Is KT the key to reducing research waste?

In 2004 the Lancet published a series of papers about wastage in medical research. The findings of the series estimated that 85% of research is wasted. The wastage was highlighted across 4 stages of research.

Research wastage
Stages of waste in the production and reporting of research evidence relevant to clinicians and patients; from Chalmers & Glasziou, The Lancet 2009

Looking across these four areas where waste is occurring led me to think about how Knowledge Translation (KT), the process of closing the research to use gap, can provide a solution to reducing research wastage. The models and processes of translation provide a framework that addresses many of these areas and provides opportunities to avoid these costly mistakes. In particular, KT may provide some solutions to each of these 4 areas as outlined here.

  1. Relevant questions and setting of agendas
    • KT addresses the need to work in partnership with potential end users and other stakeholders to develop relevant research questions. The models and frameworks of KT guide this process.
    • Involving a range of stakeholders at the beginning of the research process not only reduces barriers to research uptake but also creates greater buy-in, increasing the likelihood of the research being of value and use.
  2. KT advocates for the drawing of knowledge from many sources before the creation of questions and methods for the proposed research.
    • Creating questions in partnership may lead to a reduction in research bias. Involving a range of stakeholders throughout this process will aid in determining the most appropriate research project.
    • Researchers need to work with the right people to ensure the relevance of the methods to be used; this may mean partnering with other academics and statisticians that have different areas of expertise.
  3. Publishing information in different and usable formats
    • An important process in KT is to ensure that research findings are disseminated in ways that are relevant to both your KT goals and to the intended audience.
    • The development and building of relationships with your audiences in the initial stages will assist in determining the best format to deliver the information to each of the stakeholder groups. Remember, this is not a one size fits all approach and will need to be tailored accordingly.
    • Be different. There are some innovative examples of research being translated in different formats, for example, the use of the arts and theatre, technology such as computer games and apps, and different document formats.
    • KT not only communicates and disseminates research, it outlines steps to research use. This includes implementation, evaluation and impacts of the research and its subsequent communication/dissemination within the models and planning process.
  4. Context of research findings
    • The context of new knowledge is an integral step in the KT system. New knowledge must be considered in the context of what already exists, be it knowledge, processes, and systems before it can be appropriately implemented.

Despite the possibilities outlined above, there is still a missing link that comes back to the funding bodies themselves. Could it be that research wastage is a product of the funding system and the way in which researchers are rewarded for their efforts? Perhaps funding bodies should be taking a deeper look at the relevance and methodology of the research, requesting and funding specific KT activities, and rewarding these activities through the peer review system.

What do you think?