5 Reasons to Do a Lab Exchange in Grad School

Guest post by Stephanie Glegg, PhD Candidate, Vanier Scholar, Public Scholar Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of British Columbia

Wondering if a Lab Exchange will be useful? Worried about the time and expense? Unsure how to optimize your experience?

In this post I share my top 5 reasons a lab exchange can be a good investment.

I recently received funding from the Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN) for a Lab Exchange with Anneliese Poetz and the KBHN KT Core, based out of York University’s award-winning Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Unit led by David Phipps. The KBHN is a Canadian National Centres of Excellence focused on improving diagnosis, treatment and support for families raising children with brain-based disabilities. Research teams that engage partners and stakeholders from the community, industry, government, the health care system, the not-for-profit sector and academia drive the network. As an occupational therapist who has worked with these children and families since early in my career, this focus really resonated with me.

The KBHN Knowledge Translation (KT) Core is a support team within the network that helps network members and partners form effective collaborations, and develop effective messaging for different audiences in order to share the findings from their research. My current role with the Evidence Centre at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children is to help health professionals move evidence into action. As a trainee, my research is focused on studying the best ways to do this. The KT Core seemed like a perfect match to expand my skill set, which started me on the path to creating a lab exchange opportunity for myself.

Here are 5 reasons to take the plunge:

  1. You get to tailor your learning experience

A lab exchange is a learning opportunity designed specifically for you. You get to pick the people (your mentors), set the learning objectives and negotiate the learning activities. Reflect on what it is you would like to gain from the experience and from your mentor. Draft some rough learning objectives, and then refine them with your mentor. Collaborate to determine whether the objectives are feasible, what resources and timeline would be required, and the nature of the learning activities that will help you achieve them. As you refine your draft, think about the impact you’d like this experience to have on your career. What knowledge or skills would you like to acquire, and how will you apply them in your future work or career path?

My learning objectives were to be able to:

i. Describe the most frequent KT support needs of KBHN members and the strategies used by the KT Core to address them

My goal here was to determine what skills I might need were I to apply for a similar job, and to reflect on how their services were similar or different to those offered by my resource support team.

ii. Relay guiding principles, effective methods and tips to facilitate stakeholder engagement in KT activities

As I launch into the world of stakeholder-engaged research, learning from both researchers and from those with practical experience facilitating partnerships and engagement would be an asset.

iii. Demonstrate the effective use of various innovative knowledge mobilization methods to target a range of audiences (e.g. generating infographics, podcasts, briefing notes, videos, impact stories, etc.) and to identify effective resources to support their production

As a UBC Public Scholars Fellow, one of my goals is to incorporate non-traditional scholarly work into my PhD dissertation. I plan to generate some of these ‘knowledge products’ to share the key messages from my research with the various audiences who will be interested or impacted by my work. Practical tips, resources and examples to guide my efforts are always helpful.

  1. Different perspectives can improve your work

I’m not saying your own research lab isn’t amazing – you probably wouldn’t be there if you hadn’t identified some redeeming features for your learning. But a lab exchange gives you the chance to see what other people in your field are doing. You can pick up tricks and tips from their approaches that differ from yours or those of your lab mates. They can expose you to new ways of thinking, and share resources you didn’t know existed. Learning about their expertise, how they came to develop it and what value it has in their work may spark new professional development goals for you.

I was inspired by the diversity of skills my mentor and her colleagues brought to their work. Anneliese Poetz has a strong background in stakeholder engagement, and is constantly developing new and relevant skills drawn from the fields of visual media, business, software applications, qualitative research and knowledge translation. David Phipps is a leader in research impact, and a highly sought speaker on the topic of KMb, with a background in technology transfer. Michael Johnny is a KMb Manager with York University, who shared insights about his role as a knowledge broker engaging with community stakeholders, and about his capacity building activities and research impact evaluation processes. Simon Landry leads the VISTA (Vision: Science to Applications) network’s KT Core, and is also a podcaster. He and I discussed strategies for engaging researchers in knowledge translation, and the ways in which VISTA and KBHN require different approaches. Exchanging ideas with all of them inspired me to explore future educational opportunities in grounded theory, marketing, video editing and software applications to augment my impact as a KT practitioner and researcher.

