Many health services research programs in Canada have advisory boards comprised of individuals who have a professional interest in the program’s research findings.
The hope is that these key knowledge users help to move findings into practice, but despite this important role few studies have explored their impact.
OPEN’s Knowledge translation and exchange team hopes to change that.
By using OPEN as a natural laboratory, the KTE team is seeking to better understand how OPEN’s Advisory Committee can help ensure the program’s research is relevant, focused on pressing needs, and that the research influences pharmacy practice and policy.
“It occurred to us that it would be interesting to gather data about this formalized advisory process within OPEN to see if we could come to any conclusions about the ways in which these committees can help a research program achieve its knowledge-translation goals,” said OPEN’s KTE team co-lead Dr. James Conklin, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Human Sciences at Concordia University and a research scientist at the Bruyère Research Institute.
“We examined the knowledge-translation literature and found that surprisingly little research has been conducted on this,” he said. “OPEN’s KTE team is among the first to examine the impact of advisory committees on the translation of knowledge.”
Using a variety of qualitative research methods, among them interviews with advisory committee members, observations at advisory committee meetings, post-meeting follow-up calls and analysis of meeting documents, the KTE team is investigating how OPEN’s Advisory Committee is helping to ensure that the findings the program generates are both relevant to and adopted by knowledge users.
Preliminary results from the team’s research suggest that committee members are motivated to be involved in OPEN because their advisory role can provide an opportunity for learning and to help shape pharmacy practice in Ontario to improve patient health outcomes. Importantly, members also see OPEN’s research as an opportunity to inform and support the work of the organizations to which they belong.
“Members noted that their involvement on OPEN’s Advisory Committee helped them to better understand issues central to other stakeholders and to interpret research findings through their eyes, thereby gaining broader insight into the pharmacy practice landscape the research could inform,” Dr. Conklin said.
Early results also indicate that members see the advisory committee as an important social venue to establish relationships with other knowledge user members and to engage in discussions that help them contribute to the work of their respective organizations.
“This is of considerable significance because one of the goals of knowledge translation is to promote social interaction,” Dr. Conklin said. “When knowledge exchange is successful, you almost always find people working together, problem-solving together, brainstorming together in face-to-face conversations around shared concerns or problems.”
“Knowledge translation usually does not simply take the form of distributing some kind of a text. It involves people talking to each other, sharing perspectives, sharing experiences and problem-solving about how new knowledge or innovations can work in their environment.”