Three ways that knowledge brokers can strengthen the impact of scientific research

Second, future projects could use this framework as a guide to the types of activities which could be performed by knowledge brokers. Third, the framework will enable a broader understanding of exactly what goes on in a knowledge brokering intervention and how it fits within the knowledge transfer process. Finally, using the framework to consistently design and implement a range of knowledge brokering interventions would result in a critical mass of data and increase the possibility of evaluating the effectiveness of knowledge brokering. The final and probably the biggest challenge to knowledge brokering is the lack of knowledge about how it works, what contextual factors influence it and its effectiveness (Conklin, Hallsworth et al. 2008). Answers to these questions are needed both to win support for and justify the commitment of resources to knowledge brokering and to develop the theory and practice of brokering further. Whilst funding has been provided to at least six knowledge brokering demonstration sites in Canada (CHSRF 2005), the evaluations which were due to be undertaken remain unpublished and it is unclear when they will become available.

  • For extra peace of mind, it generally pays to seek out business brokers that voluntarily belong to associations committed to upholding ethical standards of conduct and professionalism, such as the IBBA or other trade organizations.
  • Its authors purport that for successful research implementation to occur, facilitation strategies must be selected on the basis of the nature of the evidence and the characteristics of the context.26 This framework is a logical fit for knowledge brokering as it relies on a human-driven facilitation process.
  • That said, I am the sole ‘reviewer’ in this activity, and it is by no means scientific, but nonetheless it is important to ask these kinds of questions and think ‘outside of the box’ (or at least add some columns to the box).
  • «knowledge brokers are trustworthy subject experts with a high level of credibility. They are not advocates or lobbyists for a cause, neither is their role simple communication of information. Beyond this, the role varies a great deal. Many more people engage in knowledge brokering activities than have the title knowledge broker.»
  • The knowledge broker identifies stakeholders’ issues of concern, thereby fusing purpose and direction with meaning and utility (Armstrong et al., 2013).
  • But our analysis extends attention beyond their personal merits and limitations towards structural characteristics of the fields that would likely have constrained all but the most powerful of actors.

KBs then work to facilitate organizational change [24, 31], eliminate environmental barriers to evidence-informed decision making (EIDM) [40], and promote an organizational culture that values the use of the best available evidence in policy and practice [17, 25, 41]. Political and infrastructure support for EIDM are seen as important precursors for the incorporation of research evidence into decision making [21, 25], and hence the KB must focus on ensuring adequate support for EIDM to be achieved. Finally, creating networks of people with common interests is a key KB activity [17, 20, 32, 41, 42], and has been shown to be an integral [43, 44] and effective [45] component of knowledge brokering. This paper has investigated the complexities of brokering through reflections from technical team leads that worked as brokers at the interface of science and policy in a conflicted situation where divergent knowledges, epistemic practices and values and uncertainties had to be integrated and translated for use in policy. When we look at what brokers do in practice in such contentious resource management contexts, we can see they cannot simply act as conduits for information to flow from scientists to policy-makers or communities in a process akin to funnelling, with translation extending largely to packaging.

Alternately, a linking agent KB may focus evaluation efforts on assessing the number, nature and quality of relationships among stakeholders. The ambition, in Bourdieusian terms, was the creation of a joint field, in which agreed objectives might translate into the valuing of distinctive, shared forms of cultural and social capital. Similarly, in terms of social capital, the new field would foster cross-cutting social connections that would be valued by all, rather than separate networks delimited by the boundaries of the two fields. The joint field would enable new forms of social activity, oriented towards the production and acquisition of these shared forms of capital. They were positioned as ‘the crucial link between NHS trusts and academia to ensure [the Collaboration] is working collaboratively to deliver its aims’ (Collaboration website).

The negotiation and establishment of the boundary itself and the definition of science and policy is part of the science policy communication process. A knowledge broker can also promote information products and services from other experts, brands, or individuals he trusts. A knowledge broker is using mainly information to create products and services that can be sold in the marketplace. Information products are very popular and people are always looking for new products to fulfill their ever-changing needs. I find these types of perspectives, where there are two communities or models of thought that have evolved separately, are unique in their evolution, but are forced to interact for mutual benefit, to be helpful in defining (and redefining) my role as a knowledge manager.

Interpretation of the broker role: embedded not detached

If you choose our workshop, we’ll get to work 1-1 to identify your skills, knowledge and the message you’re going to share with the world. We’ll identify hot market segments, your target audience, and we’ll proceed by creating info-products. The marketing process I follow is similar to the KBB course but we’ll expand on more platforms and mediums. In a nutshell, the Knowledge Broker/ex-Business Blueprint is a step-by-step blueprint to help students extract their current knowledge or report on the knowledge other people have acquired, identify their best clients, and transform this knowledge into products and services that can be sold in the marketplace. Thus while the ambition for a joint field may have been clear, the means of achieving it were ill-defined. And as we discuss next, this challenge was compounded by the way the Collaboration in practice tended to value the capitals of one field over the other.

