Integrated knowledge translation (IKT) in health care: a scoping review

Implement Sci. 2016 Mar 17;11:38. doi: 10.1186/s13012-016-0399-1.


Background: Integrated knowledge translation (IKT) refers to collaboration between researchers and decision-makers. While advocated as an approach for enhancing the relevance and use of research, IKT is challenging and inconsistently applied. This study sought to inform future IKT practice and research by synthesizing studies that empirically evaluated IKT and identifying knowledge gaps.

Methods: We performed a scoping review. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library from 2005 to 2014 for English language studies that evaluated IKT interventions involving researchers and organizational or policy-level decision-makers. Data were extracted on study characteristics, IKT intervention (theory, content, mode, duration, frequency, personnel, participants, timing from initiation, initiator, source of funding, decision-maker involvement), and enablers, barriers, and outcomes reported by studies. We performed content analysis and reported summary statistics.

Results: Thirteen studies were eligible after screening 14,754 titles and reviewing 106 full-text studies. Details about IKT activities were poorly reported, and none were formally based on theory. Studies varied in the number and type of interactions between researchers and decision-makers; meetings were the most common format. All studies reported barriers and facilitators. Studies reported a range of positive and sub-optimal outcomes. Outcomes did not appear to be associated with initiator of the partnership, dedicated funding, partnership maturity, nature of decision-maker involvement, presence or absence of enablers or barriers, or the number of different IKT activities.

Conclusions: The IKT strategies that achieve beneficial outcomes remain unknown. We generated a summary of IKT approaches, enablers, barriers, conditions, and outcomes that can serve as the basis for a future review or for planning ongoing primary research. Future research can contribute to three identified knowledge gaps by examining (1) how different IKT strategies influence outcomes, (2) the relationship between the logic or theory underlying IKT interventions and beneficial outcomes, and (3) when and how decision-makers should be involved in the research process. Future IKT initiatives should more systematically plan and document their design and implementation, and evaluations should report the findings with sufficient detail to reveal how IKT was associated with outcomes.

Keywords: Decision-making; Health system planning; Integrated knowledge translation; Scoping review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Health Planning
  • Health Services
  • Humans
  • Translational Research, Biomedical / organization & administration*