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Knowledge translation

The term 'knowledge translation' is a relatively new term first used and defined by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The CIHR definition of knowledge translation is:

'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.'

Characteristics of knowledge translation

Key features of KT are that it is an active rather than passive process and involves continuous interaction between researchers and the research users; for example, policy makers, public, patients and carers, clinicians and managers.

Other characteristics include:

  • KT takes place throughout all stages of the research cycle, in a non-linear process
  • KT is an interactive process between researchers and research users, requiring multidirectional communications and ongoing collaborations. It involves diverse knowledge-user groups and is an interdisciplinary process
  • KT includes multiple activities and is user- and context-specific
  • KT primarily uses research-generated knowledge (sometimes in conjunction with other types of knowledge)
  • KT is impact-orientated

Adapted from: Sudsawad P. Knowledge translation: introduction to models, strategies, and measures. The National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research; 2007

Knowledge translation models and frameworks

There is a variety of models, which have been classified as:

  • Context-focused models and frameworks
  • Interaction-focused framework
  • Individual-focused model

Context-focused models and frameworks

The Ottawa model of research use

Logan J, Graham ID. Toward a comprehensive interdisciplinary model of health care research use. Science Communication December 1998 vol.20 no.2 pp 227-246

The model looks at the implementation of existing research knowledge. It has six key elements:

  • Evidence-based innovation
  • Potential adopters
  • The practice environment
  • Implementation of interventions
  • Adoption of the innovation
  • Outcomes resulting from implementation of the innovation

The Ottawa Model is frequently utilised in research about knowledge translation in physiotherapy.

This model has been used to develop recommendations to facilitate physiotherapists to implement new knowledge in their clinical practice.

Zidarov D, Thomas A, Poissant L. Knowledge translation in physical therapy: from theory to practice. Disability and Rehabilitation August 2013, Vol.35, No.18, pp 1571-1577

The knowledge-to-action process framework

Graham I, Logan J, Harrison MB et al.  (2003)  Lost in knowledge translation: Time for a map? The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions  26  13-24

This framework facilitates the use of research knowledge by several stakeholders, for example, clinicians, policymakers, patients and the public.  It has two components:

  • Knowledge creation
  • Action

The Promoting action on research implementation in health services framework (PARIHS)

Rycroft-Malone J (2004)  The PARIHS framework: a framework for guiding the implementation of evidence-based practice.  Journal of Nursing Care Quality 19 297-304

This framework facilitates research implementation by understanding the interaction between three core elements:

  • The level and nature of the evidence to be used
  • The context or environment in which the research is to be placed
  • The method by which the research implementation process is to be facilitated

The Coordinated Implementation Model

Lomas J (1993) Retailing research: Increasing the role of evidence in clinical services for childbirth  The Milbank Quarterly  71  439-475

This model considers the competing factors that can influence implementation in the practice environment and includes a range of routes through which research information can influence clinical practice

Interaction-focused framework

Understanding-user-context framework

Jacobson N, Butterhill D and Goering P (2003)   Development of a framework for knowledge translation: Understanding user context.  Journal of Health Services Research & Policy 8 94-99

This framework facilitates researchers to engage in knowledge translation by increasing their familiarity with and understanding of the intended user groups. 

Individual-focused model

The Stetler model of research utilization

Stetler CB (2001) Updating the Stetler model for application of research finding to practice  Nursing Outlook  42 15-25

This is a conceptual and procedural model to facilitate individual practitioners apply research in practice

Knowledge translation resources

Sudsawad P. Knowledge translation: introduction to models, strategies, and measures. The National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research; 2007

A comprehensive review of knowledge translation models, the effectiveness of knowledge translation strategies and measures of knowledge use.

Knowledge Translation (KT) Clearing House. Toolkit to facilitate the practice of knowledge translation

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Knowledge translation and commercialization publications (Last modified Sep 2013)


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