Dancing is a key move in public health, particularly if you want to make an impact with your research. Knowledge exchange is not just a science or even an art, but very much a dance between researchers and policy makers about the use of research evidence. To complete this dance successfully and get evidence used in decision making, both partners need to follow certain steps. However, learning the steps (science) or performing them perfectly (art) is not sufficient: it requires instinct and feel for where you are in the dance and why you are doing it.
To develop a dance plan for your interactions between policy makers and academic researchers, Fuse hosted a special session (or dance class) at the European Implementation Event in Basel, Switzerland on 8 June. The EIE2023 brought together over 300 implementation scientists, practitioners and funders from across health, social welfare, education and other sectors in Europe. Over two days through fishbowls, science slams, workshops, inspiring keynotes and oral presentations, participants explored how to create a new normal for implementation science in society.
Our session explored dance challenges (e.g. moving too slow, bad timing, outfit malfunctions, and unsynchronised performances) and new routines in response (see: ‘What did we learn?’ below) that we have developed in Fuse over the last 15 years collaboratively with our partners. In the session, we highlighted examples of creative communication (the art of knowledge exchange), research performance both backstage and frontstage (AskFuse), and dancing together (embedded research) to set the scene for a discussion about what makes a successful dance between policy makers, health practitioners and academic researchers. We invited conference participants to share their own reflections of dance routines they have developed to support knowledge exchange and implementation of research evidence in practice and policy making.
What did we learn? 10 dance lessons
- Raising awareness, using creative communication.
- Knowledge sharing through joint events.
- Making evidence fit for purpose (localising and tailoring).
- Supporting uptake and implementation (e.g., capacity, co-production, linking activities).
3. Go with the music: as the context and process in which evidence is useful changes constantly, it is an important skill for researchers to be able “to go with the music” based on ongoing relationships with policy and practice partners.
4. Emotional engagement between researchers and policy makers is essential to get a better feel for the music. A heart-to-heart or moaning about bad performances helps you to improve dance routines and hide missteps. Don’t forget the power of cookies!
Choreographing your own dance routine
In response, conference participants started to develop their own dance metaphors for describing their experiences with collaborative research between academics and policymakers. Someone referred to their routines as a ‘silent disco’, where academics and policymakers were dancing to different pieces of music without knowing what the other where listening too. Other participants emphasised the need to spend time together first before you start picking music, to get a better understanding of each other’s musical tastes (classical meets punk?).
Overall, participants felt inspired to start to think more deeply about their own dance plans. How would you answer the above questions and what would your dance plan look like?
Full house at the #EIE2023 @fuse_online Special Session! @pvandergraaf75 and Mandy Cheetham choreographing a dance between policymakers and researchers. Creative communication at it’s best! 💃🏽🕺🏼 pic.twitter.com/7ej4Kr29LG— Leah Bührmann (@LeahBuehrmann) June 8, 2023