A key component of the Lowitja Institute’s research activities is knowledge exchange, a term that describes the process of transferring knowledge gained through research activities into actual applications of that knowledge in the wider world.
It sounds simple enough but knowledge exchange in research can be challenging because it is a dynamic and complex process that occurs between people across different communities and organisations. Knowledge exchange in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research in particular needs time, expertise and resources, with researchers not usually trained in the skills needed.
Ideally the knowledge exchange process should start before the project, when research priorities are set. It should continue throughout the research and well beyond the project timeline.
In this excerpt from the Lowitja Institute’s Researching Indigenous Health: A Practical Guide for Researchers – the latest in a continuing series of excerpts – we present some tips for researchers on how both to plan for knowledge exchange and to make the process as effective as possible.
Tips for planning knowledge exchange
- Plan for knowledge exchange as early as possible when planning the project. Involve relevant research users.
- When the research has been requested by an organisation or group find out if there are plans for using the research. Are there built-in expectations or contractual obligations for knowledge-sharing products?
- Include a budget for knowledge exchange activities and product development in research grant applications and in timelines. They should not be ad hoc or added in.
- If extra funding is needed for knowledge exchange, start the search as early as possible. If funds are inadequate, work out your knowledge exchange priorities (e.g. community feedback in the preferred format is not negotiable).
- Involve relevant experts in planning and carrying out knowledge exchange (e.g. to cost it, to develop a product, to present at an event).
- Work on your relationships with research users: research results can be rejected by the group or community if people are not happy with the way you worked, if your credibility is doubted or if something went wrong in the research process.
- Ask leaders and organisations who ‘champion’ the research project to help with knowledge exchange. Make the most of opportunities for advocacy or lobbying as they come along.
- Think about your commitment beyond the project. Researchers at the research site, who have good relationships within the community and who know the culture and local resources, are in a good position to promote research information and support local initiatives for research use.
- Develop a dissemination list for knowledge exchange products as the project goes along, rather than waiting until the end.
- Send project information and links to suitable newsletters and websites. Use the expertise of the communications unit in your institution or workplace.
- Be clever and accurate with your citation. Referring to the work of other researchers in your publications means that they are more likely to circulate and cite yours.
- Not all research justifies the same efforts in knowledge exchange. For example, inconclusive or preliminary findings may need careful consideration: are the findings important for people to know? If so, important to whom?
To see how knowledge exchange works in practice, visit our online resource and click on the links to the various case stories.