TiHS Episode 41: David Phipps – on Knowledge Mobilization

Welcome to episode 41 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode, I speak about Knowledge Mobilization with David Phipps, Assistant Vice President of Research Strategy & Impact at York University and director of Research Impact Canada (RIC).

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David has been a Knowledge Mobilization pioneer in Canada and I was excited to chat with him about how KM has evolved and continues to evolve in Canada and beyond. As a past alum of MobilizeU, a course designed by York University for folks interested in learning more about Knowledge Mobilization, I’ve long been a fan of the work York U, through David, has done, including in the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector.

You know that Knowledge Mobilization is near and dear to my heart, and is really the point of the work that I do. In our conversation, we talk about some of the foundations of Knowledge Mobilization, how community organizations can connect and work with academics, as well as what KM can mean in our community work. I think you’ll find it an educational and interesting conversation.

Some questions we discussed:

  • Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and what brought you to the work you’re doing in Knowledge Mobilization?
  • Someone once said to me that the art of Knowledge Mobilization is answering 3 simple questions What? So what? Now what? The goal is to move knowledge to action, or as your work suggests, from research to impact. Can you tell me a bit about your experience and some examples where you’ve seen success in the research to impact continuum? I work in the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector so any specific examples of where Knowledge Mobilization has had an impact would be great.
  • Knowledge Mobilization takes time. For many nonprofit front line workers, having time to read, reflect, analyze, and potentially apply research to their practice is a challenge. What advice would you give them?
  • What advice would you give researchers to create more impact from their work?
  • I find Research Snapshots particularly useful in distilling research into something that helps answer the What? So what? Now what? questions. Can you tell me a bit more about what Research Snapshots are, how they came to be, how they have worked, and how widely they’re being used. How can we encourage more researchers and academics to create Snapshots?


Here are links to documents David mentioned during our conversation:

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation using Otter.ai. The transcript has not been edited. It may contain errors and odd sentence breaks and is not a substitute for listening to the audio.

Marco Campana 0:00
Welcome to Episode 41 of the technology and human services podcast. In this episode, I speak about knowledge mobilization with David Phipps, the Assistant Vice President of Research, strategy and impact at York University and director of research impact Canada. David has been a knowledge mobilization pioneer in Canada. And I was excited to chat with him about how knowledge mobilization has evolved and continues to evolve in Canada and beyond. As a past alum of mobilize you, of course, designed by York University for folks interested in learning more about knowledge mobilization, I’ve long been a fan of the work your cue does through David, including in the immigrant and refugee serving sector. You know, that knowledge mobilization is near and dear to my heart. And it really is the point of the work that I do. In our conversation, we talk about some of the foundations of knowledge mobilization, how community organizations can connect and work with academics, as well as what knowledge mobilization can mean, in our community work, I think you’ll find it an educational and interesting conversation.

Marco Campana 0:56
Welcome, David, to the technology and human services podcast. Thank you so much for joining me in this conversation. And why don’t we just get started if you could introduce yourself the work that you do, and and what is knowledge mobilization?

David Phipps 1:09
Oh, well, good question. Thanks, Marco for the opportunity. My name is David Phipps. I am a settler born to white parents in England. And we emigrated to this land that some people call Canada when I was two, I live with my husband in Toronto, which is on the traditional territories of the Anishinabek nation, the hood, nashoni Confederacy, the Huron Wendat and the maytee. And the current treaty holders are the Mississauga the credit. So that’s my journey, where I am now is as the Assistant Vice President for Research strategy and impact at York University. That means I get had the pleasure of working with all of our researchers on running the grants office and helping the researchers get their money. But the fun stuff that I get to do is work on what we call knowledge mobilization. And we’ll talk about that in a little bit. But as part of my fun, I am the network director of a network called research impact Canada, a network of 23 research, performing organizations, all interested in building institutional capacity to support knowledge mobilization. So what is what is known as mobilization, I like to say in an uncomplicated fashion, that knowledge mobilization helps make research useful to society. And so it gets research outside of the academic walls and into the hands of people from the public, the private or the nonprofit sectors who are looking to use that research in, in non commercial forms. I’ll talk a bit about that in a minute. But to help inform decisions about public policy or professional practice or social services, this is particularly important for research that’s not served by commercialization that’s not partnered with industry. It’s not the focus of startup companies. So and it’s research centers in all disciplines. shirk was one of the first organizations surfshark, the social sciences, and Humanities Research Council was one of the first organizations to use the term knowledge mobilization in Canada. But it’s not just limited to shirk disciplines, any any social sciences, human sciences, creative arts, or STEM disciplines that can have an impact on public policy, professional practices, social services, these can all be served by knowledge mobilization, and they very much fits a lot of federal priorities. Things like homelessness and housing, public health, immigration and settlement, environment, policy, emergency preparedness, these are all disciplines that are never going to be served by commercialization, but nonetheless are of interest to Canadians, and for which academic research can help provide evidence for these decisions. And I like to conceptualize it or not conceptualize, but sum it up by saying, We’re never going to patent our way to reconciliation. Right, we’re never going to patent our way to reconciliation. So it’s, it’s really connecting university research from the University and connecting it with organizations from outside of the university so that research can leave the academy and get taken up in in places that will provide societal benefit. So I’m curious if because York is one of the pioneers in knowledge mobilization. And in fact, I think you’re the the hub for research impact Canada, right. And in a lot of ways, a lot of other universities are kind of following your lead around doing this work. And I wonder if in your experience, those academics who have committed to knowledge mobilization if their work actually even starts with the question of how can this be useful instead of kind of just, you know, hey, this is an interesting question. But even out of the gate, is there a sort of a preconceived idea that I want to do something that will have an impact on the communities that I’m working with? Because, like you said, it’s multidisciplinary, you know, you and I talked earlier about the immigrant and refugee serving sector, which is where I come out of, and and we’ve done a lot of work with a lot of academics. And you can see the difference when someone has kind of, you know, out of the gate committed to knowledge mobilization versus someone who’s just kind of doing an academic exercise, and the difference of what that that research can have an impact on in turn.

