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Getting Knowledge Mobilisation Embedded in Research

Getting Knowledge Mobilisation Embedded in Research

01 April 2021

Krysia Dziedzic, Senior adviser in Clinical Research in Primary Care and Fiona Cowdell, RDS West Midlands

The NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) is responsive to the needs of health and care research, and as research evolves the RDS continually monitors and adapts to the changing research landscape. 

We all remember a time when Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) was a distant aspiration promoted in the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002. Now PPIE is embedded in everyday research practice, from identifying research questions to disseminating and implementing findings. The NIHR RDS offers guidance on best practices in research designs and with public contributors is well versed in offering advice to researchers. 

One emerging theme is how to embed knowledge mobilisation throughout the research process. Knowledge mobilisation (KMb) is often used as an umbrella term covering knowledge translation, knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange and knowledge brokering. The overarching aim is to have a positive and sustained impact by supporting the timely movement of research into practice. We need to encourage researchers to think of not just of the value and feasibility of their research to healthcare, but also the feasibility of implementing their research into practice, to support timely translation of evidence into healthcare treatment for maximum impact.

We recognise that RDS staff are already knowledge brokers. Every day they develop and use existing relationships with, among and between producers and users of knowledge to support the design, development and sharing of the highest quality research

What is knowledge mobilisation?

knowledge mobilisation - cowboy riding a lightbulb
  • Moving knowledge to where it can be most useful (A framework for knowledge mobilisers)
  • Making evidence accessible, understandable and useful for knowledge users (Knowledge mobilisation toolkit)
  • The reciprocal and complementary flow and uptake of research knowledge between researchers, knowledge brokers and knowledge users …. in such a way that may benefit users and create positive impacts (Definition)

Why should we mobilise knowledge?

  • In 2018/19 the NIHR awarded over £317 million of funding to 334 research projects
  • Research findings still take on average 17 years to change practice
  • We have a professional and social responsibility to ensure that research findings are moved to where they are most useful and improve patient care

What are the key considerations in designing research for impact?

If a research study is going beyond dissemination of findings, then a Knowledge Mobiliser can be considered as a valuable addition to the research team.  Knowledge Mobilisers may be health and social care practitioners, managers, policy makers, patients and the public. Many Knowledge Mobilisers work within and across extensive networks and have with a range of skills that lend themselves to improvement activities and innovation. Individuals may not identify themselves as Knowledge Mobilisers but rather champions in getting the research to the places where it needs to be used.

graphic lots of people with speech bubbles

Implementation Theories Models and Frameworks can be useful in the planning of knowledge mobilisation activities within research designs.They can help with understanding and evaluating the implementation of complex interventions can be helped by the application of theory; planning the implementation activity; understanding barriers and facilitators; explaining the processes of implementation; and determining the reasons for the success or failure of the uptake of best evidence into practice.

Impact may need to be considered at many levels.  Researchers can involve different members in their stakeholder advisory groups to target different levels.

Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement in designing implementation strategies should be considered for all health and social care research. A Top Tips for Dissemination for patients and the public toolkit has been produced by Keele University.

‘Patients are the most under-used resource in any health care system’ Patients, carers, clients and public champions offer multi-faceted perspectives and should be involved in all stages of the research, guideline development and implementation cycle providing:

  • expertise through personal experiences of health and care
  • insight into the whole patient journey
  • influence in priority setting
  • co-production of innovation
  • stories of impact
  • links to networks

What should we be thinking about in planning KMb?

There are many tools and frameworks for KMb. Key considerations for planning KMb from the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health offer a useful starting point.   

Key considerations for KNb

Who can help?

Don't forget to contact your local RDS for support with any knowledge mobilisation questions and other project design issues.


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