.

SSHRC’s desire to create impacts is evident right from the opening page:

It [social sciences and humanities research] enhances our ability to understand and creatively respond to complex individual, social, cultural and economic issues.

Right to the very last sentence:

SSHRC will advance opportunities for the results of its funding – new ideas and trained people – to be more accessible to Canadian organizations in all sectors, to contribute to decision-making and innovation, and to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Ted Hewitt, in his introduction to the Strategic Plan, points out that, “Findings from [social sciences and humanities] research are used by – and often, developed with – stakeholders across all sectors, to improve our quality of life, enrich cultural expression, and drive prosperity, equity and sustainability through innovation.”

What SSHRC is committing to is not new for researchers. Canadian researchers, students and their research institutions have a long tradition of working in collaboration with partners from all sectors to create new knowledge, train the next generation and mobilize knowledge into social, economic and environmental impacts. For more than ten years The Harris Centre (Memorial University) and York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit have been leading local knowledge mobilization efforts that connect researchers and students to non-academic partners. The Community Engaged Scholarship Institute (U. Guelph) has been supporting the Research Shop and community based research since 2009. These three are among twelve universities working together as ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR). Our knowledge mobilization network has a vision to “maximize the impact of university research for the social, cultural, economic, environmental, and health benefits across local and global communities.”  RIR will accomplish this by “developing and sharing best practices, services and tools, and by demonstrating to relevant stakeholders and the public the positive impacts of mobilizing knowledge” (RIR Strategic Plan, 2014).

The commitments in SSHRC’s Strategic Plan and those of the RIR Strategic Plan are mutually reinforcing. Both will support the work of researchers and their partners seeking to make an impact on Canadians. SSHRC makes a commitment to “advance opportunities for the results of its funding–new ideas and trained people—to be more accessible to Canadian organizations in all sectors, to contribute to decision-making and innovation, and to help identify and address the challenges of today and tomorrow. In pursuit of this objective SSHRC will:

  • Collaborate with the public, private, not-for-profit and academic sectors to address key current and future challenge areas for Canada;
  • Increase opportunities for students to engage with non-academic sectors in internships and other innovative research-based learning initiatives;
  • Work with students, researchers, research institutions and other stakeholders to better articulate the value and contribution of research.”

This also describes the work of RIR. RIR supports knowledge mobilization that facilitates research collaborations to enable research impacts. RIR promotes engaged undergraduate and graduate student experiences through community service learning, student internships and research shops. RIR is developing methods to assess and communicate the impacts of research on Canadians. RIR has adapted the impact case study format of the UK Research Excellence Framework and complemented it with methods of contribution analysis.

The work at SSHRC to achieve this commitment is well underway. SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative as an example of how SSHRC is already connecting research and researchers beyond the academy to help address and prepare for our future. In 2014 the (then) four Ontario RIR universities – Carleton, York, Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier – collaborated on four regional, SSHRC funded events that collectively helped to imagine Canada’s future by addressing the question: “What knowledge do we need to thrive in an interconnected landscape and how can emerging technology help leverage that goal and its benefits?” Details on the Carleton and Guelph events are available on line. The York event featured SSHRC Partnership Grant funded researcher, Anna Hudson, and her partners from northern Inuit communities and Inuit media companies who also recently presented to the Canadian Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Community of Practice. This recent event created further connections to Canada’s knowledge mobilization researchers and practitioners.

RIR is pleased that SSHRC is not only continuing to promote traditional impacts on scholarship and training but is supplementing these efforts by promoting the broader impacts of research on Canadians. The social sciences and humanities can raise awareness and understanding of economic, cultural, social and environmental issues. They can inform public policies, social services and professional practices that are the basis of Canadians’ responses to these complex issues. Echoing SSHRC’s last commitment above, the RIR universities also look forward to working with students, researchers and other stakeholders to support, assess and articulate the impacts of social sciences and humanities research.

Congratulations SSHRC. The RIR universities look forward to collaborating on impact.

