Talk, trust and time: a longitudinal study evaluating knowledge translation and exchange processes for research on violence against women

C Nadine Wathen, Shannon L Sibbald, Susan M Jack, Harriet L Macmillan
Implementation Science: IS 2011, 6: 102

BACKGROUND: Violence against women (VAW) is a major public health problem. Translation of VAW research to policy and practice is an area that remains understudied, but provides the opportunity to examine knowledge translation and exchange (KTE) processes in a complex, multi-stakeholder context. In a series of studies including two randomized trials, the McMaster University VAW Research Program studied one key research gap: evidence about the effectiveness of screening women for exposure to intimate partner violence. This project developed and evaluated KTE strategies to share research findings with policymakers, health and community service providers, and women's advocates.

METHODS: A longitudinal cross-sectional design, applying concurrent mixed data collection methods (surveys, interviews, and focus groups), was used to evaluate the utility of specific KTE strategies, including a series of workshops and a day-long Family Violence Knowledge Exchange Forum, on research sharing, uptake, and use.

RESULTS: Participants valued the opportunity to meet with researchers, provide feedback on key messages, and make personal connections with other stakeholders. A number of factors specific to the knowledge itself, stakeholders' contexts, and the nature of the knowledge gap being addressed influenced the uptake, sharing, and use of the research. The types of knowledge use changed across time, and were specifically related to both the types of decisions being made, and to stage of decision making; most reported use was conceptual or symbolic, with few examples of instrumental use. Participants did report actively sharing the research findings with their own networks. Further examination of these second-order knowledge-sharing processes is required, including development of appropriate methods and measures for its assessment. Some participants reported that they would not use the research evidence in their decision making when it contradicted professional experiences, while others used it to support apparently contradictory positions. The online wiki-based 'community of interest' requested by participants was not used.

CONCLUSIONS: Mobilizing knowledge in the area of VAW practice and policy is complex and resource-intensive, and must acknowledge and respect the values of identified knowledge users, while balancing the objectivity of the research and researchers. This paper provides important lessons learned about these processes, including attending to the potential unintended consequences of knowledge sharing.

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