Lost and confused in translation

With over 90 terms used to describe knowledge translation, 52 of these specifically for the medical discipline, its no wonder there is so much confusion about translation. This can be a contentious topic since translation, or whatever you choose to call it, can mean different things to different people.

My goal here is to outline a few of the terms used in the knowledge translation field and hopefully help others understand translation a little more.

Knowledge transfer – This term has been used within the literature since the 1950”s and usually refers to a one-way transfer of knowledge from researcher to user. The action of pushing information out has resulted in limited knowledge uptake, proving that simply receiving knowledge does not necessarily lead to using it.

Knowledge translation – emerged in the late 1990’s and describes a wider approach to creating and applying knowledge. It is a system of activities that includes two-way communication and knowledge exchange between academic and non-academic stakeholders beginning at project inception. The term is widely used in health and medical research in Canada. Other terms synonymous with this are knowledge mobilization, the term used within the social sciences in Canada.

Knowledge Exchange – has been defined as collaborative problem-solving between researchers and decision makers. Knowledge exchange emphasizes mutual learning, interactions and exchange between relevant parties to assist in new research and decision making.

Implementation – refers to the uptake or adoption of research in practice. Implementation research, or implementation science, is the field of study that examines methods of implementing knowledge into practice. Implementation is an element or sub-science within the overarching knowledge translation system.

Dissemination – refers to the spreading of knowledge from research. Scientific journal publications are an example of this.

Translational research – This is the terminology used to describe the transfer of basic science discoveries into clinical applications. Translational research does not encompass widespread adoption of knowledge and is used only in clinical sciences.

As you can see from these six terms there can be a lot of confusion, particularly when the  terms are used interchangeably. The most important thing to consider with translation of research knowledge into practice is to take a wide approach to methods used and choose the relevant process based on your research area.

Our courses help researchers to understand the system of translation and provide you with the tools and frameworks to make it happen. Register now for the upcoming workshop in Perth on 30th March, or register your interest for the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane workshops here.