  1. You might be surprised

A mentor’s approach may lead you to reflect on what you have done (or what you plan to do) in your research, and how it might be improved. The techniques, processes, theories or tools they use could vary drastically from what you are used to, and might make you consider how you would go about setting up your own lab or research program. You might also come to better appreciate the way things are done at your home lab, or the reasons they are done that way.

At my lab exchange, I was working on a learning activity in which I applied one of the KT Core’s KT planning tools to my doctoral research. I was asked to report on how I had engaged stakeholders in my work. I started out thinking the question was not very relevant to me, but through reflection, came to realize the extent to which I had engaged with different stakeholder groups before and during the research process. Because of that reflection, I can be more deliberate in planning for ongoing stakeholder engagement for the KT activities I will be carrying out moving forward.

  1. Networking

You may know your lab well, or other researchers in your institution or city. Reaching out to new experts outside of your current professional circles may create opportunities for you down the road. Learning more about a lab may help you narrow down your list of potential postdoc labs, or identify what it is you’re seeking in a future workplace. Or you may make important connections that could lead to research collaborations or even a job. Try to build in time with more than just your mentor. You may even plan an informational interview or a coffee meeting with someone outside your exchange lab while you are in town, to further expand your network.

I scheduled my Lab Exchange to align with a professional development symposium for clinician scientists so that I could save on travel expenses, but increase my opportunity to engage with others in my field or who share my current career path. Both the symposium and the lab exchange resulted in a solid list of people to whom I will reach out – to explore opportunities to learn more, to inquire about career options, to access resources, to connect with others, and to share my research.

  1. Travel

Although I stayed within my home country, you can set up a lab exchange almost anywhere in the world. Travel can augment your trip by giving you important non-academic experiences. You may also glean some great learning about differences in the social, institutional, physical or cultural environment between your lab setting and that of the exchange lab that might influence the phenomena you are studying. Research your trip, establish a budget, and include some down-time to explore. Explore funding options to help cover the costs. Don’t forget to consider the impact your travel will have on your academic progress. You may choose to plan your trip during the conference off-season, or well in advance of funding application or academic deadlines.

How will you know where to find your perfect match?

A lab exchange should be about seeking out unique professional development experiences that augment the learning you are getting at home. Do some research – speak with others in your field, scan social media for thought leaders, make note of key authors in the literature whose work intrigues you. Then reach out!

If you are a KBHN trainee and would like to participate in KBHN’s lab exchange program, contact Dr. Doug Swanson, Research and Training Manager for KBHN, dswanson (at) kidsbrainhealth.ca

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephglegg

How to tell a story (of your research) to anyone – you are Batman

By Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, Kids Brain Health Network

Almost two years ago I took a creative writing course. I didn’t expect at that time that it would be so relevant to Knowledge Translation, but I have come to realize that it really is.

I remember during graduate school, as researchers-in-training we were taught to be able to ‘tell the story’ in our data, meaning, how think analytically or be able to describe the patterns in your data.  Being able to tell the story that your data were telling you was necessary no matter whether it was a quantitative (statistical analysis of numerical data) project or qualitative (analysis of words, text).  But beyond this, when it comes time to tell the story of your research project as a whole, you need to become Batman.

“Becoming Batman” means you can think of yourself as the protagonist (see #4 below) in the story of your research project when you are developing your messaging for your KT products.  The KT Core recently produced an Infographic Guide. It requires the research team to sketch out the ‘story’ they want to tell about their research.  It occurred to me post-production that maybe some further pointers were needed for how to do that, and became the inspiration for this blog post.

Whenever we create KT products, it is usually the hope that it will inspire and inform changes; either in policy, practice or individual behaviours and attitudes.  In my creative writing class we were taught about ‘the poetics’ or the 4 ‘unities’ or ‘elements’ of any great story, no matter how it is told: in a book, a play, a movie, etc.  In each great (popular) story, all 4 elements are present.  These four elements and how they relate to telling a compelling story about your research that motivates people to take action are:

1)  Time: how much time is being covered in your story?  With respect to your research project, how long as the problem (see: #4 antagonist) under study been an issue?

