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 plan and conduct an effective stakeholder consultation: 7 top tips (Part 1)

by: Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

I wanted to write about top tips for conducting a stakeholder consultation because it is so important to do it right in order to maximize your time and financial investment. The people in attendance are willing to give you the greatest gifts you could receive: their time and their wisdom. It is therefore your obligation to carefully construct the event. There have been other blogs written about stakeholder consultation, that you may also find useful, but I wanted to write about tips I have learned through my own experience.  With that, here are my top tips for conducting a stakeholder consultation to inform your research and KT:

start early

Start planning as early as possible

1) Start Early: You need to start planning at least 6-8 months in advance of the date you plan to hold your event. At this stage you should know: why you need to hold a stakeholder consultation including a general sketch of what you need to know from your stakeholders. Once you know this, you should also be able to roughly sketch out the categories and types of stakeholders you need to invite. Starting early is especially important if you plan to invite Chief Medical Officers of Health, as they need this much notice to be able to get it into their calendars.

2) Write a purpose statement: A purpose statement should be broad and should clearly establish the overarching goal of the meeting. Once you know (as in #1) why you need to hold a stakeholder consultation this will be relatively easy. The purpose statement quickly summarizes why you are holding the meeting, but should include information such as: i) what is the nature of the meeting (e.g. ‘…to provide a forum for information exchange and open discussion….’), ii) who will be attending the meeting (e.g. ‘…between public health practitioners and researchers…’), iii) what the outcome of the meeting is intended to be (e.g. ‘…how current knowledge on partner notification could be incorporated into practice and how knowledge gaps could be addressed’). In this way, it gives participants a quick overview of what the meeting will be about and why their input is important toward achieving the meeting’s outcome(s).

Here is an example of a purpose statement:

To provide a forum for information exchange and open discussion between public health practitioners and researchers on how current knowledge on partner notification could be incorporated into practice and how knowledge gaps could be addressed.

Clearly articulate purpose and objectives of the meeting

Clearly articulate purpose and objectives of the meeting

3) Clearly articulate the objectives of the meeting: The objectives should be clearly articulated, and should relate to but be more specific than the purpose statement. It is critical to do this, and early on in the process. The objectives represent the anchor to which the rest of the meeting will be tethered. In other words, the people you invite, the activities you do, the focus questions you ask, will all be informed by what you are trying to achieve. Sadly, I have observed all too often that this step is neglected in favour of brainstorming and deciding on activities which inevitably end up being a mish mash of disconnected “stuff” that rarely results in a useful set of outcomes.   Usually you would have at least 2-3 objectives for the meeting, but you could have up to around 6, 7 or even 8 depending on what you are trying to achieve and how long the meeting is. Here are example objectives that nest under the purpose statement example above:

  • Provide participants with an overview of [organization name/researcher or project team name(s)] partner notification project and findings to date
  • Provide participants with opportunities to exchange information and ideas on partner notification strategies that have been attempted in local public health jurisdictions
  • Identify ways to incorporate knowledge from research and local experience into policy and practice
  • Identify knowledge gaps related to partner notification and ways to address them
  • Identify a potential role and next steps for [organization/researcher or project team name(s)] to facilitate the improvement of partner notification programs in Canada

 

Linking documentation together makes your meeting stronger

Linking documentation together makes your meeting stronger

4) Link all of your documentation: all documents for the meeting including (but not limited to) the meeting agenda, invitation letters, consistent breakout group/report back forms, evaluation forms should repeat the purpose statement and objectives at the top. Before the event, it helps the meeting organizers and planners to ensure activities are aligned with the purpose and help to achieve the meeting’s objectives as these various documents are being drafted and reviewed. At the event, it shows your attendees that you respect their time by having prepared a seamless and well-organized meeting package (the final documents should also be formatted uniformly). It also helps to ground the meeting as it unfolds, and provides a visual reminder to facilitators and participants of the purpose in case the discussion(s) begin to veer off track. It is especially important to ask participants on the evaluation forms how well they believe the meeting achieved its objectives.

