Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Knowledge Mobilization Practices of Educational Researchers across Canada

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Knowledge Mobilization Practices of Educational Researchers across Canada

Article excerpt


Research impact agendas are being championed by governments and funders across the globe (Bastow & Tankler, 2014; Hicks, 2012; King's College London and Digital Science, 2015; Tetroe et al., 2008; Wilson, Petticrew, Calnan, & Nazareth, 2010). The rationale behind impact movements is that publicly funded research should have tangible benefits for citizens and governments need to demonstrate a return on investment in relation to research. As a result, researchers and universities are under increasing pressure to share research more widely with non-academic audiences in more accessible formats to strengthen the impact of publicly funded research on policy and practice across sectors (Nutley, Walter, & Davies, 2007; Sá, Li, & Faubert, 2011). The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada refers to these efforts as knowledge mobilization (KMb) and articulates the underlying purpose of this global movement:

Knowledge mobilization is about ensuring that all citizens benefit from publicly funded research. It can take many forms, but the essential objective is to allow research knowledge to flow both within the academic world and between academic researchers and the wider community. By moving research knowledge into society, knowledge mobilization increases its intellectual, economic, social and cultural impact. (SSHRC, 2014)

SSHRC now requires Canadian researchers to submit a KMb plan and a section articulating potential impacts expected from research grants. These global trends-research impact and KMb-are changing the landscape of higher education (Hicks, 2012; Wilsdon et al., 2015). Historically, academia has been marked by the pursuit of publishing high-quality, peer-reviewed publications (Smith, 2010; Wilson et al., 2010); however, these trends are problematizing academic production, highlighting that academic journal articles usually fail to have an impact on those beyond the ivory towers (Sá et al., 2011). We surveyed researchers from Faculties of Education across Canada to explore their KMb practices and asked if institutional supports were available in their universities to support researchers with the growing demands of mobilizing research for non-academic audiences. We surveyed researchers who had completed their SSHRC projects in 2011, because the literature on impact highlights that research impact takes time to develop and often manifests years after the end of a particular project (Grant, Brutscher, Kirk, Butler, & Wooding, 2005). At the time of this study, while there were studies exploring academic dissemination, there was no empirical work exploring KMb practices of researchers or comparing researchers' academic and non-academic dissemination efforts. It is the focus on non-academic outreach, KMb practices, and institutional supports for KMb with non-academic audiences that makes this study distinct.

Why Does This Research Topic and Study Matter?

This area of research is important because of a number of global trends that are affecting Canadian researchers:

* Research funding agencies, including SSHRC, are increasing expectations for researchers in relation to KMb efforts with non-academic audiences and tracing the impact of their research (Tetroe et al., 2008; Wixted & Beaudry, 2012).

* There has been a rise of performance-based research funding systems in 14 jurisdictions that link research impact assessments to direct funding of universities (Hicks, 2012).

* SSHRC requires KMb plans and proposed impacts from Canadian researchers (SSHRC, 2014).

* There has been a lack of empirical work on KMb globally in relation to researchers and universities (Mitton, Adair, Mckenzie, Patten, & Perry, 2007; Nutley et al., 2007) but also in relation to tracing impact and KMb efforts in the social sciences (Bastow & Tankler, 2014; Davies, Nutley, & Walter, 2005; Wilsdon et al., 2015)

Consequently, this study is significant because it provides baseline data on (a) researchers' KMb practices and (b) existing institutional supports for KMb activities in universities1 across Canada-an area where very little data exists. …

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