You need a containable frame of time.  What was the time frame for your study?  Is there a timeline?

Was there a short timeline within which you had to solve this problem? What were the macro segments of time (the overall timeline from beginning to end) and what were the micro segments of time (time it took to interview respondents)?

You need to decide what will be the beginning of the story, and what will be the end. Make the time frame clear. Will you start to tell the story from before the project began, when you consulted with stakeholders to find out what they needed and formulated the research questions in order to figure out what the solutions could be?  Or will you start telling the story from when you successfully received a research grant to investigate your questions?  Is this something that occurred in the past? Over the past week? Over years? Are you telling the story in past tense or present tense?

Be aware of how much time (e.g. in a video) or space (in an infographic) you have to tell your story – if you only have a small amount of time or space, you are bound by that so keep the story within these constraints.  You can’t cover everything, and the amount of time or space will never be enough. But make a decision what you actually want to cover.

2)  Place:  In your story, where is your research taking place? Place is very important to the story, is it clearly defined or mentioned?  How has ‘place’ affected you and your role in the story of your research?  What are the people like?  How has it influenced who you are, how you do your work?  Make sure your interaction with ‘place’ is part of the story you are telling.

 

3)  Antagonist (villain): you can’t write a story without an antagonist, the antagonist is absolutely crucial to your story.  But in your research project you won’t be talking about how (you as) Batman defeated the Joker. An antagonist in a research project can be an illness, disease, societal issue you want to understand or solve, or a phenomenon (like a discovery you want to make).  Describe what your antagonist is.  What is the problem you are investigating?  Is your antagonist internal (you are struggling to overcome your own curiosity, your personal issues and/or health problems) or external (are you investigating a community or societal issue, an environmental plague, outer space, etc.)?  It should be readily apparent to the reader what it is you are up against.

How did you (or are you planning to) overcome it? This will be your research methods.

4)  Protagonist: The protagonist is the ‘hero’ or main character. This would be you, the researcher.  You are Batman.  You and your research team are working towards overcoming the ‘antagonist’ or problem you are investigating.

How are you different now at the end of the project than you were at the beginning? What did you learn? Discover?

You can’t have a little of both – it is absolute – you either overcome the antagonist or you succumb to it.  Did you overcome the antagonist (solve the problem you were investigating, make the discovery, answer your research questions) or did you succumb to it (the project did not yield results and further research is needed)? In storytelling this is known as the cathartic ‘release’, the recipient of your story is waiting to see whether it is going to be one or the other, and gets the same amount of pleasure out of the story whether you succeeded or failed. The reason why people are interested in your story is to find out what happened, to get that cathartic experience. In order to motivate the reader to action, you need to find a way to get that emotional reaction.

You have a fascinating research project. The trick is to be able to convey what’s important to you about your research, to someone else.  What is at stake for you? For society? Make sure the stakes are high enough, this makes the story more compelling.  What would happen if you hadn’t done this research project?

Food for thought for the next time you create an infographic (or really any KT product). What is the story you are telling? Does your ‘story’ evoke an emotional reaction? If the answer is yes, you will be more likely to motivate the reader toward action (e.g. changes in policy, practice, and/or personal behaviour) and isn’t that the reason why we do KT?

 

The “Guide of Guides” Series for Knowledge Translation

This blog post was written by Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager for KBHN. It was originally published as a guest post on the ResearchImpact blog (Source: The “Guide of Guides” Series for Knowledge Translation) it is reposted here with permission.

Kids Brain Health Network (formerly NeuroDevNet) is a Network of Centres of Excellence funded by the Federal government of Canada. There are three discovery programs focused on the early diagnosis and treatment of: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Cerebral Palsy. Three Cores serve the researchers and trainees within the Network as well as the other Cores: Neuroethics, Neuroinformatics, and Knowledge Translation (KT). The KT Core is hosted by York University’s award winning Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Unit and provides 7 services within the Network:

1- Knowledge Brokering
2- Support for KT Events
3- Support for KT Products
4- KT Capacity Building
5- Evaluating KT
6- Support KT Planning
7- Stakeholder Engagement

A couple of years ago, one of our researchers asked us for guidance for using social media for KT. We realized while searching for what was ‘already out there’ that there are a lot of guides for social media, but not all of them are targeted towards use by researchers. In collaboration with York University’s KMb Unit, we produced our first “Guide of Guides” that is a compilation of carefully selected and vetted guides for social media that are relevant. The “Guide of Guides” format resembles an annotated bibliography, where the reference information is provided for each guide along with a summary paragraph about the tool, how it can be used and why you may wish to use it. The “Social Media Guide of Guides” became the start of a series. This post serves as a “guide” to the “Guide of Guides” series.


