6 Introduction to Knowledge Management and Communications | Definitions

This short course will provide you with a foundation in knowledge management and communication of research, supporting your efforts to manage and mobilize research findings with government, industry, researchers, the broader community and the public. This particular module focuses on the basics of knowledge management and communication; to begin, we review a few of the definitions used in this course.

We use the term knowledge management here to describe all of the various activities involved in storing and managing data as well as sharing research data with the broader community, which may include knowledge mobilization and communication of findings, forms of knowledge creation and collaboration, data sharing and intellectual property protection, and commercialization, among others.

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Knowledge mobilization is a term used to describe the various activities that help move knowledge between those who create it and those who could use it. The goal of knowledge mobilization is to make research accessible, relevant and useful to non-academic audiences – supporting the movement of knowledge into active use and ultimately resulting in positive impacts for society. There are many definitions of knowledge mobilization; in some cases this definition is inclusive of activities such as commercialization and IP protection, while in other cases knowledge mobilization is considered to be distinct[1] [2]. Sometimes knowledge mobilization is informational in nature, and focuses on a linear dissemination of knowledge from producer to end user, while in other cases, knowledge mobilization activities may span a variety of other activities focused on exchange of knowledge or co-production of knowledge or innovation by research users and producers.[3]

There are a variety of activities that can be part of knowledge mobilization, including:

  • Knowledge synthesis
  • Knowledge dissemination
  • Knowledge co-creation
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Evaluation of research impact

Although the activities involved in knowledge mobilization are not new, the terminology and emergence of knowledge mobilization as a distinct field are relatively recent[4]. As such, there is variation in both the definition of knowledge mobilization and the terminology used to describe this process. Other terms may include knowledge translation, knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange, knowledge brokering, knowledge communication, research extension, knowledge co-production, or even K* – an acronym meant to incorporate the various terms that describe this umbrella of activities. The terminology of choice largely differs based on sector or geographic location.

Knowledge mobilization also overlaps significantly with strategic communication activities; the major difference is in the content of these activities, with strategic communications often having a goal of supporting an institution’s goals and strategic plan, and knowledge mobilization more focused on sharing the results of research with a specific goal of uptake and use. That said, the boundary between these functions is not always that clear-cut, with science communicators and research-based communications professionals sharing overlapping functions.


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Read the field note on Knowledge Translation and Strategic Communications: Unpacking Differences and Similarities
for Scholarly and Research Communications

End users or stakeholders is a term we use in this course to describe those individuals who could use research or make decisions informed by evidence. They may be individuals in government, industry or civil society – for example, policy-makers, practitioners, educators, decision-makers, or individuals are all possible end users of research.

Research producers describes those individuals who primarily conduct research; this may include those in academia, as well as scientists in government or industry.

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