Research Projects

Research Project 1: Knowledge Synthesis on KT for TT

Objective as Proposed:

Project R1 is identifying Barriers (B) to Knowledge Translation (KT) for Technology Transfer (TT) as well as the corresponding Carriers (C) used to overcome those Barriers. Knowledge synthesis techniques are being used to analyze all the acknowledged Models, Methods, and Measures (MMM) of KT for TT. All of this information will be mapped onto two respective process models, the Product Development Managers Association (PDMA) model for TT, and the Knowledge to Action (KTA) model for KT. MMM and B/C will be extracted from a comprehensive mix of existing syntheses, current research reports, in-house content experts, and Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) practitioners. The resulting outputs of R1 will be used to populate a knowledge base (D2) and also assist with intervention studies (R3 and D1).

Project R1 outputs will be a set of KT tools equivalent to an existing set of TT tools. These KT tools will permit the applicant to implement the KTA model at an operational level, as the applicant has applied the TT version of these tools with success for an extended timeframe. The operational level means the applicant and potential knowledge producers will be able to understand what tools can be used to effectively communicate knowledge to the various knowledge user categories, in forms and terms they will recognize, understand, and value. These same tools will help anticipate the barriers and the requisite carriers which may be encountered along the Knowledge to Action process.

Project R1 is intended to address the NIDRR priorities: (A) Improved understanding of barriers to, and facilitators of, successful KT for technology transfer in different industries related to NIDRR’s technology portfolio; (A) (1) Identifying and compiling existing research-based knowledge about barriers to, and [carriers] of successful KT for technology transfer; and (B) Advance knowledge of best practices in KT for technology transfer; (B) (1) Identifying existing models, methods, or measures of KT for technology transfer in different industries related to NIDRR’s technology portfolio.

Project R1 Accomplishments:

  • The generation of knowledge occurs through three related methods (scientific research, engineering development, industrial production), with each method designed to generate knowledge in a different state (conceptual discoveries, prototype inventions, commercial innovations).
  • The transformation of knowledge from one state to another involves transitions of the knowledge in its current state from creator to user via communication: translation of conceptual discoveries from laboratory scientist to stakeholders; transfer of prototype invention from inventor to corporation; transaction of commercial product from company to consumer in marketplace.
  • The entire new product development process is documented, validated and codified within best practices of private industry, so ad hoc approaches are as inappropriate for technology transfer as they are for scientific research.
  • The three phases of the product development process (research, development, production) involve stages of activities containing steps that must be properly completed in order to increase the probability of success, as well as decision gates that allow management to modify the project’s plan as circumstances dictate. While the stages and gates do not have to be completed in a linear sequence, any gaps in activity or decision factors represent weaknesses that threaten eventual success.
  • The entire new product development process may be conducted within a single organization, in which case the transfers of knowledge, technology and products all occur between departments (e.g., research, development, production), or it may involve multiple organizations, in which case the transfers occur between them (e.g., universities, corporations).
  • When product development projects involve multiple organizations, the upstream organizations must be good custodians of the knowledge they generate in order to ensure that the value of the knowledge is preserved for — and recognized by — the downstream partners.
  • Most NIDRR Grantees are university-based scholars who are not trained in the established methods of product development and technology transfer, so they don’t know what they need to know in order to plan, implement and manage projects to achieve success.
  • The NtK Model contains numerous examples drawn from the Assistive Technology field to demonstrate how the process works in contexts familiar to NIDRR Grantees.
  • Although NIDRR Grantees may not have the internal capacity or the professional incentives to complete all phases of the product development process, the acceptance of public funding brings the responsibility to ensure that the proper partners and capabilities are in place to achieve success.
  • The NtK Model is designed for NIDRR Grantees, but it has found widespread application as a framework for investigators, sponsors and policymakers in any technology-oriented fields to plan, implement, manage and assess the progress of any projects intending to generate beneficial socio-economic impacts.
  • Given the general trend towards the “gamification” of instructional materials, the project created a visual game board depicting the three phases of activity, with the stages, steps and decision gates overlain as a meandering path. The plan is to eventually convert this static game board into an interactive instructional tool, offering various scenarios and feedback to the player about the short and long-term consequences of actions taken or not taken, and decisions made or not made.

Research Project 2: Establishing the Context of Knowledge Production and Knowledge Utilization

Objectives as Proposed

Project R2 is conducting two types of qualitative research to identify the barriers and carriers for accomplishing knowledge utilization. First, the project is compiling sets of technology-based innovations generated by three RERC’s (Knowledge Producers) in their prior funding cycle, by reviewing innovations nominated by the RERC’s and then by an external review of their “innovativeness.” The resulting innovations will provide a sample pool for Project R3. Second, the project is conducting primary and secondary market research to explore the interests and capabilities of stakeholder groups (Knowledge Users to apply research outputs. This exploration is addressing the organization-level of users by interviewing spokespersons for national organizations representing each of six stakeholder groups.