Soon after, we produced the “KT Planning Guide of Guides”.

We were doing a search for existing KT planning guides because another project we were working on was to provide KT planning support for 4 key projects within the Network and we wanted to see if there was a tool out there that we could use. What we ended up doing was creating our own, that was specific to our own needs (the Hybrid KT Planning and Project Management tool). However, we had conducted an exhaustive search of existing KT Planning tools so we reviewed and vetted them for quality and relevance, and created a similar “Guide of Guides” for KT Planning.

We received several requests from researchers for support and resources for creating infographics. After searching for existing guides, we realized that surprisingly there weren’t any guides for researchers about infographics, only blog posts. So, we vetted the blog posts, searched the literature and wrote a comprehensive evidence-based guide, followed by an annotated list of what we deemed were the best blog posts on infographics. Some blog posts pointed to examples of infographics, while others explained step by step how to create an infographic and what tools were available (usually free, online) for creating your own. While the content wasn’t really a “Guide of Guides” per se, we titled this product the “Infographic Guide of Guides”. We were fortunate to have one project team pilot test a draft of this guide and provide feedback before it was finalized and posted. This is the first guide that included an appendix with form-fillable fields to help research teams work through the process of creating an infographic.

Finally, we produced a “Stakeholder Engagement Guide of Guides”. There are many guides for doing stakeholder engagement, and it is becoming more important for KBHN to do stakeholder engagement in a more formalized way. After searching, reviewing, and vetting guides available online, we created a similarly formatted “Guide of Guides” for stakeholder engagement that also included a form-fillable appendix to help facilitate planning. Since there are many different reasons (goals/objectives) for engaging with stakeholders and many different formats for doing so, we created a summary table at the beginning of the guide that separates the types of engagement into three tables: mostly sharing information with stakeholders, sharing and listening, and mostly listening. The list of specific formats within each category was visually coded so that the user can easily find the corresponding guide for detailed information.

The KT Core may produce one more “Guide of Guides” on evaluation methods for KT.

How do you do stakeholder engagement to inform research? SE Guide developed by KT Core

by: Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, Kids Brain Health Network (formerly NeuroDevNet)

The Kids Brain Health Network (formerly NeuroDevNet) has focused efforts on stakeholder engagement for informing its future directions.  To aid in the process, the KT Core at York University has developed a Stakeholder Engagement Guide of Guides which is the third in the series (the first was the Social Media Guide of Guides, second was the KT Planning Guide of Guides).

Someone recently asked me, how can you do integrated Knowledge Translation (iKT)? First, we must understand iKT, it “is about:

  • Bringing the creators and users of knowledge together for meaningful engagement;
  • Making users aware of research evidence AND researchers aware of information needs of society;
  • Co-producing knowledge, to increase relevance and likelihood of application of findings.

Knowledge users are:

  • Individuals likely to be able to use research findings to make informed decisions about health policies and practices
  • Policy/decision-makers, clinicians, health professionals, caregivers, patients, industry, not-for-profit, etc.”

CIHR goes on to say that organizations can enable iKT by doing the following:

– use clear and consistent terminology among partners and knowledge users

– plan for increased need for flexibility/time for knowledge user involvement

– take a knowledge-user perspective in designing programs/initiatives, evaluating applications, etc.

– facilitate connections between researchers and knowledge users such as workshops, or online portals

– support capacity building through presentations, creation/sharing of resources

– incorporate iKT into operational templates/frameworks.