The Act gave central government and its commissioners a mandate to implement the CWMS without the onus of merit appeals to New Zealand’s Environment Court that had been cast as holding up regional planning in the past (New Zealand Government, 2010; LAWF, 2012). In the Environment Court, science had become highly politicised and uncertainty exploited in decisions that often favoured irrigators, thus exacerbating the cumulative effects problem (LAWF, 2012; Weber et al., 2011). This meant that grappling with the politics and addressing scientific uncertainties fell to ZCs and our brokers. In the midst of this upheaval, and the institutional shift that limited merit appeals to the Environment Court, an opportunity arose to change the way science was used in policy. ECan created leadership roles that brought together interdisciplinary technical teams to support planning processes (see Robson, 2014; Robson-Williams et al., 2018). It is the leaders of these technical teams and the brokering activities they engaged in that are the focus of this study.

And whilst researchers often take years to complete research studies, decision makers want answers quickly (Mitton, Adair et al. 2007). Given these difficulties, it is sometimes thought that neither researchers nor decision makers are best placed to drive the translation, transfer and implementation of health research evidence. Measuring the impact of KBs is a challenging process exacerbated by the fact that some KBs are ‘unwilling to claim personal responsibility for achievements’ (p. 8) resulting from their efforts [15].

Challenges in measuring the impact of a KB

At the operational level, our brokers found that these knowledge attributes are often at odds with each other given the uncertainties alongside the multiple knowledges, epistemologies and values our brokers were working with (Van Kerkhoff and Pilbeam, 2017; Wyborn et al., 2019). For example, the log book helped the technical lead navigate the brokering space by meeting the needs of multiple sets of actors (i.e., the usual lateral aspects of brokering), as well as linking the big picture with the minutiae (i.e., the vertical dimensions), which collectively can be described as the warp and weft of brokering. An extensive amount of technical work and modelling sits behind an output like the assessment matrix (Fig. 1). It required the brokers to make many decisions on where to delineate categories and to enable the communication of the categories and their predicted implications through the different colour codes that represented progressively better or worse effects on envisaged community outcomes.

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While different disciplines may use the same terms, their definitions are often different, as are the methods by which each discipline measures these concepts. Additionally, each discipline may examine disparate outcomes (Thompson & Schwartz Barcott, 2017). Not only are nurse scientists adept at conducting basic and applied research, but they are knowledgeable in promoting efficient and effective translation business broker definition and utilization of research so that it is meaningful and useful in various contexts to all stakeholders. The KB also offered a site visit to each public health department in the KB intervention group. The purpose of the site visit was to facilitate the building of a trusting relationship between the health department and the KB, as well as to enable the KB to learn more about the local context.

Interpretation of the broker role

Terms such as boundary spanner, research navigator, research liaison officer, knowledge translator and research broker are used widely. However, the term knowledge broker captures something of the equitable relationship between research and practice which brokering seeks to foster. It also removes the focus from research-generated evidence to encompass other types of evidence including the tacit knowledge that resides in individuals and organisations (Roth 2003). I’ll say again, that this concept of the knowledge broker as living in an in-between space really resonates with me. I’m a big fan of the idea that the most valuable knowledge is transferred in non-formal, casual, in-between spaces in the workspace and in relationships between coworkers.

The need for a role to facilitate this transfer and exchange also stems from the recognition of the numerous barriers that exist when introducing change into the health care system, and also in translating research into practice [3]. A study by IISD investigated the value of knowledge brokers within the climate change sphere.[30] Interviews and surveys were conducted with more than 200 online climate change information users to understand their needs, preferences and behaviours. The findings were published in the paper «A user-oriented analysis of online knowledge brokering platforms for climate change and development». This publication identifies potential areas for innovation in online knowledge brokering and highlights the need for taking climate knowledge brokering beyond its online functions. In efforts to transform the boundaries between related but disjointed fields, a feature posited as advantageous – knowledge brokers’ liminality – may in practice work to their disadvantage.

Knowledge brokering in theory

The KB recognized that public health decision makers across Canada were struggling with similar issues related to healthy body weight promotion in children, requiring similar knowledge and research evidence. Upon reflection, the KB believed that a facilitated network supported by electronic means such as teleconferencing, webinars, or groupware enhancements (e.g., discussion forum, shared workspaces) would optimize limited time and resources to more efficiently address participants’ needs. Through a facilitated network, literature searches could more easily be shared with multiple participants; critical appraisal of the evidence could be done collaboratively online; and interpretation and implications of the research evidence could be discussed. A networking forum provided participants with the opportunity to share their experiences in using the evidence, the activities in which they were engaged, and their impact on local program planning and on changing organizational culture. Similar ideas are reported in the literature [70], particularly from a systematic review [46] that reports that social networks and formal networking approaches enhance EIDM efforts. Anecdotal evidence suggests that knowledge brokering can be effective in improving the quality and use of evidence in healthcare decision making [25, 41].

The knowledge broker role has been increasingly recognized worldwide as key to translating science into practice and policy. Salient publications were identified using PubMed, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Sociological Abstracts, and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, as well as hand searches and searches of the grey literature. Authors used these resources to define the knowledge broker role and with their role-related experiences developed the Thompson Knowledge Brokering Model.

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