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.

 

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.

Who’s got the power? A critical consideration of citizen participation in research

by: Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

It is common for KT activities to be limited to dissemination of KT products such as research summaries, infographics or research reports/articles. Sometimes these products are created without consulting the stakeholders who represent the intended target audience, and what is typically measured and reported on is the numbers of these products distributed.  Dissemination is necessary, but usually not sufficient, to create impacts from research.

The two main approaches to Knowledge Translation are end-of-grant (dissemination) and integrated Knowledge Translation (stakeholder engagement/consultation). The evidence on successful KT has demonstrated that iKT approaches are more successful at creating impact. When I think about iKT I am reminded of the topic of my PhD dissertation which focused on a process analysis of a stakeholder consultation approach for informing government decision-making.  One of the frameworks I cited in my literature review was Arnstein’s (1969) ladder of citizen participation in community decision-making within the context of the ‘broader power structures in society’.  Arnstein’s (1969) ladder of citizen participation ranges from one extreme to the other, at one end citizens have all the power and at the other end they have no power at all.  Citizen power is sub-divided into “citizen control, delegated power, and partnership” (citizens have all/greater power) while tokenism is represented as “placation, consultation, informing” and non-participation in community decision-making is referred to as “therapy and manipulation” (non-participation, no power).

Figure 1. Arnstein's ladder of citizen participation

Figure 1. Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation

An iKT approach is important for maximizing the uptake and implementation of research, toward impact. Recently, I found myself wondering how Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation could map onto a research decision-making context.  For example, when a researcher takes an iKT approach to their work, they inform their research questions, methodology, KT products (type, key messages, delivery method, etc), workshops and other activities (toward moving their research findings into uptake and implementation) by using information about their stakeholders’ needs as a result of careful observation (of stakeholders as well as the current state of society, industry, government etc.) and listening to stakeholders.  However, as the subject matter and research process expert, the Principal Investigator/researcher (has to) use discretion in terms of how, where, and why stakeholder input contributes to the overall design and execution of their research (assuming stakeholders are non-researchers).  In this way, it is unrealistic to expect that citizens/stakeholders should be given complete control.  Even if stakeholders are researchers themselves, the Principal Investigator (PI) of the project has obligations (for example) to the funder of their research to reasonably deliver what was promised in their initial grant proposal.  In this way, the PI can be viewed as having more power than their stakeholders in terms of the research process.

However, in order for planned KT activities to result in successful uptake, implementation and impact of research, stakeholders need to feel that: they have been heard and their input is valued; their (information and other) needs are being met by the research project; the KT product(s) created will be useful/helpful to them and/or their clients.  In this way, stakeholders have potentially tremendous influence over the PI’s ability to achieve change through their research output(s). Persuading successful partnership engages stakeholders so that research can, should (and will, if possible given their organization’s capabilities) be used in practice and policy.  Often, they must surmount potential barriers such as stakeholders’ experiential (and other) knowledge, values and job descriptions as well as political and financial restrictions.

According to Arnstein’s ladder taking an integrated approach to KT helps to shift the power from researchers toward stakeholders, and into the “partnership” stage during which both stakeholders and researchers (PIs) redistribute power.  Stakeholders become more open to using research in practice and PIs become more able (through understanding stakeholder needs) to make the necessary adjustments to their research and KT approaches to enable uptake and implementation by these stakeholders.

It is reasonable then to say that effective, integrated KT takes place at the “partnership” level of Arnstein’s ladder.

Webinar on social media for knowledge mobilization/Knowledge Translation

by: Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, NeuroDevNet

This past week on Wednesday January 27, 2016 NeuroDevNet’s KT Core hosted a one hour interactive webinar entitled “Social Media for Knowledge Mobilization” featuring KT Core Lead, Dr. David Phipps. David has been blogging since 2008 and is active on Twitter and LinkedIn as well (@researchimpact 6,950 followers, ResearchImpact Linked In group 550 members, Mobilize This! blog www.researchimpact.ca/blog over 150,000 views from 149 countries).  This was an event offered to NeuroDevNet researchers and trainees, and drew 33 participants.  Topics covered included: the benefits of using social media, how to build a social media strategy, selecting which social media platforms to use, and how to name and design your profile.  The slides are available on the NeuroDevNet slideshare account:

For those who were unable to attend the live event, the recording is available on the NeuroDevNet YouTube Channel:

A link to the KT Core’s publication, the “Social Media Guide of Guides” was provided as a resource for those interested in learning more about how to use KT for dissemination and stakeholder engagement. The Social Media Guide of Guides is an annotated bibliography of the most relevant resources for researchers to learn how to use social media for professional purposes, and is arranged from beginner to advanced.

 The event evaluation (n=15) yielded very positive results. In sum:

-100% of respondents said they would use the knowledge they gained from the webinar

-On a scale from 0 (poor) -100 (Excellent), David was rated at an average of 93.3% as a presenter

-On a scale from 0 (poor) -100 (Excellent), David’s knowledge about the use of social media for knowledge translation was rated at an average of 94.07%

-Participants reported that on a scale of 0 (Not at all) -100 (A lot), their knowledge about the use of social media for KT has increased by an average of 70.27%

Participants said the best part of the webinar was:

“The interactive component (e.g. questions, polls)”

“David’s knowledge, presentation skills, and responses to questions”

“Providing the information online during the webinar but the file to download after to read further”

“Breaking down how to think of strategy and selecting the right tools to reach objectives”

“I found the entire presentation very helpful. I really benefitted from the portion on how to determine which social media avenues to pursue as well as how to increase traffic to your channel.”

When participants were asked about the things they learned in this webinar that they will apply/do, they said:

“Look at the guide of guides!”

“Streamline my use of social media for KT based on the suggestions.”

“Get on twitter. Make a plan.”

“Finding which channels have traffic and becoming active in the current conversation as opposed to waiting for people to find us.”

“Write a little more confidently on KT initiatives for funding applications.”

Requests for future webinar topics included (in no particular order):

– Intro to using twitter

– Specifics regarding research blogs, twitter, facebook page that is relevant to target audience including concrete examples of the use of some popular social media for dissemination

– Tips and tricks (e.g. optimal times during the day that you should post/tweet)

– Writing KT plans for grant applications: what to include and what to avoid

If you are a NeuroDevNet researcher or trainee and would like a consultation about the use of social media for knowledge mobilization/translation, or if you have a suggestion for a future webinar topic or tool (such as a guide) that we could create to help you in your work, please 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.