The process of knowledge translation begs us not only to ask the important questions, but also the questions that really matter. In health practice, knowledge translation first appeared as ‘bench to bedside’ or ‘campus to clinic’ (Greenhalgh & Wieringa, 2011), it was also found that “managers and policy makers fail to draw consistently on robust evidence when designing services or allocating resources” (Greenhalgh & Wieringa, 502). The decision and motivations to turn evidence into evidence based policy is contextually based, the facts are always value laden and their application is also affected by the situation. Greenhalgh & Wieringa (2011) highlight a notion that is well documented process, despite good evidence, policy makers are not always inclined to carry out the recommendations. As Lewis (2007) states evidence base medicine and evidence based decision-making have yet to be revolutionary, he acknowledges that evidence should be more influential but this has yet to be a reality.
You would be hard to pressed to find an individual that does not have an opinion on food, we need it, we love it, and it is connected to our most basic human experience. In the words of Wendell Berry, “to be interested in food but not in food production is clearly absurd.” Food is connected to our well-being on so many levels. The state of food production is being challenged by the integration of genetically modified or genetically modified organisms (GMO), the implications of GMO products is not well understood.
Last week the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) failed to support a resolution about the regulation of GMO alfalfa at its semi-annual meeting. The CSTA is responsible for “representing 128 corporate members engaged in all aspects of seed research, production and marketing, both domestically and internationally” (Canadian Seed Trade Association, 2013). The resolution, brought to the floor wanted to support regulation of growing GMO alfalfa in dedicated areas of the province of Manitoba, whilst other areas could stay GMO free. GMO soy and corn has contaminated the Canadian markets, right of entry to European and Japanese markets have already become inaccessible for fear that we cannot guarantee the purity of that seed (CBC, 2013). Lack of access might not be the only concern, “a growing body of research connects these foods with health concerns and environmental damage” (David Suzuki Foundation, 2013). The fact is that we don’t know the impacts of GMO products, and more importantly the spread of these GMO plants is out of control in most developed countries (Sustainable Pulse, 2013).
Evidence is showing that we cannot control the growing and harvesting of GMO crops, secondly we are not sure of the long-term effects that GMOs will have on our health or the health of our planet. As Jane Barrett, negotiator for SATAWU, recently said “A farmer’s job is to take care of the soil, the plants will do the rest”. We are responsible for the actions that we take; stewardship of the planet is a serious responsibility.
The disconnect in this example is between the lack of action towards regulating something that is possibly harmful to human health, as exemplified by Michie et al. (2005), “[t]he implementation of evidence based practice (EBP) depends on human behaviour” (32). This behaviour is influenced by so many triggers, such as social or economic, and what needs to be highlighted is that regardless of evidence the actions that we take are based in complex systems influenced by so many differing stimuli.
In the field of knowledge translation where we are able to name many practical examples where good evidence is not being applied, in my opinion we need to start asking the more contextual questions, all the theory, frameworks or models are not going to solve our problems. If dissemination is the problem, let us be creative and proactive in developing knowledge translation that is effective in the context that we are trying to consider. When the important questions are asked, it is imperative that we all act with the intention of sharing that knowledge, and that we act in conjunction with the evidence not in despite of it.
Barrett, J. (November 2, 2013). SATAWU Presentation, ITF Youth Climate Change Africa regional meeting, Johanesburg, South Africa.
Canadian Seed Trade Association. (2013). Home. Retrieved from: cdnseed.org
CBC. (2013). Farmers protest introduction of GM alfalfa. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/farmers-protest-introduction-of-gm-alfalfa-1.1363280
David Suzuki Foundation. (2013). Understanding GMO. Retrieved from: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/understanding-gmo/
Greenhalgh, T., & Wieringa, S. (2011). Is it time to drop the ‘knowledge translation’ metaphor? A critical literature review. Journal of Social Medicine, 104, 501-509. Doi: 10.1258/jrsm.2011.110285
Lewis, S. (2007). Toward a general theory of indifference to research-based evidence. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, 2 (1), 1-7.