5) Draft an agenda before sending out invitations: your invitees will likely have to book time off work or otherwise rearrange their schedules to attend your meeting, so they need to be able to determine whether their attendance can be justified. In many cases they will need to show the agenda to their employer (which is one reason why it is important to state the purpose and objectives at the top of the agenda) in order to gain approval to take leave from the office to be able to attend.

6) Piggyback onto another event: a popular option for conducting a stakeholder consultation is to tack it onto another event such as a conference that you know there is a good chance your stakeholders will be attending. This greatly cuts down on transportation costs, because if you are paying for your participants’ travel expenses all you have to do is pay for an extra hotel night instead of paying for their airfare as well. The only tricky part is that if the conference is not being coordinated by your own organization it can be difficult to gain access to the attendee list. If you don’t know which of your stakeholders will be attending it can make it a little more difficult to extend invitations strategically. However, you can also target local stakeholders in the city where the event is taking place; if you reach out and ask those stakeholders to come to your consultation it doesn’t really matter if they are already attending the other event because there will be no airfare/travel costs for them to attend anyway (the only expense will be food but you would have to provide that anyway).

Have good food at your consultation with stakeholders

Have good food for your stakeholders

7) Have good food: it’s the least you can do to thank people for their attendance, and it makes the day that much more enjoyable for them. Plus, the benefit to you is that your attendees will be able to think/ provide better input for you if they have had enough (and good) food and coffee. I usually ask the venue caterers to leave the coffee/tea and food out (as opposed to coming and picking up the food right after lunch) so people can ‘graze’ if they get hungry or need to be caffeinated throughout the meeting.

If you are a NeuroDevNet researcher or trainee and would like advice on how to plan your stakeholder consultation (or other stakeholder engagement activities), contact the KT Core.

Clear Language That Packs a KT Punch

This week’s blog is written by Stacie Ross, KT Assistant for the KT Core of NeuroDevNet.

NeuroDevNet’s KT Core has been producing our ResearchSnapshot clear language research summaries since 2014. We have 39 ResearchSnapshots posted on the NeuroDevNet site neurodevnet.ca. Responding to feedback from our researchers, we revised our process for clear language writing to take advantage of the expertise of our trainees who are close to the research being summarized.

How We Made a Change

Listening to our researchers allowed us to implement a new process that streamlined and simplified the writing process while at the same time created a ResearchSnapshot that more accurately reflected the original research being summarized. The result will be a more succinct and easy-to-understand review, and trainee writers who have developed clear writing as a new skill and produced clear language research summaries can place these non-academic publications on their CVs. Trainees are encouraged to review our process and think about whether they would like to work with the KT Core, to create a clear language summary of either their own peer-reviewed publication or one from their supervisor.

Revised Process Flow Chart for ResearchSnapshots

Revised Process Created Through Trainee Feedback

The detailed process was designed through a few meetings, incorporating feedback, and testing logistics. The umbrella process without all of the details is really four simple steps for us.

  1. Create an instructional webinar on how to write clear language summaries.
  2. Invite our NeuroDevNet trainees to the webinar/to view it online afterwards.
  3. Put out a network-wide call for papers.
  4. Send regular reminders to the network to submit papers.

On August 14th, 2015, we held a webinar to inform NeuroDevNet trainees about clear language summaries and how to write a ResearchSnapshot. Michael Johnny, Manager of Knowledge Mobilization at York University and Anneliese Poetz, Manager, Knowledge Translation (KT Core) outlined just how important design and clear language are for the reader to be able to understand the science behind the ResearchSnapshot. The webinar was a success with great comments received through an online survey afterwards.

“I liked that I came into it knowing nothing about the topic and not being really sure what to expect, but found that I now understand the importance and function of research snapshots.”

“The webinar was a great opportunity to learn about [NeuroDevNet] and clear language writing.”

We also received some tips on how to improve our next webinar. One example,

“I would have liked to see an example of a good research snapshot and a research snapshot that is not meeting criteria. That would have allowed us to have a clearer understanding of what to strive for and what to avoid.”

We will seek to address this valuable feedback in future training sessions.

As I am new to NeuroDevNet, I enjoyed being a part of the webinar and getting to know the process and clear writing expectations. View the webinar to learn about the value of clear language. I am looking forward to creating many more ResearchSnapshots and contributing clear language summaries that can speak to diverse stakeholders and provide them with the information they need to make decisions, to be informed, to provide care, to access more information.

