Full citation

Tetroe, J.M., Graham, I.D., Foy, R. et al. (2008). Health Research Funding Agencies’ Support and Promotion of Knowledge Translation: An International Study. The Milbank Quarterly, 86(1), 125-155.

Format: Peer-reviewed article

Type: Research — Non-experimental

Experience level of reader: Fundamental

Annotation: The authors surveyed 33 research funding agencies (with representation from Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) about their role in promoting and supporting knowledge translation (KT). The survey questions covered eight categories: role, background, researcher requirements, application process, dissemination activities, agency initiatives, evaluation, and audience. Semi-structure interviews were conducted with a subset of key informants. The overall objective of the project was to determine the knowledge translation policy, expectations, and activities of health research funding agencies both in Canada and internationally. Specifically, they were interested in the following questions: What are funding agencies’ expectations of researchers? What do funding agencies perceive as their role in promoting the results of the research they fund? How do funding agencies promote the use of the research they fund? What are the agencies’ capacities to support knowledge translation? Findings were confirmed with participants. A North American workshop was convened to discuss the findings. The authors concluded that funding agencies need to think about both their conceptual framework and their operational definition of KT, so that it is clear what is and what is not considered to be KT, and adjust their funding opportunities and activities accordingly. Little is known about KT effectiveness, so a greater emphasis on evaluation is needed. It would appear that “best practice” for funding agencies is an elusive concept and dependent upon the respective size, context, mandate, financial considerations, and governance structure of a funding agency.

Setting(s) to which the reported activities/findings are relevant: Government, University

Knowledge user(s) to whom the piece of literature may be relevant: Policy Makers, Researchers

Knowledge user level addressed by the literature: Organization

This article uses the Commercial Devices and Services version of the NtK Model

Primary Findings

Carriers:

  • Research funding agencies should agree on common terms and operational definition for knowledge translation. This will help peer reviewers of research grant applications to assess against an common standard for knowledge translation.
    Survey and workshop findings.
  • Research funding agencies should consider establishing a systematic approach to leveraging knowledge translation that cuts across all their programs and services.
    Survey and workshop findings.
  • Research funding agencies should consider establishing and implementing criteria to guide what research findings they disseminate, how they disseminate them and to whom they disseminate results.
    Survey and workshop findings.
  • Research funding agencies should consider the role formal evaluation could play in assisting them to openly and objectively assess the impact of their knowledge translation mandate and actions.Selection of the right performance indicators is crucial.
    Survey and workshop findings.
  • Research funding agencies should consider taking on the role of knowledge brokers. Agencies could provide a pivotal linking function between researchers and knowledge users. Brokering functions could include, creating pull by repackaging research results for different audiences, connecting silos, linking partners, identifying appropriate audiences.
    Survey and workshop findings.
  • Research funding agencies should consider the benefits of tracking research funding decisions, expenditures and results, by topic. This could help researchers and policy makers in better understanding the focus and value of respective funding agencies. Databases are a common tool for harnessing this type of data.
    Survey and workshop findings.
  • Research funding agencies should consider including in their mandate the capacity to train funded researchers in communication skills that complement the stakeholder base of respective research projects.
    Survey and workshop findings.
  • Research funding agencies should advocate that their mandate include time and resources for nurturing and appreciating the science of knowledge translation across their stakeholder base.
    Survey and workshop findings.
  • Research funding agencies should consider establishing funders’ alliances or networks. Potential benefits include, pooling resources to leverage change and establishing forums and other venues to enhance interaction, share ideas, successes and failures. This approach could also help to grow an evidence base that is supportive of knowledge translation.
    Survey and workshop findings.
  • Research funding agencies should consider funding long-term research programs rather than short-term research projects. This approach could enable funders and researchers to dedicate the substantial time required to plan and implement comprehensive knowledge translation activities into their work.
    Survey and workshop findings.