If we look at the statement “take a knowledge-user perspective in designing programs…” it can be interpreted to mean that iKT can happen without stakeholder engagement; in this case, the organization would step into their knowledge-user’s shoes, but without asking them directly what they need. However, this does not optimize the iKT approach. In order to maximize the benefit to society, or ‘impact’ of your work, it is necessary to engage with your stakeholders.

There are several methods for engaging with your stakeholders to inform your various activities including research and KT. This blog post introduces the new Stakeholder Engagement Guide of Guides created by the KT Core. The Guide begins with a chart that identifies the range of stakeholder engagement methods based on your goal.  There are three categories: “to tell” (the goal is mainly on providing information), “to tell and listen” (the goal is a mixture of providing information and asking questions of stakeholders/encouraging discussion), and “to listen” (the goal is to ask questions of stakeholders and receive their input either verbally or in written format).  The Guide also contains an annotated bibliography of resources for researchers to be able to engage their stakeholders (whoever is directly or indirectly affected by their work such as: patients, clients, policymakers, frontline workers, etc.) in their projects in a number of ways.

Most of the resources within the SE Guide of Guides recommend similar core elements:

1) Clearly define your goal/craft a purpose statement. Why do you need to engage with your stakeholders? Are you aiming to refine the design of a new research project to more accurately respond to the needs of stakeholders, or are you at the end of a research project and would like to elicit the preferences of your knowledge users for what KT products they can use (e.g. infographic or clear language summary?).

2) State your objectives. What is it exactly, that you would like to accomplish from this activity? The objectives should help you achieve your goal.

3) Map your stakeholders. Who do you need to invite? How will they help you accomplish your goal/objectives?

4) Choose the stakeholder engagement method you will use. Sometimes a survey is good enough, but other times you may need deep discussion and analysis of issues from your stakeholders.  The budget you have allocated for stakeholder engagement will also determine what you can do.

5) Evaluate. Did it work? Did you accomplish your goal/objectives?  Think about what else you want to know. You may also wish to ask a question about preferences for ongoing communication afterwards.

Although stakeholder engagement *isn’t* a research project per se, it should be approached with the same mindset you would apply to a research project in the sense that the method, activities, and questions for your stakeholders that you choose depends on what your goal and objectives are. To do it right is important for building and maintaining meaningful relationships with stakeholders.  By taking the time to plan appropriately, and make sure you are making the best use of everyone’s time, it shows respect to your knowledge users and goes a long way towards building good relationships.  From an iKT perspective, showing stakeholders you have listened to what they have said, and responding to their feedback appropriately through modifications to your work, maximizes the potential uptake and implementation of your work.  This, in turn, will also have impact beyond the individual stakeholders you involved in your specific activities, and broaden the benefit of your work to society.

If you are a KBHN (NeuroDevNet) researcher or trainee and would like help planning your stakeholder engagement activities, please do not hesitate to contact the KT Core.

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

This week’s guest post comes from York University’s ResearchImpact Blog, MobilizeThis! It was first published on April 22, 2016 and is reposted here with permission. 

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

by: David Phipps, KT Lead, NeuroDevNet

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: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/research-uptake-guidance

DFID Research_uptake_guidance figure

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.

 

What do the acronyms TEDx, ASD and iKT have in common?

TedX

Source: What do the acronyms TEDx, ASD and iKT have in common?

This week’s guest post comes from the ASD Mental Health site, Dr. Jonathan Weiss’ Blog. It was first published on April 13, 2016 and is reposted here with permission. 

by Drs. Jonathan Lai & Jonathan Weiss

On Saturday May 28th, the Chair in ASD Treatment and Care Research[1] will be hosting Spectrum, a TEDxYorkUSalon focussing on concerns relevant to transition-age youth and to adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

When the Chair was first launched, we asked stakeholders (e.g. people with ASD, clinicians, family members, policymakers, and researchers) how they wanted to be engaged with, both in terms of what we’re doing, and what was going on in the Canadian field of autism research. The message was clear: we need more than one approach, for multiple types of audiences, including those we already knew as well as those in the autism community we had not yet reached. So how best to develop a dynamic, accessible, and efficient way of exchanging knowledge about autism across so many different perspectives? This is where TEDx comes in.