Marco Campana 5:00
to the community, do you have a sense of those who’ve committed to Cam? If it actually matters and has an impact in the way that their research gets rolled out or even, you know, accepted or acted on?

David Phipps 5:11
Yeah, I think I’ll comment first by saying that not all research must have societal impacts, right, that we must create space for basic science for fundamental inquiry for research. That is, for knowledges sake only, and for whom the next user might not be a social service agency. But it might be another academic might take up that research evidence and use it to further the realm of thinking and critical inquiry. But in those areas, where there are opportunities for research to inform decisions by the public, private nonprofit sectors, we see researchers really taking, making meaningful efforts in knowledge mobilization, most grant applications that are outside in the renewal, applied sciences or in the social sciences. And many of the human sciences, they start out with a problem statement, they’ve identified what the challenge is that they’re expecting to address through their research. And that challenge usually sits outside of the academy. It sits in society somewhere local, or global communities. And and so researchers are really passionate about wanting to be change agents in the their fields. Some of it some some researchers take it as a personal mission. And some researchers do it because funders ask them to, but then they realize how amazing it is to be able to see the results of their research being taken up and having an impact on broader society. So I do think there is there is when it’s right for the researcher, and it’s right for the institution, like at your university, and it’s right for the funder, that’s when those three come together. And you’ve got a nice opportunity, oh, and also I should say, right for the potential partner or beneficiaries, then that’s that those are the correct conditions for knowledge mobilization and research impact.

Marco Campana 7:01
And you mentioned funders in shirk, for example, I’ve see and I think you’ve noted this in your in your work as well. There’s increasingly fond funders of research are looking for knowledge mobilization, or the the empathy ability to show research impact in social studies work is that is that a trend that comes out of kind of knowledge mobilization,

David Phipps 7:21
I would say, the trend for funders, if we look at funders, like the health charities, they have always invested their funds from their donors into research in order to make a difference into the lives of people who are living with or, you know, patients and public involvement with with the subject area of the charity. So I would say that health charities really have led the way by investing in research that is intensely focused on making on improving the lives of of patients and families. The federal funders have come along in different ways. So the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, when they had the CHR act of 2000, the year 2000. The CHR Act says that CHR will undertake research and translate that research into improved health for Canadians, specifically, the word translate. So CHR has this word in their legislative mandate that they will not just do research, but they’ll translate that into improved health for Canadians. Sure, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council released a revised program architecture, they did a big review, certainly the last part of the first decade of the 2000s and the 2009 relaunched their revised program architecture, and every grant application now must have a knowledge mobilization strategy, and must also have an outcome statement. So the outcome statement is what’s the difference we want this research to make. And the knowledge mobilization strategy is how you’re going to get there, what are you got to do to achieve it? So one is the the, the impact you want to have and the other the knowledge mobilization is how you’re going to get there. And those are two very important concepts that link knowledge mobilization is the doing of something. And research impact is the thing that arises out of that. And answer has similarly always wanted to have an impact mostly on the economy by working through university industry partnerships, but they’re, they’re expanding, they’ve never they’ve never not had an interest in public policy or in social services. But they’re expanding their language now to encompass knowledge mobilization and broader impacts on society, with advice to grant applicants and reviewers to really be looking where feasible to have to describe an impact on broader society. And I say where feasible because, you know, things like fundamental mathematics and space science research, you know, those are things that are not ever going to inform public policy, but are really important fundamental areas of inquiry.

Marco Campana 9:57
Right? Yeah, no, I mean, I guess being In the immigrant and refugee serving sector, it’s always about the, in general is how will this impact policy? How will this impact service delivery or frontline settlement? And I’m wondering, with that increase in in funders, having people create knowledge mobilization strategies and impact statements and things like that. Is there a sense of consistency around that? Or is it is it sort of a bit of a wild west in the km community? Like when when you say, a knowledge mobilization strategy? What are the core components of what that should look like?

David Phipps 10:30
Right. Okay, I’ve got answers to both of those, you might have to remind me of the second one, which is, what are the core components? will I tell you about the first one? So is there is it the Wild West is there come some consistency, so there is a program in the United Kingdom called the Research Excellence Framework, and universities get block grants of funding totaling 2 billion British pounds a year, based on the university’s ability to describe the excellence of its research, the research environment, that’s the infrastructure in the environment that it hasn’t also in 2014, or the exercise, it runs every six to seven years, they introduced societal impact. So all of a sudden, you had overnight universities and professors rushing to describe the impact of their sciences, their research has had, they’ve never had this before. And in the 2014, exercisers research done by Jonathan grant, and I know that you’ll be hyperlinking this into the into the text. But Jonathan grant, he was at King’s College, London, at the policy institute of kings, and he analyzed the 6679 impact case studies submitted from all of the UK institutions, he did word analysis, and he found out of those 6679 impact case studies, there were 3709 unique pathways to impact.

