Defining Knowledge Translation (KT)

Dozens of terms have been coined for what we understand to be Knowledge Translation, or some component of it:

  • Know-Do Gap
  • Knowledge Cycle
  • Knowledge Exchange
  • Dissemination
  • Knowledge mobilization
  • Knowledge to Action
  • Diffusion
  • Knowledge Transfer

There are also a variety of definitions for KT. The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) defines KT as “…a dynamic and iterative process that includes synthesis, dissemination, exchange and ethically-sound application of knowledge to improve the health of Canadians, provide more effective health services and products and strengthen the health care system”.

Other definitions exist, but the common theme is that rather than thinking only of how to disseminate our findings, we consider a process that allows the appropriate knowledge to be used when and where it is appropriate, in consultation with the appropriate stakeholders. Knowledge translation should be evaluated both in terms of reach and impact of the knowledge translated, and in terms of the process itself.

Types of KT

The CIHR distinguish two types of KT:

  1. End-of-grant KT:  Using end-of-grant KT, the researcher develops and implements a plan for making knowledge users aware of the findings from a research project once these findings are available.  Examples include conference presentations, and journal publications aimed at other researchers. If the target audience is outside the academic world, it may also include a variety of dissemination tactics including workshops, public talks, print or digital materials in lay language, websites, and more.  End-of-grant is often what people imagine when they think of KT.
  2. Integrated KT (iKT): This fuller process encourages the inclusion of the knowledge users, or target audience, in the entire research process.  Researchers and knowledge users’ work together to identify research questions, decide on methodology, interpret and disseminate. iKT aims to produce research results that are highly relevant and likely to be used by knowledge users to improve health and the health system because the process has been informed by those for whom it is designed.

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