Dr. Jarred Garfinkle’s ResearchSnapshot, “How Much of Cerebral Palsy is Caused by Genetics,” will be a clear language summary of Dr. Maryam Oskoui’s publication, “Clinically relevant copy number variations detected in cerebral palsy.” This will be my first ResearchSnapshot that I have coordinated. The draft is in, it’s terrific, and the process has been smooth and simple thus far. With the support of the online webinar, the existing ResearchSnapshots for reference, the knowledge mobilization writing guide, and myself and the entire KT Core, bringing evidence into practice is proving to be efficient and effective and exciting!

If you are a NeuroDevNet researcher or trainee and have a peer-reviewed publication you’d like to translate into a ResearchSnapshot clear language research summary, contact the KT Core.

Embedded KT Support within Project Teams – working the “Co-Produced Pathway to Impact” for NeuroDevNet NCE

by Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

In a recent blog post we told you about the development of a “Hybrid” tool that combines aspects of KT Planning with principles of project management. While this tool is appropriate for use by any researcher or trainee, we primarily developed it for use by NeuroDevNet’s 4 High Impact Projects (HIPs). The HIPs were chosen from existing NeuroDevNet research projects after the Research Management Committee directed that NeuroDevNet focus on 4-5 projects that had the “highest potential for creating impacts on diagnostics, interventions and services” during Cycle II. The idea is that by working closely with a small number of projects we can maximize the chances we will have specific examples of how we have achieved impact during Cycle II, to best position NeuroDevNet for Cycle III renewal. The process took several months, and began with a call to PIs to ask them to select projects within their programs that would fit the criteria to become a HIP. The KT Core made recommendations and the final High Impact Projects were approved by Dan Goldowitz, Scientific Director for NeuroDevNet.

Social ABCs High Impact Project Team members meeting with KT Core.

Social ABCs (ASD) High Impact Project Team members meeting with KT Core.

We provided the 4 HIPs with the Hybrid tool to use for drafting their KT plans for the next 5 years (Cycle II for NeuroDevNet). Over the course of this summer, David Phipps (KT Lead, NeuroDevNet) and I met with 3 out of the 4 HIP project teams for 1.5-2 days in-person to review their KT Plan with them and collaboratively refine it as needed.

This is exciting for NeuroDevNet’s KT Core, because it is the first time there have been KT practitioners (KT supports within an organization) embedded within project teams in this way. The information gathered within the Hybrid KT Planning tool will provide the information needed to manage the timelines and milestones for these KT plans during Cycle II. The aim is to work with project teams so that by the time we write our application for Cycle III funding we will have concrete examples of impact.

Screening & Intervention (FASD) High Impact Project team members working on KT Plan with NeuroDevNet's KT Core

Screening & Intervention (FASD) High Impact Project team members working on KT Plan with NeuroDevNet’s KT Core

The first meeting we attended was for a project in the ASD program called Social ABCs, the next was for the FASD program’s Screening & Intervention project, and finally the CP Program’s Exergame project. The first two were more focused on KT activities toward achieving uptake and implementation of their respective interventions into programs that serve children and families affected by ASD and/or FASD while the latter is more focused on commercialization of the Exergame technology and games for home use. In all meetings, the project team members (researchers, research support staff, practitioners/partners etc.) were fully engaged and commented afterwards about how useful this process has been for them: both the tool we provided and the in-person meetings.

As part of the process we are listening to project team members for their feedback on the Hybrid KT planning tool in order to inform future iterations. After the in-person meetings the KT Core continues to work with the HIPs to further refine and finalize their KT plan, and also to determine the best ways in which we can integrate with project teams and support their KT goals for Cycle II. We view this as an iterative process, and we will review these KT plans on an annual basis with follow up in-person meetings with project teams.

These HIPs are pilot projects – the KT Core remains available to help all NeuroDevNet projects with KT Planning and other KT services.

If you are a NeuroDevNet researcher or trainee and would like help with your KT plan for a grant application or for your already-funded NeuroDevNet project(s) contact the KT Core to find out how we can help.