Marco Campana 11:55
That’s a lot. A lot,

David Phipps 11:57
right. And so there is no cookie cutter approach, there’s no templated approaches to impact because the research is different. The geography is different, the partners are different, the potential impacts are different, which is why every time I work with a researcher to help craft an impact strategy and a Grants application, we go back to first principles, we start now how I plan how I help them plan is the same each time because this is the second part of your question. There are common elements to an impact strategy, whether it’s a knowledge mobilization strategy for knowledge for Sherk, or a knowledge translation strategy for CIHR, or a health charity application. And I work my researchers with a tool that says, first off, who are your partners? Who are the people you want to listen to, you want to work with? And you want to disseminate to? So who are the people that you’re going to be engaging with? figure those out? And they figure them now with those people? What are your goals that you want to accomplish? And I say with those people, because the goal should be meaningful, both for the academic researcher and the potential partner, right. And so in the immigration and settlement space, there should likely be a frontline service agency, possibly Ministry of Immigration, refugees, and citizenship Canada, right? So so craft the goals of your knowledge mobilization strategy with those people that you identified in number one. So people, number one, goals. Number two, the activities is number three, what are you going to do to help meet the goals that you’ve identified with the people you want to work with. And those goals in my experience are often focused on dissemination, we’re going to write a policy brief, we’re going to put out an infographic we’re going to send out, we’ve got a social media strategy, and that’s all good, that’s necessary. But it’s not sufficient to be able to inform change. We know that when you when in CO production, when you collaborate with your end users or with the people with lived or living experiences, that’s when you start to get some research into the hands of users. So one is your goal to it. And sorry, one is your partner’s two is your goals. Three is your activities. Four is your evaluation, we suck at evaluating this stuff. Now we’ll talk a little bit about sure we’ll get to talk about that a little bit more. So what is your what’s your valuation? How are you going to know you’ve reached your goals by doing your activities with the people you’ve identified? And we’re not really good at that and critical in there is what’s the data the qualitative and quantitative data you’re going to have access to and not just wait till the end, please don’t wait to the end of your project to evaluate, be collecting these data along the way. So that you you’ve got access to the data when you need to do if you are going to wait till the end to do your evaluation. So and then the fifth element of a knowledge mobilization strategies, the budget, right this this, these are real costed activities that in many grant applications and depends funded by funder. Many grant applications have these as well. Trouble expenses. And I always say that this is not a 10 hour a week undergrad student role. I mean, we want undergrads to be involved in research and we want to fund them. But these are real roles that that have the potential to be to engage professional knowledge, mobilization of knowledge, mobilizers, and that the budget should reflect the activities that you want to do.

Marco Campana 15:21
That’s a really important point, I think, as well, in terms of not leaving the the the actual role, too, as an afterthought in the same way that evaluation shouldn’t be an afterthought. And I’m curious if that’s, I mean, I’ve seen an uptick probably in the last 1015 years in the professionalization of that role, right? So you’ve got sick kids doing training, you yourselves are doing training at York University through mobilize you. There’s a number of other folks who do training and again, some of its more specialized into health or into other places. What is that role looking like from, from a professional perspective? What What should someone be trained in? Is it subject matter expertise, plus the knowledge mobilization and communication and you know, all of those things, or is it something? What’s the profile look like for someone who should be a professional knowledge mobilizer?

David Phipps 16:11
Yeah, it’s a good question. We there are some resources, which I know I’ll send to you. And you’ll put into the links of these. I did a paper a number of years ago with Melinda Barwick from SickKids. And, and we, we unpack the difference between knowledge mobilization and communications. Right. And it was partly and that was from a sense of the profession, partly from the sense of skills, also did a paper with Julie Bailey from Lincoln University in the UK, around competency frameworks for knowledge mobilization. So we’re starting to really get an evidence base on Who are these people and as you said, mobilize you and the knowledge translation professional certificate to SickKids. Guelph has a knowledge mobilization certificate program. So there are increasing li some practice based courses that that are being informed by scholarship, the scholarship in the space, what does the person look like? We know that a good is on the commercialization side of the house, we know that a good commercialization manager is someone who’s got experience in academic research, but maybe has also worked in industry or started up a company or something like that. I find that people who excel in this are people have had a bit of experience in the academic side. But it’s also worked somewhere in potential partner or beneficiary organization. I’ll give the example of the manager of knowledge mobilization at York University, Michael Gianni, he’s my first hire in knowledge mobilization in 2006. And bless his heart. He’s still with me, which is amazing. He has his master’s in native and Canadian Studies from Trent University, but he also worked in adult literacy and adult literacy and indigenous settings. And so he’s, he’s had came to our knowledge mobilization unit at York University with both he’s written a thesis, he’s done research, but he’s also had that community social service aspect, professional in his in his in his job history. So to me, it’s having an understanding both the community side and the academic side makes for a really, really rich knowledge mobilizer. But increasingly, we’re seeing people coming out of their grad programs or PhD programs, with, with experience that both academic research and also engaging more broadly beyond the Academy. And there’s a wonderful program at the University of British Columbia called the public scholars initiative, and we’ll send you that link will get that link up. It’s a program where they hold an open call for PhD students whose research has a public face to it, whether that’s to industry or community or to government. And they select I think they they get, I don’t know, 8090 applications, they select 30 ish, I’m making these numbers up, but I think I think they’re close. And they these students get specialized training and outreach and engagement. And they also get some additional funding to fund their engagement and outreach activities. So it’s a wonderful program. I had the pleasure a number of years ago at going to public scholars initiative conference, and they’re just brilliant young scholars, you know, in a mature phase of their PhD Career, so there is increasingly going to be capacity building for knowledge mobilization, even within a PhD program.

