An Overview of Knowledge Translation

An Overview of Knowledge Translation

Chris Groeneboer, Monika Whitney
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch475
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Knowledge translation (KT) was traditionally framed as a problem of moving research results into policy and practice. The impetus for the flow of knowledge originated with researchers constructing new knowledge and seeing its utility, or with policymakers and administrators seeing problems in practice and looking to researchers for solutions. In the 1970s, a shift in focus away from knowledge use was exemplified by Caplan’s (1979) two-communities theory, which posits that researchers and policymakers comprise two different communities with two different languages (Jacobson, Butterill, & Goering, 2003). A shift back to knowledge use with a new focus on user-centered design is evident in more recent KT models that provide frameworks for researcher and user interaction in order to build better understanding between diverse groups. The flow of knowledge from its construction in one context to its use in another context has been variously termed knowledge translation, knowledge exchange, knowledge transfer, research transfer, technology transfer, knowledge transformation, knowledge dissemination, knowledge mobilization, knowledge utilization, and research utilization. The terms are often used synonymously, but a specific term is sometimes used because it highlights a particular component of the knowledge flow process. For example, knowledge exchange implies a sharing of information between partners of equal value and focuses on the movement of knowledge between them, whereas research utilization implies the transformation of research results into usable knowledge and focuses on embedding the usable knowledge in practice. Information technologies have the potential to support knowledge translation in powerful ways. Key processes in the translation of knowledge include: (1) knowledge creation, management, and dissemination; (2) recognition of links between existing knowledge and its potential application to problems or practice; (3) translation into usable knowledge in practice; and (4) change in practice. Information technologies are a natural solution for these knowledge translation processes. For example, group and social software such as blogs and wikis support collaborative construction and sharing of knowledge; knowledge management systems support capture, storage, accessibility, and maintenance of constructed knowledge; and most Internet-based technologies support dissemination of information. Well-designed virtual communities provide online environments for the kinds of human interaction that enable collaborative exploration of ideas, that foster recognition of potential links between existing knowledge and its application to solve problems or change practice, and that inspire people to transform their practice. Data mining and artificial intelligence techniques can be used to enhance identification of potential links between knowledge in one context and problems in another context.
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A variety of approaches to knowledge translation have been developed, most focusing on the interaction of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to move research results into practice. KT is not inherently unidirectional (research to practice), and Lavis et al. (2001) have argued that researcher-user interaction should become standard practice in research contexts, not simply an add-on. This practice has the potential to open new communication channels from knowledge constructed in practice to new research questions and hypotheses. The five models described below demonstrate a variety of KT approaches in use, from a national initiative to a framework for individual researchers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Linker: A person who facilitates the translation of knowledge from one context to another by bridging ideas and people in different domains. A key role is in recognizing a link between knowledge constructed in one context and its potential translation into usable knowledge in another context.

Blog: Short form of Web log , a chronology-based Web application for sharing information and commenting on the shared information. It is usually organized around a particular topic with most-recent entries displayed at the top. It is sometimes used as an online personal diary in which the owner posts entries and invites others to comment.

Applied Knowledge: Knowledge constructed in one context, often a research context, and translated to another context to solve a problem or improve practice. Applied knowledge is distinguished from theoretical or abstract knowledge and implies practical use.

Adoption: The process by which practitioners accept new knowledge translated from research results and transform their personal practice to incorporate the translated knowledge.

Knowledge Construction: The creation of knowledge, typically using the paradigm(s) of the community in which the knowledge builder is situated.

Wiki: A resource-based Web application that supports collaborative creation of content.

Knowledge Translation: The movement and transformation of knowledge constructed in one context for the purpose of utilization in another context. This broad definition attempts to maintain direction-neutrality. In contrast, the CIHR (2004) defines KT within the context of health care “ Knowledge translation is the exchange, synthesis and ethically-sound application of knowledge — within a complex system of interactions among researchers and users — to accelerate the capture of the benefits of research for Canadians through improved health, more effective services and products, and a strengthened health care system.” ( ) Synonyms include: knowledge exchange, knowledge transfer, research transfer, technology transfer, knowledge transformation, knowledge dissemination, knowledge mobilization, knowledge utilization, and research utilization.

Implementation Research: Research designed to reduce disparity or space between any and all steps from research to practice.

Knowledge Flow: The process that transforms knowledge from constructed knowledge in the source context to translated knowledge embedded in practice in the target context.

Knowledge Context: The contexts in which knowledge is constructed, exchanged, utilized, and between which knowledge flows, including broad categories such as research, education and training, practice and policy, and evaluation.

KT Model: A framework designed to facilitate knowledge translation. Criteria for a good model (adapted from Dasgupta, 1989 ) include: (1) a structural form that describes the components of the process and their interrelationships, (2) an explanation of the process so that design decisions can be inferred, (3) predictive power so that impacts of certain changes in the system can be anticipated, (4) the model should serve as a basis for analysis and criticism of the process, and (5) the model should serve as a basis for exploration and testing of design options.

Knowledge Transformation: The process of changing the form of the knowledge constructed in the source context to a form that is usable in the target context.

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