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


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