Marco Campana 19:39
That’s great. So so at the at the core, the researcher themselves doesn’t need to be a cam expert, but they need to have someone who can straddle both worlds whether it’s industry or community, as well as academia in order to help kind of translate that information into the communities and the stakeholders, like you mentioned earlier.

David Phipps 19:56
Yeah. And I’ll say it’s, it’s a relationship you use the right risk relationship between the researcher and the knowledge mobilization professional, what? Unlike transfer, so technology transfer is I’m a researcher, and I’ve developed something that might have commercial potential in my research. So I hand that off to the bank transfer office who arranges to have a patent file, and then they market that out and they try and find a licensed company licensee for that. That’s very much a handoff from one one set of expertise to the other set of expertise. In Knowledge Translation, we can’t, we don’t usually do a handoff like that, it’s usually an ongoing collaboration, because, you know, I was the Knowledge Translation lead for a network called kid’s brain health network, which was a network of centers of excellence based on childhood neurodevelopmental disorders. And there’s no way that a researcher could give me their research in whatever, you know, community support system might be, and they say, Get David, go do it. Right, I am really what I prefer to do is work with that researcher from the beginning of the research project, to support them all the way along, because the i You can’t separate the research from the knowledge mobilization, you know, I can’t a researcher can’t give me say, David, can you write me an ultra mobilization strategy, I can’t do that without reading what the research is. Right? So So I do think that it’s there’s, it’s not a handoff like there isn’t commercialization. It’s much more a partnership between academic researchers and knowledge mobilization professionals. And let’s not forget the some of these, some of these are academic researchers don’t need me, right there. They’ve just been doing this their whole career. And sometimes they want help with, you know, more contemporary collaboration platforms or something like that. But we’ve all got researchers who are long standing in their careers, you’ve got long standing relationships with community or policy partners. And they’re just doing this as part of their scholarship that you do not need me to help.

Marco Campana 21:56
Interesting. I want to switch gears a little bit and talk less about academic researchers and more. Because there’s, there’s been an explosion over the last few years in community based research, where organizations frontline organizations, in our case, local immigration partnerships, umbrella organizations, are increasingly doing research sometimes with academic partners, but not always. And, and so they, they, they then don’t necessarily have access to that same kind of infrastructure, or even the idea of knowledge mobilization, I think they’re very focused on impact, because generally, the point of their research is to try to either get some funding or meet an identify a need in the community. But I know that they struggle, because communications and knowledge translation isn’t something that’s heavily funded at the community level. And I wonder, through research impact, or through your own work at York, because you’re connected with a lot of those organizations, what what can they do to figure out how to how to bridge that role, if you will, to ensure that their research is actually which again, typically has an impact outcome focus can actually have that outcome instead of just sort of, you know, being thrown on the pile and set out nice research, but you know, there’s nothing that’s going to happen with it.

David Phipps 23:05
Yeah, yeah. It’s a good question. My, my world is focused. Well, it’s not focused internally to the university, my lenses on the university, but it’s also supporting, opening up creating a permeable university that is more open to working in collaboration with public policy and social service organizations. So how can a social service organization frontline organization gets supports for knowledge mobilization? Well, first off, I think they could look at the members page at the research impact Canada website, and they could see if there’s a local research organization in their community, and they we’ve got contact information on all of our members organizations, if they if they are not in a research community where there’s a research impact Canada, member university, they can always see an email or generic line info at research impact.ca and say, Hey, I’m looking for I’m looking for some help in this right they can try it try and describe what that is. All of our resources on the resource page of the research impact Canada website are free and free to use. We’ve got some standalone self directed resources, one on making infographics, one on holding accessible knowledge mobilization meetings, and I think we’ve got one on working in partnership. So these are all standalone items. But then, depending on where they are, certainly at York University, we welcome local organizations to attend to mobilize You of course, it is designed, it is not designed specifically for academics. It is always designed specifically for researchers. And there’s no reason that a community based researcher could not also focus or take that course. That may not be true certainly is not true of all knowledge mobilization courses in Canada, but they could certainly join mobilize to you if they’re local to York University, and there’s another organization in Canada called community based research Canada or CBR, Canada, and they have a lot of resources as well. And there is a focus there specifically on community based researchers, those are both researchers in the academy. They’re working in and with community, as well as community based researchers. This concept is getting growing roots, beyond research organizations, I had a really interesting time I was invited to speak on this work to the Continuing Care Association of Alberta. It may not be exactly that, but there’s a two season two A’s and it’s continuing care, and it’s Alberta Association, so and they said, Could you come and talk about knowledge mobilization, I said, oh, so are there researchers in the room, they went Nope. I said, who’s in the room, and they said, long term care institutions, managers, unions, nurses, evaluators, policymakers, everyone associated with continuing care in Alberta. And so I had to work hard actually, to remove the word students from my language to remove with the words, research. And first I started out by saying, raise your hand, this is in person, raise your hand if you work in an organization that wants to make a difference. And of course, everyone’s hands went up, right? And I said, raise your hand, if you if you use evidence, or some opinions or some surveys, in order to inform the business that you do in order to form improvements. They all put their hands up. I said, you know, so that’s knowledge mobilization, we take an input into something, whether it’s an evaluation report, it’s data, it’s, it’s a testimonial from from interested parties, and then that goes into some decision making machine and outcomes a result, right. And that’s using this knowledge mobilization. So even in a non core research, space, knowledge mobilization is really just helping evidence or helping evidence in, translate into, into impact.

