Research generates knowledge that can be used in policy and practice, for example evidence about how well a treatment or a service works. Unfortunately, there is often a gap between what we learn through research and what we actually do. This is when Knowledge Translation (KT) comes into play.
KT involves all the strategies used to help close the gap between research and practice. Some strategies include engaging the people who will use the research (also known as knowledge users), such as health care professionals and patients, or sharing research findings in a way that is easier to understand.
In short, KT aims to get the research to the right people, in the right way, at the right time and in the right format.
Main types of KT
There are two main types of KT:
- End-of-grant KT involves communicating research findings to knowledge users in a way that is useful and understandable to them. Traditionally, research is shared through journal publications or conference presentations. KT aims to share research findings in other formats that may be easier to understand for people outside of research, such as readable reports or infographics.
- Integrated KT (iKT) involves knowledge users and researchers working together throughout the research process. Knowledge users can help choose research questions and methods, interpret and analyze data, and share research results. This approach aims to ensure that research findings are useful for knowledge users and are more likely to be used in policy and practice.
Main components of KT
There are four main components or strategies that help move knowledge into policy and practice:
- Synthesis – The process of summarizing a study’s findings within the larger body of knowledge on the topic.
- Exchange – The interaction between knowledge users and researchers that results in mutual learning. These exchanges often lead to partnerships and an iKT approach to research.
- Dissemination – The sharing and communication of research findings in different ways based on the audience. This term is often used to describe End-of-Grant KT.
- Application – The process of integrating research into policy and practice. In the past, this process would usually be based on common sense or sounded like a good idea at the time (ISLAGIATT), but there is growing use of theory to help make this process more organized.
KT practice versus science
All researchers are encouraged to practice KT in some form by considering the types and components of KT that aid in moving their research into policy and practice.
However, there are also researchers who study KT, this is called KT Science. KT Science involves studying and evaluating the methods used to support KT strategies and promote knowledge use such as the methods to do different types of synthesis (e.g. scoping reviews versus systematic reviews) or evaluating how well patients were engaged in a research project.
There is a type of KT Science, called Implementation Science which specifically focuses on the studying what strategies promote the uptake of research into policy and practice. For example, a study could involve understanding the barriers and facilitators to accessing primary care and developing specific interventions based on the findings.
Want to learn more?
A good place to start is on the Knowledge Nudge blog with their post ‘What We Mean When We Say Knowledge Translation.’