Full citation

Lavis, John. (2006). Research, Public Policymaking, and Knowledge-Translation Processes: Canadian Efforts to Build Bridges. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 26(1), 37-45.

Format: Peer-reviewed article

Type: Research — Non-experimental

Experience level of reader: Fundamental

Annotation: The author describes how knowledge translation processes can build bridges between the often distinct and typically asynchronous processes of research and public policy making. He suggests that, for these knowledge users, systematic reviews are a viable knowledge translation process. The author describes the ways Canadian funders, researchers, intermediary groups, and public policy makers have tended to approach the design of knowledge translation processes targeted at public policy makers. He concludes with a call for undertaking knowledge-translation processes on a sufficiently large scale and with a sufficiently rigorous evaluation so that robust conclusions can be drawn about their effectiveness.

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

Tips:

  • Research funders should consider funding large-scale systematic push efforts. Using this approach, there could be a greater chance that the research being pushed by researchers could be matched with the needs of public policymakers (or trigger the opening of policy windows in the policy making process).
    Literature review and direct experience.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 3.1, KTA Step 1.A, KTA Step 2.A, KTA Step 3.A
  • In the government policy making process, it is important to remember that research evidence often competes with other forms of evidence (e.g., budgetary constraints and the legal code) and with values (e.g., public opinion about the role of government versus the market). The receptivity of a policy proposal can be influenced by how it aligns with (or is given visibility by) other institutional arrangements (e.g., jurisdictional authorities, past policies and practices, etc.) and interests (e.g., elected officials’ commitments, civil servants’ authorities, advisory bodies, etc.).
    Literature review and direct experience.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: KTA Step 1.A, KTA Step 2.A, KTA Step 3.A, Step 3.2, Step 2.2, Step 1.1

Secondary Findings

Barriers:

  • Individuals’ (knowledge users’) negative attitudes toward research evidence and lack of skill and expertise can decrease the prospects for research use. (Lavis [2005])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: KTA Step 1.C, KTA Step 2.C, KTA Step 3.C
  • In many ways, public policy making can be a challenging process. Often, when a policy issue is placed on the government agenda for a decision, battles can be fought over how the policy is framed. The viability of a policy and its options often hinge on how the underlying issue or problem is framed. (Kingdon [2003])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: KTA Step 1.C, KTA Step 2.C, KTA Step 3.C, Step 3.2, Step 1.2
  • In many cases, public policy making does not follow a linear process. The process can be unpredictable. Policy issues can languish for years and even decades on the governmental agenda. Only a relatively small number of them may ever make it to the decision agenda. (Kingdon [2003])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: KTA Step 1.C, KTA Step 2.C, KTA Step 3.C, Step 3.2, Step 1.2

Carriers:

  • Knowledge translation, in the form of a systematic review (a synthesis of existing research that typically address a broad array of effectiveness, cost, relational, attributable, and causal questions that a public policy maker — knowledge user — is likely to ask about a particular issue), can create an effective bridge between researchers and policy makers. (Lavis [2004, 2005, 2006])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 3.1, KTA Stage 1, KTA Stage 2, KTA Stage 3
  • Systematic reviews (syntheses of existing research that typically address a broad array of effectiveness, cost, relational, attributable, and causal questions that a public policy maker is likely to ask about a particular issue) can be useful to policy makers (knowledge users). They often provide a multi-study, transparent perspective for a given subject, saving policy makers considerable research time and synthesis effort. (Lavis [2005])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 3.1, KTA Stage 1, KTA Stage 2, KTA Stage 3
  • Timing and timeliness can increase (and poor timing or lack of timeliness can decrease) the prospects for research use. (Lavis [2005])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: KTA Stage 1, KTA Stage 2, KTA Stage 3, Step 3.1, Step 3.2, Step 2.2, Step 1.2, Step 1.1
  • Interactions between researchers and policy makers (knowledge users) can increase the prospects for research use. (Lavis [2005])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: KTA Stage 1, KTA Stage 2, KTA Stage 3, Step 3.1

Tips:

  • “Exchange” represents one form of knowledge translation. It often involves the establishment of partnerships between researchers and public policy makers (knowledge users) who are committed to asking and answering relevant questions together. (Lomas [2000])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 3.3, KTA Stage 1, KTA Stage 2, KTA Stage 3
  • “Push” represents one form of knowledge translation. It involves researchers (or intermediary groups) bringing research evidence to the attention of public policy makers (or those who seek to influence them) — knowledge users — and can inform policy development and policy implementation processes. (Lavis [unpublished])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 3.3, KTA Stage 1, KTA Stage 2, KTA Stage 3
  • “User pull” represents one form of knowledge translation. It involves ways of making it easier for public policy makers (knowledge users) to identify relevant research evidence. Knowledge users may formalize the pull process (e.g., the establishment of a receptor function — a formal and proactive process to seek and receive relevant new research; a one-stop shop; self-assessment tools. (Lavis [unpublished])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 3.3, KTA Stage 1, KTA Stage 2, KTA Stage 3
  • “Friendly front ends” represent one form of knowledge translation. Research is synthesized and presented in knowledge user friendly formats (e.g., 1 page of take-home messages, a 3-page executive summary, and a 25-page full report). Notifications about, and circulation of these materials can facilitate “user pull” — helping potential knowledge users to become aware of available and applicable research. (Lavis [unpublished])
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 3.3, KTA Stage 1, KTA Stage 2, KTA Stage 3