Marco Campana 27:06
I think that’s really great to be able to democratize and demystify it a little bit as well, because I think it also, as you’re describing that I can think of people in the room who are thinking about communication, which is more outputs oriented, here’s what we did, and then shifting it to outcomes, which is the impact, which is the knowledge mobilization, and instead of just talking about what you did, like, figure out how it could be the be implemented or, you know, who could take that knowledge for what kind of thing and it’s a great, it’s a great frame, the way you’re putting it, I think, because people should understand that they are in this it’s not a role that is divorced from their reality, if they just have to shift the thinking a little bit, right.

David Phipps 27:43
Yeah, I will encourage the communicators who are listening to this to look at that paper that I did with Melanie Barwick, Compaq, and communications and knowledge mobilization. Because communications as I said before, communications is communicator communications is a skill that I practice. But I don’t call myself a communicator, right. And there are some important differences between communications and knowledge mobilization, and communications is is a critical role in knowledge mobilization. You can’t do knowledge mobilization without communications, but you can communicate without necessarily doing knowledge mobilization.

Marco Campana 28:22
That’s a great point. And speaking of that, it’s a nice segue in some ways from from my brain anyway, to some of the tools that people use around knowledge mobilization. Now, you and I spoke about this a little bit that it’s something you’re moving away from. But research snapshots is something that says for example, you mentioned earlier, the Center for Excellence in Research and immigration and settlement, which doesn’t exist anymore. That’s where I was introduced to these and I found them incredibly useful. So research snapshots, a two, three page summary, asking a template of asking you some very specific questions and giving some very concise answers about who did this why it was done? What are the outcomes? You know, how can it be used by people in the field, when I worked in the field was really useful to really help me understand well, should I read this 100 page report? The two to three pager at least told me that yes or no, or which sections of it maybe I should read, for example. And, and I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about how that template came about, and perhaps even why it’s not used as widely now?

David Phipps 29:18
Yeah, um, so the template, we applied for a very small shirt grant, and it was early days in grant 2007, I think in our knowledge, mobilization history. And we wanted to be able to do exactly what she said ticket, take a published academic paper, and one of the challenges in knowledge mobilization is the people who are frontline service providers, policymakers, they may not have the skills to read academic scholarship, right? Or they may not have the time to crank to figure out if this 10 or 200 page paper is something I should I shouldn’t look at. So we created this tool called research snapshot, which is as you say, it’s two pages. You It asked the questions. What is this about? What did they do? How can you use this and then there’s a little box of about two or three bullets. It says what you need to know. So the idea is, you know, you look at the title, which is going to be the title again, it’s not the title of the paper. It’s, it’s a more like a headline, a journal headline. And you read the headline, Oh, that’s interesting. You read the textbook. So that’s three or four bullets, I can read that. And then you go, Okay, well, now I can read the two pages. And if I want, then I can get the reference. And I can read the whole paper. So we were using it as a way to try and make the outputs of research. So journal articles more accessible to non academics. It was a standard two page layout. Interestingly, we hired them a summer student out of a PhD program in English as an English, this guy was a poet. That was his PhD. He’s a published poet. And so he was the first one to draft the clear language, right? So he’s was not a scientist. He was he was a poet, and his name is Jason Gurriel. And and I think that’s really important to conceptualize what we mean by clear language. We didn’t call it plain language called a clear language. And, and and we then drafted we drafted I think they’re still available on the York University Library site. And they’re publicly available. I’ve got a few 100 in there.

Marco Campana 31:22
Yeah, it’s a great repository. Absolutely.

David Phipps 31:25
Getting steel now, I would say, right, so we haven’t written any probably since about 2018 2017 2018. But it did inspire McMaster University, a research impact candidate member, they adopted a program called research snaps. And so the research snaps are actually even snappier than the snapshot. I in very, they lend themselves very much to social media. And they actually won an award for science communications, the snapshots, which is really cool. So they took the research snapshot, we inspired them, for them to adapt it into their own research snap, which is a which they’re still going it’s still going on those. You know, one of the other reasons we stopped is we didn’t really know how they were being used, like you can you don’t we had a social media strategy around them. We knew that they were being downloaded. But we didn’t know who what was really doing with them. We didn’t know who was reading them. Yeah, we considered embedding a very simple evaluation, if you open one of these things, and you know, two questions pop off, which pisses everyone off. So we never did that. You know, so there was a bit of lack of evidence about, you know, what, what, who was using these. But we really also remember I said that communications is necessary, but not sufficient to inform change. And our practice and knowledge mobilization has become much more about supporting research collaborations, rather than pushing knowledge out, which is what a research snapshot does, as important as that is, I don’t want to say it’s not, we’re much more focused at York University in creating those collaborations so that end users partners can actually pull the research out of the university than us having to push it up. And so and again, we, if we’re going to do good knowledge mobilization, we need to be doing that, according to what not just the academics feel is important. But what the community partners or the agency partners think is important as well. And the research snapshots were really only just communicating what the university had done, there wasn’t that reciprocal engagement, that that I feel is very important.