5 tips for writing the KT section of your research grant application

grant writing pen page

by Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

1. Don’t over-cite KT literature – cite some relevant KT literature, and describe one framework but choose one that makes sense for your research-to-impact goals. But resist the urge to over-cite the KT literature in place of describing your KT plan. Dazzling the funder with your knowledge about what frameworks are out there is not going to impress them. Instead, tell them what you are going to do to help maximize the chances that people will use your research findings.

2. Write your research proposal first – Some researchers try to write their KT plan in parallel with their research proposal. However, your KT plan depends on what you are going to do for your research. For example, the audiences you choose and the strategies you use to reach them depend on what your project is about and what you hope will happen with those findings. When you contact the KT Core for help, send us your full proposal, along with the link to the application requirements to ensure we have the information we need to provide you with the best service.

Scientist Money beaker

3. Budget appropriately for your KT activities – you can have a most impressive KT plan, but you also need to allocate an appropriate portion of your budget to be able to follow through. If you have no idea what certain activities may cost (or how much time they will take to do) contact the KT Core.

4. Think beyond dissemination – it is common for researchers to primarily think about publications and conference presentations as KT. While they are end-of-grant KT, they are not enough to impress a funder. Tell them about how you will engage with your stakeholders early on and throughout the project (integrated knowledge translation) and describe how you believe this will maximize the chances that your research will be taken up into practice, implemented, and eventually achieve impact.

5. Get creative – it is okay to propose to do KT activities that have been done before, such as producing clear language summaries, infographics and videos. But what else can you do that will make sense for your project? For example, can you hold a community event? Can you use an arts-based approach such as a play or a hands-on community workshop? Get creative! Brainstorm with your research team to think about how (and how many different ways) you can get the main messages of your research to your target audience(s).

If you would like help with the KT planning section of your research grant application, contact the KT Core to see how we can help.

What happens when KT Planning and Project Management worlds collide?

by Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

PinkYellowDropsInWaterThe answer: you get a hybrid tool for researchers to use for developing a KT plan with activities that are linked with the elements of a project charter.

The dictionary defines “hybrid” as: “a thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.”

NeuroDevNet’s KT Core recently finalized the creation of a new innovative tool for combining KT Planning with principles from the field of project management. Indeed, it is a ‘mixture’ of elements from both. Someone asked me recently: why did you create the Hybrid KT Planning and Project Management tool (short form: ‘the Hybrid tool’). NeuroDevNet NCE was renewed for another 5 years of funding (Cycle II), and we needed a tool that could be used for any project, that would help us manage KT plans for projects in Cycle II and help keep them on track. We believe that doing this will position us well for applying for Cycle III.

Another person asked me, what was your process for creating the Hybrid tool?

1) Identified a need for a custom tool to facilitate KT Planning for NeuroDevNet’s Cycle II projects after conducting a review of existing KT Planning guides and testing them internally to determine their usefulness

2) Based on the review of KT Planning Guides, we chose 2 key tools to build upon: 1) Melanie Barwick’s (Sick Kids) 13-step Scientist Knowledge Translation Plan template for its comprehensiveness, and 2) Purmina Sundar’s (Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health) form-fillable KMb Toolkit for its ease of use and content, as well as 6 different examples of project charters provided by colleagues

3) Identified areas of overlap (e.g. people involved, identification of activities/deliverables) and linked these with corresponding sections of project charters. I literally pulled these resources apart and put them back together in a different arrangement

4) Composed original text for the purpose of providing additional information (e.g. tips for stakeholder engagement as part of an iKT strategy) and tables that mirror those required for NCE progress reporting

5) Identified places in the document where information would have to be duplicated, and noted where .pdf form-fillable document should auto-populate the information to make it easier for project teams to work with

6) Once the word document was drafted, it was shared with Principal Investigators, NeuroDevNet Headquarters, the KT Core’s KT Steering Committee, and the KT Core’s McMaster and McGill sites for feedback

7) Finalized content in response to feedback and sent to graphic designer who created the working form-fillable version

I recently presented at a KT Conference, and explained some of the requirements of our researchers and how we addressed them before finalizing the Hybrid tool. In the presentation below, you can see the requirements we gathered (from stakeholders listed in step 5 above) and how we addressed them. The presentation ends with a few points as to why we think this tool is important:

We wish to thank Melanie Barwick (Sick Kids) and Purnima Sundar (OCE CYMH) for giving us permission to use content from their KT Planning tools.

