Knowledge brokering: exploring the process of transferring knowledge into action

BMC Health Serv Res. 2009 Jan 16:9:12. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-9-12.


Background: There are many theories about knowledge transfer but there are few clear descriptions of knowledge transfer interventions or the processes they involve. This failure to characterise structure and process in proposed KT interventions is a major barrier to the design and implementation of evaluations of particular KT strategies. This study is designed to provide a detailed description of the processes involved in a knowledge transfer intervention and to develop and refine a useful model of the knowledge transfer process.

Methods and design: This research is taking a sociological approach to investigating the process of knowledge transfer. The approach is designed to articulate the broad components of the knowledge transfer process and to test these against evidence from case study sites. The research falls into three phases. First, we have carried out a literature review to produce a theoretical framework of the knowledge transfer process. This involved summarising, thematically analysing and synthesising evidence from the literature. Second, we are carrying out fieldwork in a mental health setting based on the application of a knowledge brokering intervention. The intervention involves helping participants identify, refine and reframe their key issues, finding, synthesising and feeding back research and other evidence, facilitating interactions between participants and relevant experts and transferring information searching skills to participants. Finally, we are using the observations of the knowledge broker and interviews with participants to produce narratives of the brokering process. The narratives will be compared in order to identify evidence which will confirm, refute or revise each of the broad components of the knowledge transfer process. This comparison will enable us to generate a refined framework of knowledge transfer which could be used as a basis for planning and evaluating knowledge transfer interventions.

Discussion: This study will provide an opportunity for a detailed description of a knowledge transfer intervention and the processes which are involved. Our approach is also designed to enable us to develop and refine a useful model of the knowledge transfer process. We believe that it will significantly enhance the growing body of knowledge about knowledge transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research
  • Documentation
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*