Knowledge User Engagement

At CIHR, a knowledge user is defined as an individual who is likely to be able to use research results to make informed decisions about health policies, programs and/or practices. A knowledge user's level of engagement in the research process may vary in intensity and complexity depending on the nature of the research and on his/her information needs. A knowledge user can be, but is not limited to, a practitioner, a policy maker, an educator, a decision maker, a health care administrator, a community leader or an individual in a health charity, patient group, private sector organization or media outlet.

CIHR has identified two broad approaches to KT:

Integrated KT (iKT)

Potential knowledge users are engaged throughout the research process. This approach should produce research findings that are more likely to be directly relevant to and used by knowledge users.

End-of-grant KT

The researcher develops and implements a plan for making potential knowledge-user audiences aware of the knowledge that is gained during a project. End-of-grant KT can involve more intensive dissemination activities that tailor the message and medium to a specific audience and, even further along the spectrum, can involve moving research into practice.

Practical tips for facilitating effective iKT process

  • Hire members of the integrated knowledge users' community (even professional community of practice) to work as coordinators of the project or research assistants in data collection and analysis
  • Make use of e-mail to circulate, on a regular basis, news about the project and solicit integrated knowledge user participation on any special issues that may arise (e.g., low recruitment rates)
  • Encourage face-to-face contact by 'piggy-backing' on other events that may bring partners together (e.g., conferences, clinical team meetings)
  • Cycle the location of meetings between research settings (e.g., university, hospital) and integrated knowledge user settings (e.g., community centres, group practices, local health agencies)
  • Rotate meeting chairs on a regular basis, so that everyone feels included in the running of the project
Types of Knowledge Users
Potential knowledge user Example types of projects
Practitioners (e.g. MDs, RNs, PTs, OTs, Pharmacists) Research questions arsing from researchers or health professionals, or a research project aiming to develop new treatment modalities intended to be used by them
Patients (e.g. those patients attending a health centre) Research questions arising from researchers or patient concerns about the care they are receiving, or a research project aimed at improving patient care
Patient organizations (e.g. disease specific) Assessing the daily problems faced by individuals with that disease
Their caregivers Developing new treatment or adaptive strategies for community-dwelling patients with a particular disease
Whole communities Collecting baseline data, evaluating interventions (e.g. for promoting healthy lifestyles)
Decision makers (e.g. program managers) Evaluating how care is delivered by staff within the organization
Policy makers Creating an intervention that necessitates changing the way the health care system is organized and/or funded
Institutions/organizations (e.g. hospitals, primary care clinics) Starting a new outpatient health programme targeting a particular disease or problem
Professional colleges/associations Evaluating implementation of treatment guidelines developed by members of a professional group
Research funders Research that involves new approaches that do not fit well with existing funding models
Industry Formally testing off-label use of an existing medication

Note that a particular research project may involve one or more of these potential knowledge users, and thus overlap should be expected.

For more information about knowledge user engagement, refer to the Knowledge User Engagement section of the KT Resources and Training Tools page.

For more information about patient engagement, refer to the SPOR Patient Engagement Framework.