The Hybrid tool has been peer-reviewed, and tested for functionality. It is not available online yet, but we do plan to make it publicly available.

If you are a NeuroDevNet researcher or trainee and would like to use the Hybrid tool for your KT Planning, contact the KT Core.

What is Social Media & Where to Start?

KTsocialmediaguidepdf

Blog post by:  Isaac Coplan, @neurodevnetkt

The KT Core has produced a new resource for NeuroDevNet researchers and trainees, referred to as the social media “guide of guides”. It is the newest addition to our collection of KT Tools that we feature on the NeuroDevNet Website. It is an annotated bibliography of the best and most applicable published guides for researchers to “do KT” for their research.

Starting to use social media for Knowledge Translation can be overwhelming, especially for busy researchers who are not familiar with social media and who might not see the value of it for dissemination and stakeholder engagement. Indeed, a simple Google search will result in a large number of articles, blogs and websites that promise to direct you on how to start. Many of them charge money for unnecessary programs or services related to social media– and few are directly related to KT. Before I began my position as KT Coordinator with NeuroDevNet, Krista Jensen (of the York University Knowledge Mobilization Unit) and Elle Seymour (former KT Coordinator, NeuroDevNet) had conducted a search and narrowed them down to the top guides. I was happy to help finalize the guide and organized them from guides targeted at the beginner level to more advanced levels.

Our “guide of guides” begins with a section that explains the value of social media for researchers, for KT purposes and organizes the guides reviewed into several other sections:

Why use social media?

Planning & Strategic Social Media Guides

Advanced resources, metrics and tools for measuring social media reach           

While social media is certainly transforming the way that information is viewed, communicated and shared it isn’t necessarily making these processes simple. Social media requires planning – and for more complex strategies, can require designated staff. If you are beginning to use social media – you may be curious about how it has helped researchers with KT. The first section “Why use social media?” provides links and useful annotations to a variety of resources. This can provide you with initial push to start thinking about social media and answer some of your questions about why researchers use different platforms. Another example of how this guide may be used, is if there is a researcher who connects with people online, but hasn’t started thinking about social media strategically. The “Planning & Strategic Social Media Guides” section has resources that will help you move from a casual social media user – to a more strategic user. The final section “Advanced resources, metrics and tools for measuring social media reach” looks at tools that can provide you with more advanced thinking on social media. The guides in this section cover topics such as tracking research, reach of your social media channels and  data visualization.

Overall- there are many advantages to social media use by researchers – one of the overarching benefits is the number of people that are now using social media regularly, which means the number of stakeholders that can be reached in this way by researchers is also greater. These stakeholders include: researchers from institutions around the world, mainstream media, research networks, non-profit organizations, community organizations, health care institutions, government offices and education institutions from most of the world to name a few.

Click

This guide is a good reference for researchers and trainees who want to start using social media for KT. If you are a researcher/trainee and already using social media, you can use the more advanced guides referenced in this “guide of guides” in order to approach social media more strategically. Social media doesn’t have to be mystical – these guides can help you.

If you are a NeuroDevNet researcher or trainee we can help you learn how to use social media for KT, or help you advance your existing strategy, contact the KT Core!

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.

Does an attractive presentation make you less credible? 5 myths about academic presentations

by Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

I have attended more presentations, academic and non-academic, than I can count. The most memorable were the ones that used slides containing attractive graphics, photos and little text, supplemented by story-telling; in fact, some of them I remember vividly even several years later. I recently worked with a scientist on powerpoint slides for a very important presentation. After rendering the slides to be more graphic and less text-heavy, this person was worried that they’d be perceived as less credible as a scientist by their peers. As a scientist, presenter, and audience member it had never occurred to me that giving (or attending) such a presentation could be a bad thing.

This made me wonder, how many other scientists are out there who think the same way? If this is a popular belief, it might explain a lot – text-heavy slides (death by bullets), often intermingled with complicated un-readable diagrams crammed onto a slide seem to be the norm in academia. There are exceptions, including Dr. SidneyEve Matrix of Queen’s University.

