Involving Partners in Knowledge Creation

The other weekend I heard a talk at the CCGHR BC Global Health Student Forum by Dr. Johanna Crane from the University of Washington Bothell titled “Tenacious Assumptions in Global Health.” The talk was largely focused on partnerships between researchers in developed and developing countries and raised a lot of issues that I think can be relevant to us from a knowledge translation standpoint.

One of the assumptions of global health that Dr. Crane identifies is that “Global health science is global”. In reality what counts as global health science is not necessarily the research that is relevant in the global South. Instead researchers in less developed countries cannot always get their research funded because global health priorities still often conform to what a developed country has determined is a priority. There may also be technological limitations in developing countries making it more difficult to conduct the kind of research that would meet publication criteria. This results in developing country researchers becoming stuck in a dilemma of having to negotiate doing research that is relevant to their local context, but also “translatable” enough to get funded and published.

This theme of the local relevance of research brought me back to Graham et al. (2006) and the diagram of the Knowledge to Action Process. The action cycle of the process includes a step for adaptation to the local context, but this occurs after the knowledge creation stage. This to me sounds similar to the assumption of global health science that research about a treatment protocol or a disease prevention strategy can be imported into a specific context and adapted to be relevant. But is this necessarily the case or is there a better way to structure this process?

Dr. Crane concluded her talk by suggesting some new ways forward to make global health more global. Much of these suggestions had to do with building better, more collaborative partnerships.* One specific idea was to do collaborative proposal writing, where partners are involved from the beginning of the process. That is, the local context is embedded in the knowledge creation process rather than being left for the action cycle. This does perhaps still leave unanswered the issue of how to bridge locally-relevant with internationally portable research. My attempt at an answer is to suggest that this can be another part of the knowledge broker’s job. Rather than just looking at how to adapt knowledge to a local context, why not think about what broader lessons we can learn from a particular case?

*One resource that was highly recommended during the conference for those looking to create more equitable and collaborative partnerships was the CCGHR’s Partnership Assessment Toolkit.


Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR). (2009). Partnership Assessment Toolkit. Available at:

Graham ID, Logan J, Harrison MB, Straus SE, Tetroe J, Caswell W, Robinson N. (2006). Lost in knowledge translation: time for a map? The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 26(1), 13-24.



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