Knowledge Brokerage: The Musical

Megan Auld, Emmah Doig and Sally Bennett

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Knowledge Brokerage: The Musical: an analogy for explaining the role of knowledge brokers in a university setting’.

It would be an untruth to say that we knew exactly what we were doing when we started our role as knowledge brokers. As experienced clinicians and researchers we’d lived on both sides of the knowledge-action coin, and we’d certainly had a few good tries at making them come together. The literature told us we were ‘capacity builders’, ‘knowledge managers’, ‘boundary spanners’ who required a myriad of personal characteristics to pull this thing off (only some of which, to be honest, I thought I actually possessed). Here began a journey to make the theoretical come to reality and after living and breathing knowledge brokerage in a university setting for a year, we wanted to make sure that the experiences we had would span the boundaries of knowledge for other would-be brokers.

In an exploratory study, as two knowledge brokers we recorded our activities within a school of health in a large university setting using the Expert Recommendations for Implementation Change (ERIC) categories over a period of nine months and reported the results in our recently published Evidence & Policy practice paper. We wanted to make sure that we helped knowledge brokers know what the job consisted of when they showed up to work on a Monday morning. Thus, the birth of Knowledge Brokerage: The Musical – an analogy to help explain the role of knowledge brokers in higher education.

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Evidence-based practice in social care: straitjacket – or fluid support?

Isabella Pistone, Allan Lidström, Ingemar Bohlin, Thomas Schneider, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak and Morten Sager

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Evidence-based practice and management-by-knowledge of disability care: Rigid constraint or fluid support?’.

Evidence-based practice in social work is often critiqued for constraining practices by emphasising rigid methods and standardised interventions that exclude professional and clients’ experiences. Our research within disability care found rather it catalysed a dynamic interplay between local and external knowledge, as explained in our recently published Evidence & Policy article.

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Breaking the fourth wall: evidence communication inside policy organisations

Christiane Gerblinger

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Peep show: a framework for watching how evidence is communicated inside policy organisations’.

Seeing how governments formulate decisions is a crucial component of their ability to claim democratic legitimacy. This includes being seen to draw on the knowledge and evidence produced by their civil service policy advisers. Yet much of the advice provided to governments is being increasingly withdrawn from public accessibility.

With governments likely to benefit from a status quo that normalises withdrawal of policy processes and rationales from public view, it is important to find alternative ways to illuminate how policy officials communicate their evidence and how that evidence is used in political contexts by governments to make decisions on our behalf.

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Empathy is key to addressing obstacles to policy progress

Serena Bartys

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Empathy is key: addressing obstacles to policy progress of ‘work-focused healthcare’’.

Pre-pandemic, the UK government estimated that work loss due to ill-health costed around £100bn per year. This problem places an unsustainable burden on health, employment and welfare systems, and is a major cause of socioeconomic disadvantage and inequality. The potential for healthcare to reduce this burden has been reflected in numerous UK policy initiatives and clinical guidance ever since 2008, when Dame Carol Black published her seminal report Working for a Healthier Tomorrow.

However, over a decade later, avoidable work disability remains a leading public health concern. One key concept – healthcare professionals discussing work with their patients during routine consultations – has remained elusive in practice. There are clearly significant obstacles to translating ‘work-focused healthcare’ policy into practice. Our Evidence & Policy article sheds light on what those obstacles are and how they may be addressed. It raises wider concerns about how scientific evidence is used and understood by policymakers, making a novel contribution to the expanding literature which suggests that researcher-policy-practice relationships are key factors in mobilising the evidence.  

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Community support versus health care services: time to change our definition of impact

Janet Harris and Alexis Foster

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Using knowledge brokering to produce community-generated evidence

Non-profit community anchor organisations in England typically provide a range of support to local people, including wellbeing support, advocacy, social activities, and training and employment advice. This array of services takes a wider perspective on the determinants of health than the approach taken within the National Health Service (NHS), which generally focuses on mental and physical ill health.

