Public Benefits from Public Research

David Phipps (RIR – York) wrote this guest post for KTExchange.org.  It was originally published on August 3, 2011 and is cross posted here with permission.

I have been invited by the University of Texas School of Public Health, Research Into Action project, to the Centers for Disease Control National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media to debate the position that Canada has a knowledge translation secret. I look forward to this discussion with Stephen Linder (The University of Texas School of Public Health), Pimjai Sudsawad (Knowledge Translation Program Coordinator, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research), and Rick Austin (Research Into Action project), because I get to brag about Canada and our KT successes.

We’ll start from the (debatable) position that Canada has a KT secret. There is an evidence gap here. There are also excellent examples of KT from around the world. Nonetheless, there is a widely held perception that our KT secret has resulted from (or resulted in) public investments in national KT institutions like the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, Canadian Partnerships Against Cancer, Mental Health Commission of Canada, and Canadian Council on Learning, all with a KT mandate. Canada also has ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR), the only national network of university knowledge mobilization units in the world (to our knowledge).

For argument’s sake, let’s accept that Canada has a KT secret – the question becomes why? Canada has a strong history of public institutions. Compared to the US, Canada has less private health care and fewer private options for education from K-12 to higher education. Using General Expenditures in R&D (GERD) as a metric, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has shown that Canada’s public sector invests relatively more in R&D than does Canada’s private sector. On June 28, 2011 Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council released its report on Canada’s innovation performance in 2010.  The report recognizes that “Canada’s overall business expenditures on R&D lag behind international innovation leaders. These numbers are trending down when they should be trending up.”

Since Canadians invest proportionally more public funding in R&D and likewise have fewer private options in health care and education, I propose that Canadians expect a return on their investments in public research so that research benefits policy and practice in health and education as well as in other sectors. That’s the Canadian socially democratic model.

If this is true, so what? How can we translate this to other jurisdictions? How can other countries create an expectation of public return for public investments in research?

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Federal Partners in Technology Transfer Welcomes ResearchImpact

John Biles, Director of Partnerships and Knowledge Transfer for the Metropolis Project (on the left) Craig McNaughton, Director of the Knowledge Mobilization and Program Integration Division at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (on the right) Peter N. Levesque, Director of Systems and Operations at Knowledge Mobilization Works (second

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