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      Performing collaborative research: a dramaturgical reflection on an institutional knowledge brokering service in the North East of England

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          Abstract

          Background

          To increase the uptake of research evidence in practice, responsive research services have been developed within universities that broker access to academic expertise for practitioners and decision-makers. However, there has been little examination of the process of knowledge brokering within these services. This paper reflects on this process within the AskFuse service, which was launched in June 2013 by Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, in North East England. The paper outlines the challenges and opportunities faced by both academics and health practitioners collaborating through the service.

          Methods

          The authors reflected on conversations between the AskFuse Research Manager and policy and practice partners accessing the service between June 2013 and March 2017. Summary notes of these conversations, including emails and documents relating to over 240 enquiries, have been analysed using an auto-ethnographic approach.

          Findings

          We identified five challenges to knowledge brokering in an institutional service, namely length of brokerage time required, limits to collaboration, lack of resources, brokering research in a changing system, and multiple types of knowledge.

          Conclusions

          To understand and overcome some of the identified challenges, we employ Goffman’s dramaturgical perspective and argue for making better use of the distinction between front and back stages in the knowledge brokering process. We emphasise the importance of back stages for defusing destructive information that could discredit collaborative performances.

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          Most cited references 11

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          What makes an academic paper useful for health policy?

          Evidence-based policy ensures that the best interventions are effectively implemented. Integrating rigorous, relevant science into policy is therefore essential. Barriers include the evidence not being there; lack of demand by policymakers; academics not producing rigorous, relevant papers within the timeframe of the policy cycle. This piece addresses the last problem. Academics underestimate the speed of the policy process, and publish excellent papers after a policy decision rather than good ones before it. To be useful in policy, papers must be at least as rigorous about reporting their methods as for other academic uses. Papers which are as simple as possible (but no simpler) are most likely to be taken up in policy. Most policy questions have many scientific questions, from different disciplines, within them. The accurate synthesis of existing information is the most important single offering by academics to the policy process. Since policymakers are making economic decisions, economic analysis is central, as are the qualitative social sciences. Models should, wherever possible, allow policymakers to vary assumptions. Objective, rigorous, original studies from multiple disciplines relevant to a policy question need to be synthesized before being incorporated into policy.
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            Translating evidence into practice: the role of health research funders

            Background A growing body of work on knowledge translation (KT) reveals significant gaps between what is known to improve health, and what is done to improve health. The literature and practice also suggest that KT has the potential to narrow those gaps, leading to more evidence-informed healthcare. In response, Canadian health research funders and agencies have made KT a priority. This article describes how one funding agency determined its KT role and in the process developed a model that other agencies could use when considering KT programs. Discussion While ‘excellence’ is an important criterion by which to evaluate and fund health research, it alone does not ensure relevance to societal health priorities. There is increased demand for return on investments in health research in the form of societal and health system benefits. Canadian health research funding agencies are responding to these demands by emphasizing relevance as a funding criterion and supporting researchers and research users to use the evidence generated. Based on recommendations from the literature, an environmental scan, broad circulation of an iterative discussion paper, and an expert working group process, our agency developed a plan to maximize our role in KT. Key to the process was development of a model comprising five key functional areas that together create the conditions for effective KT: advancing KT science; building KT capacity; managing KT projects; funding KT activities; and advocating for KT. Observations made during the planning process of relevance to the KT enterprise are: the importance of delineating KT and communications, and information and knowledge; determining responsibility for KT; supporting implementation and evaluation; and promoting the message that both research and KT take time to realize results. Summary Challenges exist in fulfilling expectations that research evidence results in beneficial impacts for society. However, health agencies are well placed to help maximize the use of evidence in health practice and policy. We propose five key functional areas of KT for health agencies, and encourage partnerships and discussion to advance the field.
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              Identifying Trustworthy Experts: How Do Policymakers Find and Assess Public Health Researchers Worth Consulting or Collaborating With?

              This paper reports data from semi-structured interviews on how 26 Australian civil servants, ministers and ministerial advisors find and evaluate researchers with whom they wish to consult or collaborate. Policymakers valued researchers who had credibility across the three attributes seen as contributing to trustworthiness: competence (an exemplary academic reputation complemented by pragmatism, understanding of government processes, and effective collaboration and communication skills); integrity (independence, “authenticity”, and faithful reporting of research); and benevolence (commitment to the policy reform agenda). The emphases given to these assessment criteria appeared to be shaped in part by policymakers' roles and the type and phase of policy development in which they were engaged. Policymakers are encouraged to reassess their methods for engaging researchers and to maximise information flow and support in these relationships. Researchers who wish to influence policy are advised to develop relationships across the policy community, but also to engage in other complementary strategies for promoting research-informed policy, including the strategic use of mass media.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                +44 (0) 01642 342989 , p.van.der.graaf@tees.ac.uk
                janet.shucksmith@gmail.com
                rosemaryrushmer@gmail.com
                avrilrhodes@hotmail.co.uk
                m.welford@tees.ac.uk
                Journal
                Health Res Policy Syst
                Health Res Policy Syst
                Health Research Policy and Systems
                BioMed Central (London )
                1478-4505
                8 May 2019
                8 May 2019
                2019
                : 17
                Affiliations
                ISNI 0000 0001 2325 1783, GRID grid.26597.3f, Teesside University, School of Health and Social Care, ; Constantine Building, Middlesbrough, TS1 3BA United Kingdom
                Article
                449
                10.1186/s12961-019-0449-7
                6507129
                31068186
                8641b8ce-dd9b-4c13-bbd4-b1d68fa4c206
                © The Author(s). 2019

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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                © The Author(s) 2019

                Health & Social care

                institutional knowledge brokering, public health, goffman, auto-ethnography

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