Started in 2006, the RIR universities now include Memorial University of Newfoundland, University of New Brunswick, Université du Québec à Montréal, Université du Montréal, Carleton University, York University, McMaster University, University of Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Saskatchewan, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and University of Victoria.

Revolutionising How Researchers Connect With the Public / La mobilisation des connaissances à l’UQAM : rapprocher les chercheurs des besoins des publics utilisateurs

Dr. Catherine Mounier, Vice President of Research and Creation at l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), recently described to British journal International Innovation how projects developed at UQAM are helping to improve the scientific and social impact of research by strengthening the links between researchers and the public.  

La vice-rectrice à la recherche et à la création de l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Madame Catherine Mounier, explique dans un article scientifique qui est récemment paru dans la revue britannique International Innovation, les projets que l’UQAM élabore actuellement de manière à améliorer les impacts scientifique et social de la recherche en consolidant les liens entre les chercheurs et les publics utilisateurs (version en anglais).

UQAMCatherine Mounier

DECEMBER 18, 2015

The Université du Québec à Montréal is working to improve the impact of its research, both scientific and social, on those it was designed to help through closer engagement between researchers and end users

Getting knowledge on the move

There has long been a discord between academic researchers and those downstream of their work. Often, researchers lament that the general public just does not understand what they are doing, and reciprocally, the general public often accuses researchers of locking themselves away in ivory towers. Indeed, building a successful, long-lasting and fruitful relationship between those on the inside of a university’s walls with those on the outside can seem like a daunting task.

Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) is breaking down this divide by acting as a bridge between the two parties and by creating a framework through which potential users of academics’ work and the academics themselves can join forces. They are achieving this feat using the concept of knowledge mobilisation.


The principle behind knowledge mobilisation is to maximise the contribution of social, economic, art, health and environmental research to society and to create an understanding between academic researchers and those downstream of their research’s applications – be those community members, industry members, governmental officials or people somewhere in between. Proponents of knowledge mobilisation insist that in order for research to have true impact on society, there must be a focus on communication, relationship building and shared learning experiences as early on in research as possible so that both the end users and the researchers themselves can influence one another’s ideas. They believe that it is only by approaching information sharing in this way that there will be true uptake of new ideas, technologies, innovations and inventions.

Knowledge mobilisation has been a major thread weaved into the work of the UQAM since its inception. And, in recent years, mobilisation has become more central to the University’s activities, especially in terms of developing ways to support knowledge mobilisation with professors, and since the University joined ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) – a pan-Canadian network committed to knowledge mobilisation – in 2010.


The idea to join RIR and the desire to develop new ways of supporting researchers in their knowledge mobilisation activities initially came from Dominique Robitaille, who was at the time Director of Research and Creation Services (SRC), and Dr Caroline Roger, Director of Partnerships and Innovation Support Services (SePSI). “Our two services developed the knowledge mobilisation unit, which includes two knowledge brokers with the mandate of realising our annual knowledge mobilisation plan,” Rogers shares.

In addition to SRC and SePSI, there is a third unit deeply involved in knowledge mobilisation activities. Community Services (SAC) focuses on engaging with community groups and end users of products. This work allows the Director of SAC, Marcel Simoneau, and his team to understand the needs of the communities relevant to various branches of the University. “SAC exists at the intersection between community and the University,” Simoneau explains. “Its mandates are to act as an interface agent and to promote and coordinate training and research activities to be carried out by faculty members in collaboration with community partners.”

To read the rest of the article and the Q&A, please visit

Enabling Online Community For Remote Learners: An Opportunity with Contact North

MICH logoThe Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage (MICH) Program at York University invites you to attend an afternoon broadcast from the Mobile Summit 2016 at Lambton College. The broadcast will take place at Kaneff Tower, York University, Room 746 and will feature MICH and Contact North representatives discussing a free video collaboration hub available to York University researchers to deliver courses and workshops to remote communities in Ontario.

If you are a teacher, educator or work with remote communities, we invite you to join this session to brainstorm on some possible opportunities to leverage Contact North’s services. You could, potentially, deliver one of your courses to students at a Contact North hub and this presentation will allow you to realize the possibilities. We hope this presentation will allow you to leverage a variety of content delivery ideas and also spark further ideas on using a Contact North model in other communities.