Project R2 Accomplishments:

  • NIDRR Grantees and other investigators tasked with effectively communicating the findings from their sponsored research projects to non-traditional stakeholder audiences, do not have to shoulder the entire effort independently.
  • The Knowledge Value Mapping technique permits investigators to identify individuals and organizations who value findings from research projects, and to assess the ways in which these potential partners are willing to engage in knowledge translation for communicating knowledge to non-traditional stakeholders.
  • National organization representing non-traditional stakeholder groups are well positioned and have the capacity to communicate new findings from research projects to their members.
  • A series of three survey research studies verified that national organizations in all three fields (wheeled mobility, AAC, recreational technologies) valued findings from research studies and were very eager to work with the study investigators to communicate the findings to their members.
  • These national organizations recognized the need to integrate knowledge translation techniques to communicate the research findings in language and formats familiar to their member audiences, and to place the findings in their context to ensure the relevance was clearly communicated.
  • Moreover, the national organizations welcomed the opportunity to establish on-going collaborations with scholars conducting relevant work, who could then serve as expert consultants to those organizations.
  • The national organizations demonstrated their willingness to engage with researchers by helping to recruit participants in the three RCT intervention studies — involving six stakeholder groups per study — conducted as part of Research Project 3 (described below).

Research Project 3: KT Intervention in Grantee Knowledge Innovations

Objective as Proposed

Project R3 will commence in Year 2. It will implement and evaluate a KT intervention designed to accomplish the effective translation and communication of knowledge outputs (innovations) generated by Grantees (Knowledge Producers), that can be applied by various Stakeholders (Knowledge Users). The intervention approach will follow the Knowledge to Action Model, with the project team playing a facilitator role to promote knowledge use. The results will be compared to the knowledge use achieved by the Grantee through traditional Knowledge Dissemination and Utilization practices.

Project R3 Accomplishments:

  • The KT Intervention Studies represent a pioneer RCT effort conducted to address the relative effectiveness of three strategies for communicating research findings: passive diffusion (control); tailored & targeted translation (T1); and active dissemination (T2).
  • The comparative effectiveness is important for determining if and why various stakeholder groups do or don’t uptake and apply new findings from research studies. For this purpose we defined six stakeholder categories (researchers; clinicians; manufacturers; consumers; brokers (educators/employers/advocates); policymakers).
  • To recap three core aspects of these complex studies:

A) The subject matter for the three studies was papers authored by NIDRR Grantees, published in peer-reviewed journals to ensure rigor. Internal and external project panels vetted the candidate papers to ensure their findings were deemed relevant to non-traditional stakeholder groups.

B) Selected papers deemed rigorous and relevant were prepared for distribution to sets of participants from each of six stakeholder groups, randomly assigned to three treatment groups. Note that the policymaker group was eliminated from the project’s inclusion due to the inability to recruit participants from Federal government agencies during the first study.

C) Study participants were recruited nation-wide so the project required a web-based survey instrument, and this instrument needed to measure various levels of knowledge use. No such instrument existed so the project team allocated time to design, test, validate and administer a new on-line survey instrument: Level Of Knowledge Use Survey (LOKUS).

  • Psychometric testing determined that the LOKUS survey instrument was valid and reliable for discriminating between four levels of knowledge use: Non-awareness; Awareness; Interest; Use. LOKUS could further discriminate between two types of Knowledge Use: Use as intended by the investigator; Use as modified by the stakeholder.
  • In terms of statistical significance, results show that both tailored-and-targeted translation and active dissemination are effective communication strategies, although one is not always better than the other. Both strategies are effective in reaching non-traditional stakeholders, raising their awareness and moving them to the Use level. However, results also showed very few stakeholders consistently using the knowledge, which strongly suggested that the primary variable causing changes in an individual’s level of knowledge use is the relevance of the study findings to specific individuals in the context of their stakeholder group. That is, individuals seek and apply knowledge that they personally deem relevant to their own circumstances.
  • The form and content of the knowledge package, and the process through which it is communicated, has limited influence on an individual’s decision to use or to continue using new knowledge, calling to question the entire debate about diffusion versus dissemination versus translation that does not consider or properly account for the criticality of prior validation regarding knowledge relevance to users.
  • If a sponsor and investigator are serious about ensuring the uptake and application of research findings, they should first and foremost determine from their target audience what questions they need answered or what evidence they need gathered. This “prior to grant” perspective is logically a more promising path to uptake and use, than are either “end of grant” or “integrated” approaches to knowledge translation. Although this goes against the grain of academic freedom and faculty autonomy to pursue whatever project they choose, it seems to be a reasonable concession to be made when expending public funds intending to benefit society.