Never a dull moment

Today was the very interesting first day of the Campbell Colloquium. It was intriguing to hear people in areas other than health care, talking about systematic reviews.

Have you ever heard of “Evidence-based policing”? What about systematic reviews on finance? I met a woman from Indonesia that is doing a systematic review on the influence of world banks on the Indonesian financial system…

While the plenary sessions focused on knowledge translation, the workshops addressed basic and advanced concepts in conducting systematic reviews. Although the workshops focused on social science reviews, I discovered that the methodology is not really different from Cochrane reviews. It is mostly the terminology that varies.

As I am sitting here, wondering what the highlight of the day was, I realise, that there was never a dull moment. Every session was great! But, I think the most thought-provoking presentation was the opening plenary by Prof Sandra Nutley: The need for a better map and different shoes: connecting evidence, policy and practice in an era of austerity, complexity and decentralised decision making.

In a nutshell: This presentation focused on knowledge translation (KT) activities and how we should put more emphasise on the social contexts in which we want our research to provide the answers we need to improve the situation. She explained the three generations of evidence (Best 2008): In the 1980’s, the focus was on Knowledge transfer. Knowledge was seen as a product, and its degree of use a function of effective packaging. In the 1990’s, the focus shifted to Knowledge exchange, where knowledge was regarded as the result of social and political processes and its degree of use a function of effective relationships and interaction. Since 2005, the focus is on Knowledge integration, where knowledge is embedded in systems and cultures and the degree of its use a function of effective integration with organisations and systems. It is important to know that these notions exist in parallel, although most models on KT still reflect 1st and 2nd generation thinking. KT activities should be seen on a spectrum from increasing the use of explicit evidence on the one side; to creating environments that encourage engagement on the other side.

To know “what works” is even more important in an era of austerity – and in areas with scarce resources. We therefore need good maps to guide KT acitivities. Some generic features of effective practices to increasee research use include: 1. Research should be translated 2. Ownership is key 3. Contextual analysis is important 4. Credibility of research 5. Leadership 6. Need for enthusiasts (like us :-)) 7. Support – financial, technical and emotional 8. Integration

“Yes, it’s quite a noise. But are we having any impact?” This is the question we should be asking ourselves. Regardless whether we are referring to health care, education, economics or criminology.


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