Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Getting going in knowledge exchange: part 1 of the KE blog series

Posted by Avril Rhodes

This is the first in a series of three posts on knowledge exchange and translational research.

How do you explain and sell knowledge exchange in public health? This is a minefield. Definitions are legion. Hard words, like “translational” act like bumps in the road to trip up the unwary. And there are many harbingers of doom, talking about barriers at every turn. Wizards fret (rightly) about how long it takes to get research findings into practice, what counts as evidence, and how to engage with and keep people working in the field interested in projects and their results. It would seem that no sooner are research partners identified and engaged then they are spirited away by a re-organisation, a change of role or a new job entirely.  

AskFuse is shedding light on practice driven research and evaluation
Unfortunately, there is a dilemma at work here. The drivers of academic life (grant applications and production of papers) are activities that may not be of high priority to potential research partners. Researchers research the questions that funding bodies will support, publish in the most prestigious journals available, and present at the most significant conferences in the field. Curiously despite best efforts in the process taken to identify what will be researched by funding bodies, it seems it is still possible to end up with topics and questions that don’t resonate widely, and the sheer volume of publications holds no great incentive for extensive reading. An early casualty of any funding crisis can be training, reducing the number of people who might be interested in research results attending conferences, and those that do are open to criticism for appearing to take time out. The constant stream of short term operational pressures, new policies and initiatives, targets and deadlines will come first, and given the pressures in the practice environment, research soon fades into the background. The pace of events can be just too fast and too pressing.   

There is light at the end of the tunnel – and it’s not an approaching train. The experience of AskFuse over the past year has shown that there is a healthy appetite for practice driven research and evaluation, demonstrated in the number of queries raised (over 100 at the last count) and the breadth of topics from lifestyles and behaviour to system transformation has been both encouraging and enlightening. This has shown that research activity led by service providers can provide useful work for academic researchers. In addition, some of the elves in Fuse-land have produced a concise, handy Q&A resource, full of ideas and tips for working alongside people in the field, from the outset of thinking about a project. Thinking about it though, the key to this must be putting yourself (as an academic) in the shoes of the service partner, finding contact(s) in the service environment who are prepared to say what the realities of life are like for them so that the project and engagement with service partners is both realistic and rewarding. This may seem like a big ask, but what you’re really doing is asking your potential partners about their working life – and most people like to talk about themselves. It might even be therapeutic for both parties. Get into listening mode and prepare for new and exciting research territory.

No comments:

Post a Comment