Marco Campana 33:39
So can you speak a little bit to that, because a collaboration obviously makes sense. But it also is more time consuming more resource intensive, but theoretically, likely more likely to have that impact that researchers may even be looking for. Right?

David Phipps 33:53
Yeah, it’s and so it does have more impact. Because if a researcher is working on their own in the academy, and then they’re trying to push it out to try and get it taken up, you don’t actually know whether you’re working on something that’s needed. And so when you actually go out and talk to potentially interested parties in this area, you’re going to understand what their needs are. And then that can inform the work that you wanted to do. It doesn’t mean that you should only do work that is meaningful for partners. But if you want your research to be taken up by partners, you better know what they think is important. And so that’s one of the things that we help researchers do is, is when we’re brokering relationships in the knowledge mobilization unit, we we basically hung up a shingle and said to partners, if you ever want to talk to your researcher, give us a call. Please don’t cold call my researchers because you’re going to get someone who’s never done to call you back number one, because they don’t know who you are. And number two, you might get someone who is it should never do this work right. They should be best left to their good academic scholarship. And we know We will help you have a good first experience. In looking at our numbers, we know that we get about 30 to 40 calls a year 75% Are those from the outside looking to partner in. And of those most are community organizations. Again, this is knowledge mobilization, that York’s in numbers. And we’ve got a paper which we published with United Way of York region at the time, when that’s what they were called. And we’ll put that as a link into the notes. And it was describes our process for knowledge brokering with partners, with community organizations, and we are successful, I think the number is 92% of the time successful to at least host the first conversation, we don’t necessarily guarantee you’re going to get your needs met in that first conversation. But we’re good at getting someone to call you back. And and and it’s because we created this, this door into the university, that community and governments and industry can call to say, Hey, I’m looking, I’m looking for help in this.

Marco Campana 36:06
Yeah, no, I mean, that’s safe, that would save so much time and frustration on both ends, I imagine to be able to sort of go with someone who understands the internal system, and can, as you say, find the right person. Is that is that for community groups, for example? And I know you’ve written it up, so we’ll certainly look at that. But is that for community groups who already have a research, a funded research plan and are looking for an academic to depart to bring into it? Or someone who’s just looking to explore a piece of research and they need someone with the research credentials? Yeah, it’s

David Phipps 36:36
usually someone who who’s who already knows that they have a question. And one thing we’re not here to do is to broker consulting agreements for our faculty members, they consult they’re allowed to do that, but that’s not our thing. We’re looking for people who have an actual research question. So for example, many in 2007, it might have been early on. The Ontario collaborative response to family violence was a colocation of a number of agencies that were providing services to families emerging out of situations of domestic violence, and they co located and the each agency had its own funding, and they they knew what they needed to evaluate to get their own funding, but they didn’t know how to evaluate the collaborative, what you brought together. And so they phoned up Michael Jonnie, and the manager of knowledge mobilization said, Hey, Michael, you know, we need some help, understanding how can we evaluate this difference that we make, we know what we do individually, but what does the collaborative do? So they were able to Michael was able to hook them up with Mina Singh from the School of Nursing. And she was an evaluator in working in community based settings. And she worked with these agencies to develop a unique evaluation tool and method to be able to help these agencies tell the story of what sort of what they’re doing as a collaborative. So they each know what they do, but now they can know what they’re doing together collectively. And so that was because Michael was able to hook them up with the right researcher. So they had a specific question. And we were able to provide, find the specific research and help them with that.

Marco Campana 38:12
And then obviously apply for a grant to be able to actually do the work. And well, then yeah,

David Phipps 38:17
the agencies themselves were funded evaluation was part of their funding. So they they took, they took that work and interesting is an important point. Sometimes, this work does require funding, you can do a little bit of work with, with grad students who are looking to do some, some interesting work. But sometimes you need to this, this does lead itself to really well funded opportunities. In fact, I’ll say the very first knowledge mobilization event that we held was on youth mental health. And through that one of our researchers have met someone from the mental health, Canadian Mental Health Association of your region. And they put together they started chatting about what their shared interests were. And ultimately, that became a $1.5 million funded CIHR grant that had researchers from five or six universities, working with a dozen community service agencies. And importantly, there were 10 young adults with lived experience of mental health challenges that were part of the whole project. So it was the recruiting the academics in the community, community agencies would idea and the youth would identify what the needs were academics would go in and find out what the literature says and synthesize that into actionable messages. And then the youth would take those and turn them into tools, by Youth for Youth, you know, and then the agencies disseminated those tools out to their their clients. So created this wonderful feedback of starting with the need identified and community and by young by youth, youth leaders, and then academics, searching into the literature to get the evidence in the actionable messages. And then the youth develop developing tools and the tool they developed was a backpack. And every part it was an online backpack and you’d open up different compartments. And there’ll be different types of mental service mental health services that will be taught to it. And then it went back to the agencies who disseminated that into their populations.

