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Knowledge Translation at CIHR

Knowledge translation (KT) is a fundamental part of CIHR's mandate: "The objective of the CIHR is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and by strengthening Canadian health care system, by …" (Canadian Institutes of Health Research Act).

CIHR’s strategic plan for 2014/15-2018/19, Health Research Roadmap II: Capturing Innovation to Produce Better Health and Health Care for Canadians, includes commitments to foster a culture of excellence in KT and to accelerate transformative changes in health and the health system, with the overall goal of achieving impact. It states that CIHR will promote the integration of knowledge users in the research process when appropriate (integrated KT), and support research that advances the understanding and practice of KT (KT science).

The creation of new knowledge often does not on its own lead to widespread implementation or impacts on health. With the increased focus on research governance and accountability from the federal and provincial governments, as well as from the public, it becomes increasingly important to demonstrate the benefits of investment of taxpayer dollars in health research by moving research into policy, programs and practice.

Knowledge Translation - Definition

Knowledge Translation is defined as a dynamic and iterative process that includes synthesis, dissemination, exchange and ethically-sound application of knowledge to improve the health of Canadians, provide more effective health services and products and strengthen the health care system.

This process takes place within a complex system of interactions between researchers and knowledge users which may vary in intensity, complexity and level of engagement depending on the nature of the research and the findings as well as the needs of the particular knowledge user (Graham, 2010).

Knowledge User - Definition

A knowledge-user is an individual who is likely to be able to use the knowledge generated through research to make informed decisions about health policies, programs and/or practices. A knowledge-user's level of engagement in the research process may vary in intensity and complexity depending on the nature of the research and his/her information needs. A knowledge-user can be, but is not limited to, a practitioner, policy-maker, educator, decision-maker, health care administrator, community leader, or an individual in a health charity, patient group, private sector organization, or media outlet.

Four Elements of Knowledge Translation


Synthesis, in this context, means the contextualization and integration of research findings of individual research studies within the larger body of knowledge on the topic. A synthesis must be reproducible and transparent in its methods, using quantitative and/or qualitative methods. It could take the form of a systematic review, follow the methods developed by the Cochrane Collaboration, result from a consensus conference or expert panel or synthesize qualitative or quantitative results. Realist syntheses, narrative syntheses, meta-analyses, meta-syntheses and practice guidelines are all forms of synthesis. Resources related to synthesis are available.


Dissemination involves identifying the appropriate audience and tailoring the message and medium to the audience. Dissemination activities can include such things as summaries for / briefings to stakeholders, educational sessions with patients, practitioners and/or policy makers, engaging knowledge users in developing and executing dissemination/implementation plan, tools creation, and media engagement.


The exchange of knowledge refers to the interaction between the knowledge user and the researcher, resulting in mutual learning. According to the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) the definition of knowledge exchange is “Knowledge exchange is collaborative problem-solving between researchers and decision-makers that happens through linkage and exchange. Effective knowledge exchange involves interaction between decision-makers and researchers and results in mutual learning through the process of planning, producing, disseminating, and applying existing or new research in decision-making.”

Ethically-sound application of knowledge

Ethically-sound KT activities for improved health are those that are consistent with ethical principles and norms, social values, as well as legal and other regulatory frameworks – while keeping in mind that principles, values and laws can compete among and between each other at any given point in time. The term application is used to refer to the iterative process by which knowledge is put into practice.

Implicit in the CIHR definition of KT is the notion that evaluation and monitoring of KT initiatives, processes, and activities are key components of the KT process.

Two Approaches to Knowledge Translation at CIHR

1. End of Grant KT

In end of grant KT, the researcher develops and implements a plan for making knowledge users aware of the knowledge that was gained during a project. Therefore, end of grant KT includes the typical dissemination and communication activities undertaken by most researchers, such as KT to their peers through conference presentations and publications in peer-reviewed journals.

End of grant KT can also involve more intensive dissemination activities that tailor the message and medium to a specific audience, such as summary briefings to stakeholders, interactive educational sessions with patients, practitioners and/or policy makers, media engagement, or the use of knowledge brokers. The commercialization of scientific discoveries is another form of end of grant KT.

2. Integrated KT

In integrated KT, stakeholders or potential research knowledge users are engaged in the entire research process. By doing integrated KT, researchers and research users work together to shape the research process by collaborating to determine the research questions, deciding on the methodology, being involved in data collection and tools development, interpreting the findings, and helping disseminate the research results. This approach, also known by such terms as collaborative research, action-oriented research, and co-production of knowledge, should produce research findings that are more likely be relevant to and used by the end users.

The Knowledge to Action Process

The Knowledge to Action Process conceptualizes the relationship between knowledge creation and action, with each concept comprised of ideal phases or categories. A knowledge creation "funnel" conveys the idea that knowledge needs to be increasingly distilled before it is ready for application. The action part of the process can be thought of as a cycle leading to implementation or application of knowledge. In contrast to the knowledge funnel, the action cycle represents the activities that may be needed for knowledge application.

The Knowledge to Action Process long description

More Information About KT at CIHR:

To learn more about KT within CIHR Institutes and Initiatives:

Harnessing our investments in health research is key to improving the health of our citizens, building sustainable, evidence-based, leading-edge health care and public health systems, and developing the transformative new technologies of tomorrow. To facilitate this process, CIHR has developed a dynamic and innovative strategy for the commercialization of health research, based on four thematic drivers: Research, Talent, Capital and Linkages.More recently, CIHR incorporated a section in its new strategic plan, Health Research Roadmap II: Capturing Innovation to Produce Better Health and Health Care for Canadians, focused on building an entrepreneurial advantage. This includes a commitment from CIHR to remain responsive to the needs of Canada’s commercialization ecosystem, and refresh our strategies to move health knowledge along the innovation pipeline and into health and economic benefits for Canadians.

As the Government of Canada's agency for health research, CIHR will work with all partners in a concerted effort to move research more effectively through the marketplace to caretakers and ultimately patients that will benefit from innovations and discoveries. Through its focus on commercialization, CIHR is playing a central role in encouraging innovation that will result in solutions to the health problems that concern Canadians most as well as contribute to economic growth, investment and high-quality jobs.