GURU = Great University-Based Research Utilization

Guru. That’s what we think of when we think of Carole Estabrooks and her more than two decades of research and teaching in KT, and we weren’t disappointed when she was the inaugural speaker for the Ontario KTE Community of Practice (CoP) 2010 season (see the presentation slides here). The event attracted 28 knowledge brokers, researchers and practitioners who braved a blizzard to enjoy 2 hours of presentation (“Exploring the Applicability of Research Through the Practice of KT”) and dialogue with one of Canada’s leading KT researchers.
Carole holds a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in KT at the University of Alberta and runs the Knowledge Utilization Studies Program (KUSP). She walked us thorough her experience working under different theoretical frameworks of knowledge utilization from diffusion of innovation to evidence based medicine to implementation science [see Madon et al (2007) Science 318: 1728]. Look for her presentation soon on the KTE CoP web site but I wish to focus on two areas that are of particular interest to KM practitioners at ResearchImpact.
[OK, as an aside, because it’s not really something I want to focus on, she did say she is coming round to recognizing the potential for knowledge brokers in a knowledge utilization framework… Carole, call me, we’ll talk… now, back to the blog]
1. Practice what you preach:
Carole indicated nurses don’t routinely read nursing or medical literature to inform their practice. I propose that neither do knowledge brokers. We are so busy doing what it is we do that we don’t create the time to sit back, read, reflect and most importantly, write about our practice. We preach evidence informed practice but upon what evidence are we basing our practice? As KM staff we’re measured on how many interns we placed, collaborations we supported, research summaries we wrote and who used all of this activity to do what with it. Read Carole’s paper about busyness as a barrier to effective research utilization [Journal of Clinical Nursing, 17(4), 539-548. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2007.01981.x] and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. But we’re changing this at ResearchImpact. We have already published a couple of papers on our work (see blog posts here and here) and have one more submitted to the journal Education & Training. After my earlier blog post and this one, I am going to ask the ResearchImpact-York knowledge brokers to take one day each month to spend catching up on reading and perhaps we can move towards an annotated broker bibliography which we can post on the ResearchImpact web site.
2. Attention
Carole made a remark while she was talking about busyness as a barrier to research utilization. She said, “effective KT requires attention”. That got me thinking of an article I recently read on twitter thanks to York’s KM Unit volunteer, Gary Myers. Huberman, Romero and Wu said in their online paper Social Networks that Matter: Twitter under the microscope,  “attention is the scare resource in the age of the web”.
Here’s my issue:
In a world of twitter induced attention deficit, I remain convinced that there is a role for social media to mediate KM which is based on networks that are enabled by transparency, trust and relationship closeness – all of which are facilitated by social media. At least in theory (the academic literature on social media is only starting to emerge, but the blog literature is convincing on this point – however, don’t forget your source criticism… would a blogger really be a good critic of social media?). Absent any evidence we’ll put it to a vote:
Is social media an effective tool for KM? Say yes or no and tell us why using the comment feature above.
So Carole, thank you. You engaged us and made us laugh and made us think. Thanks also to the Ontario KTE CoP for kicking off a great year with a great speaker. And for the rest of us remember to create the time in your schedule to give the KM evidence your attention so that you can practice what you preach. At least on my train trip I took the time to reflect on Carole’s talk and write this blog while enjoying the scenery around Trenton.