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Building Knowledge Exchange Into The Research Process:
A Guide For Researcher

This guide was created by the Knowledge Exchange Office of the Women's College Research Institute (WCRI) as a resource for all of the researchers in our community.

As women's health researchers, the ultimate purpose of our work is to improve women's health. If our research is to achieve this, it must be relevant to women's lives and communicated in a way that is meaningful to them. This central purpose can get lost amid the many professional and funding obligations placed on researchers. Indeed, research is generally considered a wholly separate activity from dissemination and advocacy.

The concept of knowledge exchange attempts to bridge these activities by building dissemination and advocacy into the research process to increase research's impact and to make it more relevant to the lives of the people who use it. WCRI defines knowledge exchange as: "an interactive relationship between researchers and research users that fosters the ongoing sharing of perspectives and results and creates a research environment responsive to user needs and contexts." This involves:

  • Building relationships with stakeholders
  • Building opportunities for interaction into the research process
  • Sharing our work in ways that are meaningful and accessible to our stakeholders

While the concept of knowledge exchange has been embraced by many funding agencies, researchers, and decision-makers, there is still much we don't know about it. There is a particular dearth of evaluation research in this field and consequently, we have little understanding of precisely which strategies, conducted when, with, and by whom are most effective in increasing research impact. This dearth is linked in part to the difficulty of creating performance indicators in the field of knowledge exchange. For instance, does successful knowledge exchange mean that researchers and decision-makers have stronger relationships with one another? That research informs decision-maker discourse? That research is applied exactly the way researchers think it should be? That it is applied five years down the road when economic and political contexts are more friendly to the researcher's recommendations? While there is much that we do not fully understand about effective knowledge exchange, our research and experience to date has also shown us a lot about what integrating knowledge exchange into the research process can mean. The following guidelines describe what we know about knowledge exchange throughout the research process. For each stage of the research process, a series of tips are listed with suggested resources you can access for more information.

  • Starting Your Research
  • During Your Research
  • Research Dissemination
The recommendations listed here are by no means definitive. There is a lot we do not understand about what makes some knowledge exchange efforts effective and much of the success of knowledge exchange is determined by the needs of research users and cannot be imposed by researchers. There is much room for innovation in this field as the specific dynamics of each research context most strongly dictate whether a knowledge exchange strategy will work. The suggestions listed here are intended to provide a jumping-off point for you to think about what might be effective in your own context. Combine the knowledge exchange strategies here with your own knowledge, experience, and creativity to create a knowledge exchange plan that works for you.

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