If you are one of these academics, let me dispel some myths right now:

Creating visually appealing slides is both an art and a science.

Creating visually appealing slides is both an art and a science.

1) Scientists, including your peers, are human beings too. As such, they appreciate visuals just as anyone else would. Slides that do not help you make the point that you are talking about should either a) be removed, or b) reworked to be more visually appealing. How do I know this, you might ask? I am a scientist myself and I have attended a broad range of presentations both good and bad. Put yourself in their shoes – how would you feel if you had to hear your own presentation as it is right now?

2) Being a good presenter with good (or no) slide filled with bullet pointsslides as an aid does not reduce your credibility as a scientist. In fact, what does reduce your credibility is having slide after slide of bullet points that you need to read to the audience – this is what we refer to in Knowledge Translation as “death by bullets”. Slides should be thought of as a visual supplement that is primarily for the audience’s benefit, to help you make your point using visuals that are related to what you are talking about.

3) You don’t have to tell them every detail in your presentation. Cramming your slides full of tables with all the stats, margins of error, etc. is not going to help if your audience can’t read it. Ask yourself, what is the point of what I am trying to say here? Choose the most important piece(s) of information you need from that and find a way to graphically represent it on your slide to help you make your point (using the rule of thumb: one slide per point you are trying to make). For example, if you are trying to say that a trend is increasing – create a visual (graph) that shows that, with large clear labels and graphics. If you are showing that one percentage is higher than the rest, create a bar graph to show how these measures compare with the rest (so people can instantly see that the one percentage is larger than the rest, backing up what you are saying about it), don’t put a table of percentages that people have to “work” (study) to understand. The place to provide detailed explanations is a) during the question/answer period and b) in your published scientific papers.

Iceberg analogy for content on slide4) Breaking your bullet points into one-slide-per-point-you-are-making (with a picture) does not make your presentation time longer. The “one slide per minute of talking” rule is misleading. I think it is a disservice for you to be taught this in grad school – if you follow the advice in #1 to create more visually appealing slides, this requires you to take each bullet and put it on its own slide with a picture that helps you make your point. Whether you click to the next bullet point or the next slide takes the same amount of time. Similarly, you may have one engaging slide up for several minutes while you tell a story that relates to the photo on it. So let go of the old-school rule that you gauge the length of your presentation by how many slides you have. At the end of the day, whatever the number of slides you end up with, you also need to practice and make sure you time out properly – but ensuring you stay within the allotted time for your presentation should not set the limit for the number of slides you use.

5) The slides are for the benefit of your audience, not you. I believe the reason why many (poor) presenters read their slides is because they believe the slides are for their own benefit. When I was a kid, I had to write and present a speech each year, and we were allowed to have cue-cards in our hands but we were not allowed to read from them. The bullet points on the cue cards were for the purpose of reminding us what to say next if we forgot. Many presenters use powerpoint as though the slides are cue-cards that the audience can see. In this way, the presenter has made the slides for their benefit, without thinking much about the audience. By creating visually engaging slides it still benefits the presenter by reminding them what they were going to talk about next, and shows you care about the audience by making it easy for them to get the point of what you are saying.

As part of its suite of services, NeuroDevNet’s KT Core provides advice and consultation on how to create engaging presentations.  Contact the KT Core for tips, tools, and/or advice on a slide deck you are currently preparing about your research findings.

 

Critical Considerations for doing Stakeholder Engagement for Research

by Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

When I began my PhD studies in 2003 it was before terms like “Integrated Knowledge Translation” (IKT) and “Co-Produced Research” were common. In my graduate program people would joke about how their predecessors had placed a $10 bill in their dissertations only to return to the library years later to discover it was still there – nobody had read it. Wow, all that time, money and effort wasted on something that would never be used – I didn’t find it funny at all. I really wanted my research to be used, so after I crafted my research questions I went and talked to the people who I imagined would use my research: CEOs, government regulatory agencies, industry. I also attended their conferences and listened for what were the issues that were important to them. As a result of this new understanding about my end-user’s needs, I changed 80% of my research questions because I realized I was asking the wrong ones. The result was my research was found interesting and useful by those end-users that I had consulted. I completed my research in 2010, and emailed the first of 3 papers I published to the President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (Dr. Michael Binder). I received this email response on January 22, 2011 “Very interesting study. I have the taken the liberty of circulating to staff at CNSC. Thanks for sharing”. The results of my research which recommended ongoing stakeholder engagement, resulted in Bruce Power’s creation of several social media channels such as twitter and a community blog in 2011, and a facebook page in 2014 (I checked with an employee at Bruce Power who confirmed that these avenues for stakeholder engagement represented uptake of my research results).