Our upcoming event is part of our strategy of innovative knowledge mobilization and stakeholder engagement. Since knowledge translation is a learning process among stakeholders with different perspectives and expertise, we have involved people with ASD, parents, researchers, educators, policy makers, and service providers as presenters. The presenters will give short 8-minute talks which will be placed online following the event and made freely accessible to the public.

The well-known and appreciated TED format is all about developing, refining, and sharing ideas in an entertaining way, both for those present in the physical audience, as well as those in a virtual audience who can access the talks worldwide. It’s a format, and a brand, that has tremendous recognition and a demonstrated ability to break down complex knowledge into a format that can appeal to a wide range of audiences: it’s open to everyone. Since our goal is share the knowledge that’s been generated in the Canadian autism community openly, we are creating broadly appealing content that will be available through the TEDx in-person and online platforms. We believe it will be an effective method to bring multiple perspectives together and listen to one another.

How can you plan your own TEDx event?

tedx notepadA TEDx event is not an easy thing to coordinate or one that can be developed in only a few months time. You will need dedicated personnel; we have one person (JL) who is dedicated to coordinating all aspects of the day over a 12 month period, for about one day a week.  Our timeline was as follows, based on our capacity:

Timeline (# months in advance of event date) Task to be completed
10 months Read TEDx guidelines, craft vision and goals
9 months Find a venue and date, have an budget
8 months Curate speakers, identify sponsors and partners
7 months Construct a program (running order)
6 months Form your teams (A/V, volunteers)
5 months Coach speakers (monthly emails, one-on-one sessions)
5 months Build a website (marketing)
2 month Promote to your audience (marketing)

First, craft your vision and goals (10 months ahead of time). It’s important to think through and articulate your vision (how would you define success?) and then identify how you can evaluate whether and to what extent you achieved your goals. Our vision and goals were to: 1) make topics of ASD research accessible, 2) build enthusiasm about research and 3) expand reach globally to people living with ASD, students and service providers. This shaped the types of questions we asked on our evaluation forms. For example, we hope that the TEDxYorkUSalon event will lead to greater excitement, optimism and familiarity about Canadian research in ASD and with regard to how people view ASD more generally. We ask questions about these topics in an optional questionnaire when they register, and will do so again after the event, to measure individual change.

tedx organizer's manualAs you begin this goal setting and visioning process, read the guidelines to know what goals are feasible. The TEDx Organizer’s Manual had many helpful tips and a step-by-step guide on how to organize an event like this properly. Since this is our first time, we had a steep learning curve. There are various guidelines for the different types of events. TEDx licenses are given to people based on location (e.g. TEDxNewYork, TEDxToyko, TEDxUniversityofLeeds, TEDxYorkU) and there are different guidelines for each event type with respect to: the number of attendees, types of sponsorships, branding of the event etc. We decided to run a Salon event under TEDxYorkU – a smaller event run under approved TEDx license holders because it allows us to explore a more specific topic rather than a general theme. Your vision and goals must align with the type of event – as that determines the structure that enables what you can do.

Ultimately it’s crucial to stick with TED’s strictly prescribed format, which can be difficult for us researchers who are used to having full control over the design and execution of our own events. By choosing to go with the TEDx format, it meant letting go of some of that control. We learned that we had to be flexible – working with a brand with licensing guidelines, we had to adapt each time we were constrained by requirements. For instance, we had to ensure the number of presenters and attendees were approved and that sponsors were not related / perceived to influence/bias talk content. Further, we had to figure out how to brand the event properly – the Event webpage couldn’t be associated with our research brand (Chair website, ASDMentalHealth Blog, or even York University). We would encourage on-going communication within your team and those involved so everyone is on the same page.

Tedx audienceLooking for an appropriate venue, we kept in mind not only costs but accessibility for families – as well as technical requirements for our event (e.g. lighting, staging). With the depth and breadth of enthusiastic, passionate Canadian researchers, advocates and parents available, we had no difficulty finding individuals who could fit the TED requirements. Our speakers are up for the challenge, currently being coached to chiselling their passion, knowledge and experience into a tight 8 minutes. Similarly, finding partners and sponsors for the event was not a big challenge. Many organizations that shared the same vision of KT and gladly supported us, including the Faculty of Health at York University, NeuroDevNet, Kerry’s Place, Geneva Centre for Autism, Sinneave Family Foundation, and the Ontario Brain Institute.