Michie, S., et al. (2005). Making psychological theory useful for implementing evidence based practice: a consensus approach. Quality Safety Health Care, 4, 23-33. doi: 10.1136/qshc.2004.011155
Sustainable Pulse. (2013). Spread of GM Crops Out of Control in Many Countries – New Report Retrieved from: http://sustainablepulse.com/2013/11/12/spread-of-gm-crops-out-of-control-in-many-countries-breaking-news/#.UorXP8Skqn8
The articles reviewed this week explored the definitions, and started to outline the field of KT. As Hanlon et al. (2011) illustrate the problems faced by researchers is how “can we find a way to think and act effectively in potentially overwhelming circumstances” (336). The environment is a prime example, faced by a vast problem affecting every facet of human life; there are so many ways to look at this problem. The questions can be asked and researched from every discipline. Not to mention that academic research is not the only stakeholder in this issue. We have the scientific evidence that shows the ‘knowledge’ about global warming exist but have yet to facilitate adequate action. This gap from scientific evidence to real action is exactly what the science of KT is trying to explore.
A reasonable starting point might be to acknowledge that “[i]mplicit in what is meant by knowledge is primarily scientific research” (Graham et al., 14). The assumption that knowledge is brought about by scientific research is not only debatable, but brings into question many critiques of scientific research, the bias and elitism that is also accompanied with this type of ‘knowledge creation’. Who is the creator and the consumer, and is this unilateral interaction or is it more effective as a consensual exchange.
Labour unions are always interested in ways to protect and create jobs; it is also in the best interest of the environment, the public, and workers to address the need for emerging green economy. Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is “is a global, multi-sector initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and the repression of workers’ rights and protections” (Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, Para 1). At the table are labour and environmental academics and union leaders.
This is an example of academics and community leaders addressing a topic together, in a sense community based knowledge translation . Together the message that environmental reform may be not only in the best interest of our planet but is also a way in which unions can re-emerge as leaders and play an active role in our transfer to a new green based economy. The initiative also provides an opportunity for stakeholders to share their current successes and struggles in mobilizing green efforts on the ground.
The success of an idea is not always based on its merit – the political, economic, social environments influence the adaption of many changes. In the case of the environment, research is showing that our planet is in crisis, yet the skeptics are currently winning the debate. As stated Atul Gawande’s recent article in the New Yorker (Gwande, 2013) – the adjustment of a social norm is not only difficult but sometimes things that one would expect to change quickly are in fact much more difficult that we could ever predict. Labour unions have the unique opportunity to provide a gateway to engage large employers in the discussion, as alleged by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) – we are all “stewards” of this earth, and it is time for us all to take responsibility for our role. The environmental crisis can be address by any number of disciplines, however finding the right agent to disseminate and take action on the information we have seems to offer the greatest challenge.
CUPE. (2013). Working harmoniously on the earth: CUPE’s National Environmental Policy. Retrieved from: http://cupe.ca/updir/Working_harmoniously_on_the_Earth_-_FINAL.pdf
Graham, ID et al. (2011). Lost in knowledge translation: time for a map?. The Journal of Continuing ducation in the Health Profession, 26(1), 13-24.
Gwande, Atul. Slow ideas: why innvations don’t always catch on. New Yorker, July 29, 2013.
Hanlon, P., et al. (2011). Learning our way into the future public health: a proposition. Journal of Public Health, 33 (3), 335-342.
Trade Unions for Energy Democracy. (2013). About the Initiative. Retrieved from: http://energydemocracyinitiative.org/about-initiative/
Fall 2013 about a dozen of us (united under the rubric of SFU’s HSCI 891 graduate seminar) are embarking on explorations related to KT, aka dissemination and implementation. Join in! Enjoy! Save the world!