Knowledge Translation (KT) is an attitude before it is a process

by Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

CollageOfWordMagnetsIf you search for KT models in the literature, you will find several ‘models’ for how KT should ideally happen. Many are comprised of a complex configuration of boxes, arrows, 3-D cone shapes to show the ‘process’ for doing KT (mostly end-of-grant KT). As a result of my PhD work, I developed a KT model that is grounded in the qualitative data I collected, that shows how KT actually happens in complex decision-making systems (for integrated-knowledge translation and end-of-grant KT). I also know that some develop their own model for describing and guiding the process for doing KT in their specific organization. But one thing is true no matter what model or context you are operating within: before you can effectively utilize any model or process for doing KT the people involved have to have the right attitude. If they don’t, even the ‘best’ KT process/model in the universe won’t be effective.

So what is the right attitude? You have to really want to do KT. That’s it.

Below is certainly not an exhaustive list but it gives you the idea.  For:

Hmmm1) Researchers (graduate students to established researchers): you have to sincerely want your research to be useful and used. You need to think at the outset of your research “who will actually find this research useful as I have proposed it?” and go talk to some of them, tell them what you are planning to do and be responsive to their feedback. Being responsive means being willing to change some or all of your research questions in order to make sure your research will answer the questions they have – this is also called addressing gaps in knowledge/evidence.

However, having the right attitude towards ‘end-of-grant KT’ (dissemination) is different than having the right attitude towards ‘integrated knowledge translation’. If you involve these and other diverse stakeholders in the research process, this is called ‘co-production’ and is the most effective way to achieve uptake, implementation and ultimately impact of your research.

If you do these things, you will have maximized the chances your research will useful and used.

CPDecisionMaker_MobileAnalysisLab2) Decision-makers: you have to sincerely want to make evidence-informed decisions and you have to have the organizational support to do so. Decision-makers include practitioners such as frontline staff such as nurses, doctors/clinicians, occupational therapists etc. (since they make several decisions during the course of their work day) as well as program managers (since they make policies, decisions about program components, therapies offered, intake criteria for potential clients which includes assessment and diagnosis) and hospital (and other) CEOs.

3) Organizations: Most people I’ve met are sincerely interested in making decisions based on the latest science. However, they face barriers such as: lack of time to read/absorb journal articles and limited access to journals. Other barriers could include organizational policies and procedures that require things to be done in a certain way, financial (limited resources), political (community/public pressure), and client/patient preferences (for example, treatment options).

So, individuals need to have the right attitude towards KT, but even then the organization has to facilitate this with its own expression of attitude toward KT evidenced by investing in the necessary structure and supports. For example: facilitating access to scientific journals and providing staff with paid time to get up to speed on the latest research (e.g. time to read literature, meet with researchers, attend conferences, attend stakeholder consultations being led by a researcher as part of their IKT, etc.).

Perhaps more importantly, organizations (including governments) that are willing and able to make the effort to stand up to political pressure by making the right decision as supported by the evidence instead of the decision that is popular in the community demonstrate a strong attitude toward evidence-informed decision making.

InsiteTrustTheEvidenceAn example of this can be found in the history of the supervised injection facility in Vancouver called Insite. After a long battle over community (mis)perceptions about the impact it would have, Insite has provided much evidence to show its positive impact on the health of the community, the individuals who attend the clinic, and savings to the health care system.


If you are a NeuroDevNet researcher or trainee and need help developing a KT plan (our KT planning service) or finding key stakeholders to consult with or involve in your research (our brokering service), contact the KT Core. In addition to brokering relationships we can offer tools/guides, advice, and review of your KT Plan for end-of-grant and integrated KT.

Reflections on my time as NeuroDevNet’s KT Coordinator

IMG_4781by Elle Seymour, KT Coordinator, NeuroDevNet

I will always think back on my time with NeuroDevNet with fondness and a great amount of respect for the people I have worked with and the things I have learned. When the KT Core moved to York, I was fortunate enough to become their new Coordinator. When I started this job I knew there would be a steep learning curve as I had never practiced KT before. This was made much easier by my manager, Anneliese Poetz, who also became a great mentor to me. Anneliese is extremely knowledgeable about KT and when you combine Anneliese and David (Phipps) you certainly have a tour de force on your hands. I worked closely with both Anneliese and David and cannot overstate how much I have learned from them. Apart from KT knowledge, Anneliese is a skilled videographer and has a knack for the visual arts and a love of puns. David’s passion for KT comes across whenever you talk to him and this passion makes him not only an expert on the subject but someone who motivates you to excel in your position.

I have always believed that you learn more from your challenges than your failures and there were certainly a few growing pains this year. At the time, these may have felt like failures, however, the wealth of information we gained has most certainly made it all worth it. One of the major challenges we faced this year was the Research Snapshot project. From technical to production aspects there seemed to always be a new problem. All of these problems turned into great lessons and I can move forward with the knowledge that every difficulty we experienced we overcame. Practice does in fact make perfect and I am happy and proud to have been part of the KT Core during this process and helping to finalize the first Research Snapshots for NeuroDevNet.

There were certainly a few surprises along the way and one of these was the fact that KT principles are easily transferrable. Previously I had thought that I would need to learn science-specific KT tools and techniques but this was not the case and I learned that much of KT is transferrable across a range of disciplines. Another surprise I encountered was how much I would grow to respect and love KT, in my opinion it is vastly underappreciated. Luckily, there are practitioners such as Anneliese and David who see the bigger picture and are willing to use KT to keep working towards a more impactful future.

I will miss this position as it has taught me so much and I feel as if there was a good mix of practical and theoretical as we were able to brainstorm how to solve problems and then apply the various solutions we had chosen. This meant that I did not feel alienated from the products the KT Core created and instead was involved in every step of the process. I feel as if the field of KT allows more room for creativity than many other disciplines which is refreshing to see in the current job market. What’s next in store for me? I am hoping to continue working in KT in London (UK) as I still feel as if I have a lot to learn and contribute. I am also considering the possibility of pursuing a PhD. What comes next is uncertain, however, I am absolutely convinced that whatever career path I pursue this position has left a lasting and positive impact on me. It has given me a new perspective on community engagement and research and I believe it will strongly influence and shape my future work.