Despite the different approaches, the funding for community anchor organisations is often dependent on the impact they have on health outcomes. Is this a good basis for judging the value of holistic support?

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Maximising stakeholder engagement to prioritise future research

Natalie Kennie-Kaulbach, Jennifer E. Isenor and Sarah Kehoe

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Use of a knowledge exchange event strategy to identify key priorities for implementing deprescribing in primary healthcare in Nova Scotia, Canada

How can complex research results be shared with diverse stakeholder groups? How can stakeholders be engaged in generating future research priorities? How can diverse stakeholder voices be represented? The transfer of knowledge gained from research to stakeholders is becoming increasingly important for the uptake of results into policy and practice and to inform the direction of future research. We take this opportunity to share our perspectives on maximising stakeholder engagement and strategies for successful uptake.

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A ‘RECIPE’ with example principles and strategies for research partnerships

Femke Hoekstra, SCI Guiding Principles Consensus Panel and Heather L. Gainforth

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Principles and related strategies for spinal cord injury research partnership approaches: a qualitative study

How can we improve the use of research findings in policy, community and service settings? The answer could be simple: do research together with people that will use and can benefit from the research. In other words, do research in partnership with research users. While this sounds promising, building and maintaining meaningful partnerships is rarely so simple. Tokenistic approaches to research partnerships are a particular risk – this happens when research users are asked to endorse a research project over which they have little control.

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The five minute guide to evidencing research impact

Helen Allbutt and Stewart Irvine

Does research add value? How can we tell? With no mechanism to quality rate research outside of the university sector, research can be overlooked, or worse discontinued, particularly when organisations face ever-increasing pressures. In this blog, we discuss how we sought to protect our research investment by providing an evidence trail of how project findings contributed to strategic priorities. This blog covers the key points of what we did and what we found: for a fuller version, see our Evidence & Policy article, ‘Research assessment in a National Health Service organisation: a process for learning and accountability’.

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Decision-making of knowledge brokers in moving evidence to action along pathways in global health

Theresa Canova Norton

‘An e-mail never made me change the way I do things’, a colleague once said. Implicit in this statement is the idea that passively receiving information alone is unlikely to motivate change. How might this observation inform the way we approach disseminating the best available evidence? This is what we explore in our Evidence & Policy article, ‘Maybe we can turn the tide’: an explanatory mixed-methods study to understand how knowledge brokers mobilise health evidence in low- and middle-income countries’.

Knowledge brokers are intermediaries who provide a potentially vital role galvanising change. Studies of knowledge brokers have mostly taken place in high-income countries, so we know much less about knowledge brokers in LMICs. To help address this gap, a global health focused research team conducted three studies following up with knowledge broker participants of international conferences in 2012, 2013 and 2015. The aim was to identify whether evidence from the conferences was shared with others and led to actions such as changes in health policy and practice, and what factors influenced decisions to share and act on evidence.

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Social science that improves people’s lives: what strategies should social science and humanities researchers use to foster greater social impact?

Emilia Aiello, Claire Donovan, Elena Duque, Serena Fabrizio, Ramon Flecha, Poul Holm, Silvia Molina, Esther Oliver and Emanuela Reale

Scientific research has the potential to improve people’s lives, but the translation of scientific evidence into social impact is not always easy. According to the Expert report of the European Commission ‘Monitoring the impact of EU Framework Programmes’, ‘social impact is the improvement of society and citizens in relation to their own goals (like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals)’. How can social science and humanities research achieve this?

Governments and society increasingly demand that scientific research demonstrates social impact and benefit. In this context, scientists are encouraged to reach out to their communities, share their research and its impact on people’s everyday lives, listen to communities and consider their research from the perspective of the people they serve. Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research has been challenged in this regard and has been at risk of being eliminated from the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation ‘Horizon 2020’. In response, it is necessary to identify and promote the use of effective strategies for enhancing the social impact of research, so that it can inform evidence-based policies and the actions of professionals, citizens and civil society organisations.

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