#ShitDavidSays About Impact #3: Engaged Scholarship NOT Knowledge Transfer / Les idées de David sur l’impact, no 3 : On parle d’érudition engagée, pas de transfert de connaissances

David Phipps is writing about his lessons after more than a decade of impact. This third post encourages us to engage end users/beneficiaries as we move from knowledge transfer to engaged scholarship.
David Phipps partage les leçons qu’il a apprises en plus de dix ans dans le milieu de l’impact. Ce troisième billet nous incite à faire participer activement les utilisateurs finaux ou les bénéficiaires au mouvement, ce qui nous fait passer du simple transfert des connaissances à l’érudition véritablement engagée. Les détails à #ShitDavidSays About Impact.

Cambridge College
This is a picture of a college at the University of Cambridge. This image recapitulates the traditional scholarly orientation where knowledge (and power) is kept within the university and is disconnected from the external world. There is a single door way and gate that separates those who have knowledge and those who don’t (see the previous post about the knowledge of our non-academic partners). If we wanted to share information it would have to be translated and/or transferred to those who don’t have this knowledge. And for 600 years we have been working this business model.
But it needs to change.
I have heard from colleagues at the Rick Hansen Institute (spinal cord injury research) that when the Institute was being established they asked stakeholders about their priorities. Clinicians prioritized biomarkers and neuroimaging. People living with spinal cord injury and their families prioritized bladder control and erectile dysfunction.
If we’re not talking to those directly affected by the research then we are producing research knowledge that won’t be used (and that’s ok for basic/fundamental research). This includes talking to end users who use the research evidence for new products, policies and services and those end beneficiaries who will benefit from them. Bowan and Graham wrote in 2013 that the failure to bridge the knowledge to action gap was not a failure of knowledge transfer but a failure of knowledge production.
Let me say that again….it is not a failure of knowledge transfer but a failure of knowledge production. We need to stop trying to transfer knowledge end users/beneficiaries don’t want and start working on research they do want by practicing engaged scholarship.
This means that if we want our research to be used to inform products, policies and services we need to engage non-academic stakeholders at least to inform the research but also as collaborators as we seek to co-produce research evidence with them. Engagement is a necessary precursor to impact. You can engage without having impact but you can’t have impact without engaging. However, metrics of engagement are not a proxy for impact – think about that Australia as you run your Engagement and Impact Assessment pilot.
And one final critical piece that derives from the PARIHS framework. We know that making evidence accessible (i.e. on a website) is necessary but not sufficient to inform change (thank you Sandra Nutley). If you want your research evidence to be used you have to facilitate the uptake of the evidence in the context of its use. Once you have practiced engaged scholarship to produce your useful evidence don’t just send it to end users. Go to end users and actively facilitate the uptake of the evidence in the context of the end users. You can do this by giving a workshop with end users and/or by training end users in your new method/tool.
Get out of your academic research spaces and listen to end users/beneficiaries. Collaborate with them along the way. And then return to them and facilitate the uptake of evidence in their contexts.
That’s engaged scholarship not knowledge transfer.
Stay tuned as these seven posts about #ShitDavidSays about impact roll out. And if you want to see a webinar on #ShitDavidSays about Impact you can pay to attend a webinar sponsored by the Canadian Association of Research Administrators at noon Eastern on November 10, 2017. More info available here.