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Archived Comments for: Disseminating research findings: what should researchers do? A systematic scoping review of conceptual frameworks

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  1. Disseminating research findings: What should universities do?

    Christian Dagenais, Université de Montréal

    30 March 2011

    The question of what role researchers should play in the dissemination of research findings is crucial to promoting the use of such knowledge. However, there is relatively little data available on the manner in which researchers are or should be involved in these activities, and thus on how to address ¿deficiencies in the dissemination and transfer of research-based knowledge to routine clinical practice.¿ As such, this scoping review makes a significant contribution to the knowledge transfer (KT) field. Wilson and his colleagues conclude by suggesting that research funding agencies should make any grant conditional, in part, on applicants adopting a theoretically-informed approach to their KT activities.
    Exerting pressure on researchers is of course likely to improve the quality of their involvement in KT. However, until universities explicitly recognize the value of KT activities and provide adequate support for their implementation, researcher involvement will remain limited. There is a consensus in the literature on KT that one of the most significant obstacles to knowledge transfer by researchers exists at the level of the university institutions themselves, which fail to recognize the relevance of KT activities and do not explicitly include them among the criteria for tenure and promotion. Instead, the existing organizational structure of academia, with its tenure and promotion policies, resources and practices, is one that privileges members who meet disciplinary standards while disadvantaging those interested in knowledge transfer.
    In order to identify initiatives on the part of university institutions that explicitly acknowledge the value of KT activities and encourage researcher involvement, my team and I conducted a survey of the KT policies and practices of 21 academic institutions in four countries: Australia, Canada, the US and the UK. Our examination was based on documentation and narratives available on university web pages. Accordingly, I make no claims to presenting an argument based on practical research.
    Despite the rich and omnipresent rhetoric around knowledge transfer, there is still little movement beyond ¿lip service¿ to the real action of re-orienting core university activities around knowledge transfer in various forms. Our overview of university policies on faculty career advancement shows that the recognition of achievement in knowledge transfer is slowly but gradually becoming a legitimate option for academic promotion, alongside the traditional triad of excellence in teaching, research and service to the academic community. Nonetheless, despite attempts to qualify faculty excellence in knowledge transfer, institutions have yet to quantify this criterion, with the notable exception of the University of Melbourne (Australia). In fact, this institution is the only one of those we surveyed to have quantified the criterion of knowledge transfer in relationship to the three other parameters. According to policy guidelines, knowledge transfer, along with community service, may account for as much as half of the evaluated effort distribution. Specifically, the weight given to knowledge transfer and service may, in aggregate, range from 20% to 50%, as compared to the aggregate maximum of 80% assigned to traditional scholarly outputs such as teaching and research.
    It seems that openings are being created to integrate knowledge transfer activities into the traditional triad of assessment parameters. However, given the virtual absence of schemes to quantify the relationship between knowledge transfer and the traditional triad of excellence in teaching, research and service to the academic community, the application of this criterion remains highly problematic.

    Competing interests

    The author declares that he has no competing interests