PRAM pushes knowledge translation

PRAM pushes knowledge translation McGill University

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McGill Reporter
January 10, 2008 - Volume 40 Number 09
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 40: 2007-2008 > January 10, 2008 > PRAM pushes knowledge translation

PRAM pushes knowledge translation

Caption follows
Dr. Ann C. Macauley
Owen Egan

Big changes are afoot in the world of health research. And while this revolution will likely not be televised, McGill's Dr. Ann C. Macaulay knows "it is definitely a movement across North America." She is talking about participatory research and as Director of Participatory Research at McGill (PRAM), she is in a position to know.

Participatory research is essentially what it says: a research process that involves early collaboration between all stakeholders. In the case of health research, these are patients, health care professionals, policy-makers, and of course the researchers themselves. It is a form of knowledge translation—the notion of turning the knowledge generated from research into practical actions and uses as efficiently as possible. It is perhaps its purest form.

"The goal of knowledge translation is to make sure the research reaches everybody afterwards," explains Dr. Macaulay. "So with participatory research, your research is set up at the beginning with that specifically in mind."

Dr. Macaulay has been involved with participatory research initiatives for over a decade, and has seen a steady increase in attention and interest not only from research circles, but also from policy-makers. She notes that a 2000 Act of Parliament creating the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the major federal agency responsible for funding health research in Canada, "states" that research has to benefit the health of Canadians. That means not just undertaking research for the sake of research, but research that can be translated into action. 'Knowledge translation' became the buzzword—the new name given to this process of ensuring that research was going to improve the health of Canadians."

At PRAM, they are so impressed with CIHR's new Vice President (Knowledge Translation), Dr. Ian Graham, that they've asked him to visit and help spread the message. He will be delivering a public lecture Friday, Jan. 11, from noon to 1:00 p.m. at the Thomson House Ballroom, 3650 McTavish, to which all are invited.

Like Dr. Macaulay, Dr. Graham has been a leading advocate of involving key stakeholders during the research process. Though he terms it integrated knowledge translation, it includes many of the same concepts as participatory research. "Dr. Graham sees knowledge translation as happening in two ways," says Dr. Macaulay. "It can happen at the end of the research process when you undertake the separate process of getting your results out, but integrated knowledge translation is where you have all your stakeholders around the table at the beginning to finalise the research question and then to interpret and disseminate the results. That's very similar to participatory research"

For Jon Salsberg, Coordinator at PRAM, CIHR's integrated knowledge translation approach "allows them to be able to stand up and look Parliament in the eye and say ''This is what we're doing that's going to actually allow us to improve the health of Canadians.'" From this flows what he calls "the next generation of PRAM's mission": helping researchers integrate knowledge translation activities into their own work.

"CIHR is putting huge amounts of money into knowledge translation," agrees Dr. Macaulay. "McGill wants to keep a very high profile in the research environment across the country and there are many grants available for knowledge translation, so we have to get the word out. It's in McGill researchers' interests to be very up-to-date with new sources of funding within CIHR, how to apply for this money, and what you should include in the applications to ensure they're successful."

Macaulay reiterates that they are not alone in Canada or even the continent. Health institutes in the U.S. "are embarking on something very similar. They too want to make sure that research is not just undertaken for research's sake, but that research benefits the country. It's exciting to be a part of that movement."

To find out more about PRAM and Dr. Graham's lecture, please visit

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