How transdisciplinary research teams learn to do knowledge translation (KT), and how KT in turn impacts transdisciplinary research: a realist evaluation and longitudinal case study

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Abstract


Background: Transdisciplinary research and knowledge translation are increasingly regarded as key concepts underpinning applied research across the health and social sciences, due to their presumed potential in addressing complex, “wicked” problems and improving the use of research in practice and policy, respectively. Despite sharing an impact mandate, the relationship between transdisciplinary research collaboration and knowledge translation remains unclear. In response, we examined the relationship between transdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge translation to generate these understandings with a view towards maximizing the impact of collaborative efforts.

Methods: We undertook a realist evaluation and longitudinal case study of a 5-year National Health and Medical Research Council-funded Centre of Research Excellence in Transdisciplinary Frailty Research. Data were collected between February 2017 and March 2020 over three rounds of theory development, refinement and testing using interviews, observation, document review and visual elicitation as data sources. The Human Research Ethics Commit- tee of the University of Adelaide approved this study.

Results: Iterative analysis of narrative interviews and visual data led to the development of three overarching programme theories explicating the reciprocal relationship between KT understandings and transdisciplinary team process. These programme theories revolve around the concept of a network, which we define in alignment with extant theoretical literature on network mechanisms and complex networks as graphically representable networks of agents/people (nodes) joined by social relationships (links). Our findings demonstrate that under the right contextual conditions, transdisciplinary team members respond through an improved ability to (1) navigate the network, (2) negotiate the network and (3) mobilize the network.

Conclusions: This research demonstrates the reciprocity and mutually supportive relationship between transdisciplinary research and knowledge translation. Our findings suggest that embedding a collaborative knowledge translation framework and providing resources such as facilitation and distributed leadership within a transdisciplinary team can improve collaboration and support transdisciplinary research objectives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20
Number of pages24
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2023

Keywords

  • Transdisciplinary
  • Knowledge translation
  • Translational medical research
  • Collaboration
  • Realist evaluation
  • Case study
  • Qualitative research
  • Mixed methods

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