It is important to involve a diverse range of stakeholders in any consultation or stakeholder engagement activity

It is important to involve a diverse range of stakeholders in any consultation or stakeholder engagement activity

Now, over a decade later, this kind of involvement of end-users including policy- and decision-makers has become a requirement of funding agencies such as CIHR. This is an important overall paradigm shift: from research that is done in isolation with no consultation or thought about who will actually use the research and whether what you are doing will be relevant to them, to a more responsive approach that is intended to meet the needs of decision-makers including practitioners. In the field of Knowledge Translation we call this “stakeholder engagement” (a stakeholder is anyone who will be directly or indirectly affected by decisions made based on your research findings).

There are several researchers who are doing stakeholder engagement. For the past several years NeuroDevNet’s Neuroethics Core has been conducting workshops and other in-person events to engage their diverse stakeholders (such as health care providers, researchers, patient advocacy groups) in their research, so that they can be responsive to their needs.  NeuroDevNet’s FASD project has engaged stakeholders in the development of their “Strongest Families” research project. Customization of the course material was achieved through phone interviews with clinicians (specializing in FASD) and families and the program is based on the needs they articulated.
And that is the key to stakeholder engagement – being responsive to the needs of your stakeholders including end-users. Stakeholder engagement can include regular in-person meetings, dialogue through social media, or other forms of communication such as teleconferences or online meetings.

If you are not prepared to be responsive to stakeholder input, then don’t engage your stakeholders. Be honest with yourself – are you prepared to change your research questions, methodological

If you don't plan to listen and respond (by adapting your research questions and/or methodology) according to what your stakeholders are telling you, don't ask for their input

If you don’t plan to listen and respond (by adapting your research questions and/or methodology) according to what your stakeholders are telling you, don’t ask for their input

approach, etc. based on input from your stakeholders? If you are not prepared to be flexible and responsive throughout the research process, then don’t ask for input. You will do more harm than good – it will cause irreparable damage to the relationship. People will feel used, and it will create distrust, conflict (which includes avoidance and refusal to use your research in decision-making), and ultimately the usefulness of your research findings will not be maximized.

Be responsive to the system in which your research occurs
The field of KT is now recognizing the importance of the entire system. If stakeholder engagement is considered “Integrated Knowledge Translation”, and IKT occurs within a system, then you as a researcher also need to be responsive to changes to the various levels of the ‘system’ in which you are doing your research. Changes to the system include: new research discoveries, new diseases, new technologies, news in another part of the world, new legislation and regulations…you get the idea.

Keys to effective stakeholder engagement summarized:
1) Make people feel valued by sincerely listening to their input, keeping them informed about the progress of the research, and closing the loop at the end of the project.

2) Use different forms of stakeholder engagement – in-person meetings are best but you can use social media to expand your networks beyond what is possible in-person, as well as to keep in touch with people in between meetings.

3) Involve diverse stakeholders especially end-users in your research design, and be prepared to be responsive to their input even if the research is already in-progress.

The main message is: successful knowledge translation occurs as a result of trust (in the source of the information being used to base policy and practice decisions on) which is a result of good relationships and ongoing relationship building. This requires several levels of flexibility and openness as a researcher. If you sincerely want your research to be useful, good stakeholder engagement is the way.

The KT Core is building networks via social media (LinkedIn, facebook, twitter) and will be leading a cross-jurisdictional cross-Network in-person stakeholder consultation in year 6. If you are a NeuroDevNet researcher, trainee or partner and need help with in-person or online stakeholder engagement for your individual project(s), contact the KT Core for tools and advice.