We worked with an expert at York University who has successfully run TEDxYorkU over the last few years (Thanks Ross!), building on his success and his wisdom about what’s required in terms of advising speakers, creating an exciting schedule, space and technological issues. NeuroDevNet’s KT Core will be in attendance to engage with stakeholders and capture this engagement on video. Video taping of individual speakers is also being arranged through York University’s Learning Technology Services video team, who have had experience working with TEDxYorkU in the past and were familiar with TEDx guidelines.

Overall, familiarity with TEDx guidelines, building a team (e.g. with sponsors, speakers, technical support) and having consistent communication with those involved within is important to create a successful event. The exchange of ideas and having different perspectives (not just researchers) is, after all, the point of doing iKT!

For more information about this event, and how to register, please visit: http://www.tedxyorkusalon.org/ or contact Dr. Jonathan Weiss (jonweiss@yorku.ca) or Dr. Jonathan Lai (jonlai@yorku.ca) for details.


[1] The Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment and Care Research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in partnership with Autism Speaks Canada, the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance, Health Canada, NeuroDevNet and the Sinneave Family Foundation. Additional support from York University and ORION’s O3 Collaboration.

Seeing the diamond in the rough: “Boaty McBoatface” a KT gem?

by Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

Boaty McBoatfaceThis week, a new $400 million research vessel made national headlines after asking for public input to name it.  The runaway #1 name was “Boaty McBoatface” and was far from the more serious meaningful suggestions the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) had hoped for.  The news reported that the NERC still has the right to decide what to name it – as a KT professional, I am hoping they keep Boaty McBoatface if not for any other reason but to maximize the potential for their KT. [update: as of April 18, 2016 the science minister, Jo Johnson reports te government wants a name that ‘fits the mission’]

I understand the argument not to keep the name: researchers are concerned that their rigorous and important work may not be viewed as credible if the vessel it is carried out with is donned with a name that started out as a joke.  I believe this is a valid concern, however, I would like to offer a different perspective.  As a KT professional, I am aware that KT-conscious researchers, as individuals and, as part of research networks and organizations, are constantly seeking for a way to raise awareness about their work, to create “sticky messages” that audiences will remember.  Indeed, the effectiveness of any KT strategy begins with the ability to raise awareness about the project, the findings, the usefulness and potential application of the work.  While awareness does not guarantee uptake and implementation, if people don’t know about the research, they can’t even consider using it.

Awareness-raising for research projects typically aims to direct attention toward the evidence through dissemination activities such as: conferences, websites, social media.  An integrated knowledge translation approach is based on relationship-building to both inform the research in progress as well as act as a spokesperson to spread the research findings (and hopefully facilitate their uptake and implementation of evidence-informed recommendations into practice and policy).  Researchers, research networks, and organizations promoting evidence-informed decision-making sometimes seek spokespersons who are more broadly recognizable, to be ‘champions’ such as well-known celebrities or athletes.  The reality is, it is very difficult to achieve the desired level of awareness or ‘reach’ of research findings that could maximize uptake and implementation. Capitalizing on the popularity of “Boaty McBoatface” can be an effective means to direct attention to the researchers’ social media channels, websites, for achieving broader awareness of the research evidence.

ECDC antibiotic awareness hedgehogOrganizations have recognized the power of social media and try to create content that will be shared, and go ‘viral’, with the end result being uptake and implementation of their messages.  There is a fine line between ‘gimmicky-ness’ that could reduce credibility and cause people to ignore CDC Zombie Apocalypseit, and something that can go viral while causing effective uptake of evidence-based messages. The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) created a hedgehog mascot to help convey messages about public health.  The United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC) launched a “Zombie Apocalypse” twitter campaign that ended up being so successful it crashed their website from visitors who wanted the information on emergency preparedness.

The NERC’s “name our ship” website crashed this past weekend due to the amount of traffic.  I can only think of this kind of public attention as something positive (for their KT), in fact, it is a rare and unexpected gift to the ocean researchers at its helm.