Marco Campana 40:17
Very creative, Hans really interesting. Okay, so yeah, so if someone’s got an interesting question, and you’re not sure where to start contacting your in your office is a starting point to help me connect to a prof to some students to just some infrastructure to help kind of flesh that out a bit even.

David Phipps 40:32
Yeah, and we will we work at York, we work local first. So if you’re a local agency into the in the GTA, absolutely give us a call. But if you’re not local, email info at and research impact.ca. And then the research impact network will pick that up, and we’ll try and do that same work, we’ll try and find someone at one of our member institutions to be able to pick up the phone and give you a call back.

Marco Campana 40:56
So those member institutions, I think you said there’s 20 or so they’re also doing a similar kind of approach.

David Phipps 41:02
Yeah, it will be similar ish, you know, we all respond to our local opportunities. And, you know, some like Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC, they’re an exclusively undergraduate, university. So their knowledge mobilization is connecting to undergraduate classes, right and doing work like that. So it’ll look differently than in a program like York, where a lot of our work is connected with grad students and researchers. So it’s kind of it’s a little bit different on each campus. But ultimately, each campus member institution is interested in creating these connections between science and society. And science. They say science, writ broad social human sciences, and science, technology, engineering and maths.

Marco Campana 41:46
Amazing. So I feel like as we’re talking, I’m hearing about how knowledge mobilization has evolved. It’s, it’s still as much an art as a science, where do you see the next few years? I mean, so for example, moving from outputs, like not research snapshots to outcomes, like the collaboration and doing more intensive work and being a support to local agencies to say, you can contact us, we’ll help connect you. Where do you see the work evolving?

David Phipps 42:11
Right? I really think most of the literature, there is evidence in this space, most of the literature is focused on the research project and the researcher in the partner what are the enablers and barriers to researchers working externally to the University working with partners, and that’s really, really important work, the space that there is less evolved is what is at the institution level? What does the institution need to do to be able to support its researchers doing this work? So what are the right institutional policies that what is it? What do job descriptions look like for knowledge? mobilizers for professional knowledge, mobilizers? How do you form a community of practice on your campus? You know, these are all these are all questions that are at the institutional level. And I feel that knowledge mobilization now is like the institutional supports for knowledge mobilization now are like, institutional supports were for commercialization in the 1990s, you know that some people are doing it, not everyone’s doing it, there’s no, there’s little consistency of, of service and practice built up. And in the that, in the 90s, the federal government, through the trial councils, made funds available to Vice Presidents research to build capacity in tech transfer. And now every university has a tech transfer office. We’ve got we’ve got courses and accreditation for for the practice of technology transfer. And I feel that’s where we’re, you know, 2030 years behind commercialization. And that’s where institutions are starting to look at is, how do we then do this to similar efforts for our support the engagement of non commercial research with with end users, so I think the future of knowledge mobilization is going to continue to have a focus on the project and the researcher and the partners, but will increasingly look at what are the conditions, the institutional conditions for success.

Marco Campana 44:10
Interesting. And ideally, some of that sort of consistency across institutions, then, like you said, job descriptions and just the approaches and those core components that you talked about earlier.

David Phipps 44:21
Yeah. And we’re starting that work. I’ll just give you some other links to fill up in the in the notes. My colleague, Julie Bailey at Lincoln in the UK, and I have done some work comparing Canada and the UK systems. And we’ve developed some tools one and we’ve developed the concept of impact to literacy. So if we under the state of knowing how to create research impact, what impacts have occurred and the skills you need to to do this work, if you imagine what who and how has being a Venn diagram, the intersection of those three is impact literacy. Our research impacts literacy, so we developed a tool for individuals called the Impact literacy workbook. I’ll give you that link. And we’ve also developed a tool for institutions called the institutional health check. So how institutions can assess their readiness to support this work?

Marco Campana 45:09
That sounds great. I feel like this is going to be the richest set of episode notes I’ve ever had. And I can’t wait to link to all of those. Because I think there’s a lot of great Further reading and foundational reading, it sounds like as well for people who are interested in this to kind of get started. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to the, to the links, because I think this is going to be a rich set of episode notes. And just really useful for people who are thinking about this interested to get some of the foundational stuff, but also some of the future thinking on it. So thank you, in advance for sharing all of those. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about? In particular, when it comes to knowledge mobilization on on the social side, not that not the commercialization side, that that folks in the immigrant and refugee serving sector should be thinking about? Around around the topic around the idea around the challenge of knowledge mobilization?

