Looking at healthcare-related examples of the knowledge-to-action gap, Graham and Tetroe18 point out that 30-40% of patients may not be receiving care that adheres to the most current scientific evidence and that 20-25% of provided care may not be needed or may, in fact, be harmful 19 20 21. Research also has shown that we could see at least a 10% reduction in cancer mortality through effective use of “state- of-the-art therapies”22 . However, Graham and Tetroe18 also outlined that there may be problems with the adoption of treatments and research prematurely (i.e. moving research into practice too quickly), before the information/research has been shown to be beneficial or accurate. In other words, pushing information out too quickly and/or in uncareful ways can be ineffective and even harmful.
With all of the above information in mind, we can see that the issue of closing the knowledge-to-action gap is a complex one; research findings need to be translated in order to close the gap, but translation needs to be done carefully and thoughtfully and with science, safety, and context for the knowledge at the forefront. And this is where the broader field of Knowledge Management and Communication comes into play to support the closing of the knowledge-to-action gap. Specifically, a major aspect of knowledge mobilization is dedicating resources to create bridges between subject/content matter and context experts to g
et all of the most updated, relevant, and accurate information into action appropriately. And overall, the knowledge mobilization field has a major focus on “getting the right information to the right people in the right format at the right time, so as to influence decision-making” 23 , or as defined by SSHRC24:
The reciprocal and complementary flow and uptake of research knowledge between researchers, knowledge brokers and knowledge users—both within and beyond academia—in such a way that may benefit users and create positive impacts within Canada and/or internationally, and, ultimately, has the potential to enhance the profile, reach and impact
of social sciences and humanities research.
But how can content/subject matter and context experts come together to bridge the gap between what is known and what is being done? This is where community engagement comes into play within the KMb process. In particular, the focus of community engagement within KMb is on facilitating appropriate and authentic exchanges between content/subject matter and context experts to ensure that there is a collaborative, equitable, and respectful feedback loop between knowledge of different types and the people or groups that can use that knowledge.
Additionally, authentic community engagement may help to combat certain biases/assumptions that individuals may bring to the KMb process. For example, sometimes it may be thought that if an academic/researcher has disseminated knowledge in open and accessible formats, that knowledge users/context experts will automatically access, understand, and integrate the information into their work — but this is not necessarily the case. In modules 3 & 4 you learned that considering the needs and communication methods of your intended audiences is an important part of sharing research findings. Community engagement work and knowledge exchange is an additional way to help everyone involved gain a better understanding of how, when, and why knowledge is needed and used, and in general lessen assumptions around knowledge use and uptake.
The main take-away here is that community engagement within KMb work exists to ensure that there is a connection and collaboration between content/subject matter and context experts, and, as will be discussed in later sections of this module, the level and type of connection and collaboration exists on a wide spectrum of engagement that has numerous considerations.
Looking ahead, the following sections of this module ask you to dive deeper into the community engagement by considering research and other information about various community engagement strategies as well as important considerations for researchers and collaborators when undertaking community engagement work.