Lunch will be served at 12:15 pm followed by the presentations at approximately 1:00 pm. The session will conclude at 2:00 pm.

To register, send an email to with confirmations.

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.

Stakeholder Engagement for Research Uptake / La participation des intervenants dans l’exploitation de la recherche

Last updated in 2013 (so not new, but new to me), DFID UK has produced a guide to aid in research uptake. This guide helps researchers work with stakeholders to maximize the opportunities for research to be taken up and used by organizations making new products, developing policies and/or delivering services. Using this guide will help facilitate stakeholder engagement to enable research uptake.

Le ministère du Développement international du Royaume-Uni, le DFID, a mis à jour en 2013 (pas franchement nouveau, mais pour moi, oui) un guide pour faciliter l’exploitation des travaux de recherche. Ce guide aide les chercheurs à collaborer avec les intervenants, dans le but de maximiser les occasions d’utiliser la recherche dans la fabrication de nouveaux produits, l’élaboration de politiques ou la prestation de services. Grâce à ce guide, on aura plus de facilité à convaincre les intervenants d’exploiter activement les résultats de la recherche.

We all know (or we all should know) it is important to engage end users (especially lived experience) upstream in the research program. How else do you know your research is going to help meet the needs of people who can benefit from the policies, products and services that are enabled by your research?

The private sector calls this consumer driven design.

Communicators always advocate knowing your audience.

Knowledge mobilizers call this stakeholder engagement.

There is literature on stakeholder engagement (see KMb journal club post). There are methods like the policy dialogue (see another KMb journal club post). Jonathan Weiss (CIHR Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders Treatment and Care Research, York University) embeds stakeholder engagement in the work of his Chair and reports annually on his efforts (see his 2014 Annual Report as an example).

But where is the help to help the rest of us?

A researcher in the NeuroDevNet network recently forwarded a guide for research uptake. Research uptake is that moment when a non-academic research partner seeks to take the results of the research in house to inform decisions about their own policies, products and services. This is a critical step in mediating the pathway from research to impact. And effective stakeholder engagement can facilitate this moment of uptake.

Thanks to DFID (UK Department for International Development) this guide book and checklist (yes, there is even a checklist!) are posted at:

DFID Research uptake figure

Image taken from page 2 of the guide

As instructed by this guide, effective stakeholder engagement has four stages each with three or four activities described in each stage:

  1. Stakeholder engagement: working through informal networks and mapping out and connecting with relevant stakeholders
  1. Capacity building: not all non-academic research partners have the capacity to take up research evidence. Building capacity for end user uptake is an important element…but is this the job of the researcher or possibly for allied intermediary organizations?
  1. Communicating: synthesizing results, planning communications and publishing research results in accessible formats are all important to facilitate research uptake.
  1. Monitoring and Evaluation: create a logic model including indicators to measure progress at each stage, gather data and feedback results into your research and research uptake processes.

DFID provides a note on advocacy and influencing decisions in partner organizations. DFID “encourages programs to foster evidence informed discussions of research evidence and to encourage decision makers to make use of the full range if research evidence on a given topic. However, research programs should not be lobbying for particular policy changes based on their research results.”

Really? I believe research institutions need to strive for neutrality but researchers themselves are often highly invested in a particular policy position. Why else do media channels ask academic researchers to comment on government positions? While research methods strive to remove bias from the evidence, that unbiased evidence is not necessarily value free from the researcher’s perspective.

And a note to ResearchImpact-Réseau Impact Recherche universities and other institutions with a knowledge mobilization mandate…. we don’t have discipline specific stakeholders but we do have institutional stakeholders such as United Way, community associations, municipal and provincial partners, Chambers of Commerce, etc. These institutional stakeholders should be part of our own stakeholder engagement efforts.

Thanks to Anneliese Poetz, Manager KT Core, NeuroDevNet for passing this along and for writing about her own tips for stakeholder engagement on the NeuroDevNet Blog, KT Core-ner.