David Phipps 45:55
I’m glad you use it, you ended up with the word challenge. So let’s go back to what I said, we all suck at which is evaluation. All suck at this, I do hope you use the word suck. And you’re absolutely. The challenge with with this is, in contrast to commercialization, that we’ve got quantitative metrics and commercialization, to say how many patents have been filed, how many deals with industry, what’s your licensing revenue, we don’t, we don’t have that on the social side, on the on the social side of the scale, our value, our data, our stories, our data, our data are qualitative. Now, I always say no stories without numbers, and no numbers were those stories. So the numbers give, like the breadth of how many citizens served, that sort of thing. The stories give the depth, the qualitative meaningfulness of those numbers. And again, going back to Jonathan grants work on the research excellence framework in the UK, for one of his conclusions was that the case study, ie the narrative is the correct unit of assessment for impact. So we will never Metro size, our our ability to tell the story of impact, it’ll always be stories and develop and narratives and qualitative data partnered with quantitative data. That so that being said, it’s really hard to, you know, to, it’s not hard to tell the story, but it’s hard to compare one story against another. And that’s, that’s part of the challenge with you, within one project, I can easily you know, I can, I can within a research project, you know, we you can, you can create data at the beginning, you can do your project, you can collect data at the end, quantitative and qualitative data, and you can show the journey of change over the course of your research project or your research career more likely. But you can’t compare your research study to somebody your research impact to somebody else’s research impact. So comparative data are really, really hard. The UK does that by peer review by having panels review these case studies. But we don’t have that in Canada. So in the UK, they use the term impact assessment. And it is assessment because they assessed one university against another, and they make funding decisions based on that. In Canada, we don’t have an impact assessment program. And and I’m delighted at that, by the way, and so is that we’ll come to that. So, so in Canada, we don’t, I don’t use the words impact assessment, because my faculty members don’t want to be assessed. I specifically use the term collecting and communicating the evidence of impact. And we’ve got a tool again, I’ve always got a tool on everything. And we’ve recently published a book chapter on this tool. And it’s a tool that builds off the case study framework from the research excellence framework in the UK. But we’ve importantly added a semi structured interview guide that is drawn from the literature in contribution analysis. And contribution analysis says How does research contribute to a decision or contribute to change. So the tool is composed of three parts is set of directions, the semi structured interview guide, and then the case study framework. And the idea is you collect and communicate the evidence of impact, you use the case study. So you use the semi structured interview guide to collect the evidence of impact through interviews with people who are involved, both as researchers and as partners and as beneficiaries. And then also then there’s a case study framework that is reflects the voices of not just academics but of partners as well. And so so we do have a tool to collect and communicate, the evidence has been packed and that’s getting quite a lot of play right now. In both in the network but also in other organizations that are quite interested in in reporting on the day for instant their research has made

Marco Campana 50:00
excellent sounds like a really interesting and perhaps more positive approach than the idea of impact assessment where you’re pitting. It sounds like universities against each other, which is why I can imagine your faculty might not like it.

David Phipps 50:13
There. So you said, Why am I delighted the candidate doesn’t have impact assessment, on the experience in the UK, and I’m quite close to a lot of it is not secret. I am one of the internet, I’m on the international advisory group that is advising UK research and innovation on its assessment of the ref and the future of research assessment programs, the prep, and there are reports and they’re publicly reports, both scholarly and blog reports of crazy incentive, unintended consequences that have happened when institutions are starting to chase the money, the big money, 2 billion pounds, that is liberated from the ref, and things like switching faculty members from research to teaching contracts, because then they’re not admissible to the ref. Right? We can’t get that in Canada. Right? If you’re a faculty, if you’re a unionized faculty member, we can’t just change it because you’re the contract that conditions of your work from research to teaching. And those are some of the things that were happening in the UK as they start to game the system. Interesting.

Marco Campana 51:21
Well, on that note, so it sounds like a more of a more positive system in Canada.

David Phipps 51:26
But you know, yeah, let’s let’s just end on this my collaboration with Julie Bailey, we started, we started this comparison. And yes, I will say a more positive approach. and Canada. In the UK, the Research Excellence Framework is an assessment of what research has happened there, the white bubble in that Venn diagram, we don’t have assessment in Canada. So our bubble as to how bubble is and then we’re focused on how to create impact, and less so on why the impact has occurred. And so we say, in systems like the UK, but it’s also in Australia, in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Hong Kong all have impact assessment for their, for their systems, there assessment driven systems there, the academic system is driven by the assessment of impact. And in Canada, and in all other, you know, the US and other jurisdictions that don’t have impact assessment. We call ourselves mission focused. So we’re, if it’s the right mission for the researcher, the right mission for the funder, the right mission for the institution, then go and fill your boots and do great impact. But you know, if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to, if you’re studying black holes, well go study black holes. But if you’re studying black holes in the UK, you’ve got to, you’ve got to express how that has changed the world.

Marco Campana 52:42
Right? A very different approach. Yeah, but

David Phipps 52:47
I do think and when I, I do a lot of conversations in the UK, and there’s a lot of researchers are now there’s a lot of challenges that have arisen because of the ref, as I mentioned. And, you know, I say that we don’t we do impact because it’s right for us, not because the government tells us we have to.

Marco Campana 53:09
Got it. Well, listen, thank you for this very rich and informative conversation. And I will send you all of the the reports that you mentioned, to get those links. Thank you in advance for that. And have a great holiday season. Thanks so much for this conversation. I can’t wait to share it with folks. It’s a really great sort of summary and overview and foundation on knowledge mobilization that I think will be really interesting for folks to hear about. Great. Thanks, Marco. Thanks so much for listening. I hope you found this episode interesting and useful for you and your work. You can find more podcast episodes, wherever you listen to your podcasts are also on my site@markopoulos.org I appreciate you listening and if you have any tips, suggestions, ideas or want to be interviewed or know someone who wants to be interviewed, please drop me a line through my website, or marco@markopoulos.org Thanks again

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