Assessing Impact across Knowledge Translation Value Chain
Let’s return to the notion of the knowledge translation value chain as illustrated below. The first box depicts basic research that mainly impacts other researchers through its contribution to knowledge or theory. Very often this research will have been the result of research grants from bodies such as research councils. The output of basic research usually takes a conventional form: published articles in journals, chapters in edited volumes and entire monographs. The efficacy of the research produced is measured through such things as citation counts and the impact factor and ranking of the journal the research is published in.
Theory to practice research could be characterized by the second box in our sequence. At this stage consideration is given as to how basic research might lead to improvements in practice or how an intervention into policy might take place. Although all the thinking through of how this might happen still remains within the domain of academics, the focus is more directly on the implications of the research might have practice. Also important at this stage is how theory might be translated into policy advice. These considerations could potentially lead to the beginnings of a strategy for engagement with practitioners. In terms of measurement of the efficacy of such knowledge transfer, articles published in practitioner-orientated research journals and joint publications with practitioners are considered as particularly relevant as such publications aim at translating the knowledge from basic research into a language understood and valued by practitioners. Events bringing into dialogue academic researchers and practitioners may also be seen as a well-established strategy for translating basic research into practice.
The third box in the translation process – collaborative research – relates to individuals explicitly engaging with users as part of the research process. Knowledge transfer and knowledge translation become a joint activity. The design of research of this kind might be action research, collaborative research, evaluative research or case study research and is often supported by users providing both their time and access. There can be a range of different outcomes. For researchers, there are papers to be published in academic and practitioner-facing journals, but there are also opportunities for real change to take place within the organizations that have taken part in the research. The latter would usually be measured in terms of improved performance.
Finally, there is research that aims at the production of outputs which are directly usable by a wide range of users. These materials can be accessed directly and don't necessarily have to involve the researchers who produce them. As a consequence research can be widely disseminated. However, researchers have little control of how the research is being both interpreted and used. Examples might be the development of webpages so that material can be downloaded and disseminated to those interested in the topic. This might stimulate further interaction between managers and leaders to insights into how changes to professional practice might bring benefit. The last category perhaps also represents an accumulation of a research agenda that has taken place over a considerable period of time. This type of research might be measured in relation to the kinds of tools and services that have come about as a consequence of the research (these could be computer programs or other commercial products, teaching materials or even textbooks).