Better together

Orchestrating knowledge in interdisciplinary teams to increase knowledge translation

The demand for research on children’s health and the environment is complex and requires orchestrating a symphony of knowledge. More team members may add a layer of complexity, but Osnat Wine’s research is revealing that integrated knowledge translation (iKT) projects benefit from having a wide range of experts involved in a project. With complex data evaluation and multiple layers of communication, combining experts is vital to creating new knowledge and translating it into practical use.

Wine is in the last few months of completing her PhD thesis which focuses on identifying the essential components of the iKT process, by following the activities of the Data Mining and Neonatal Outcomes (DoMiNO) team. DoMiNO, an interdisciplinary research project initiated by the Departments of Pediatrics and Computer Science, provides researchers and knowledge users with the knowledge to understand how environmental factors impact health. The DoMiNO team is studying a major knowledge gap to date—the effects of environmental and socioeconomic factors on early childbirths.

As a research coordinator on the DoMiNO project for five years, Wine was very fortunate to be at the heart of this project before she explored the intricacies of this iKT team for her thesis.

“I became very interested in how the team created, communicated and transferred their knowledge,” says Wine. “On a complex project like DoMiNO, it was clear how important the interdisciplinary team was to creating new knowledge, but equally important was how orchestrating the team’s collaboration was fundamental to the knowledge translation process.” 

The DoMiNO team was multifaceted, comprised of researchers, clinicians, decision-makers from academia, governmental agencies and members of the public. The team of 24 with their expertise and perspectives were fundamental to the project’s success. For example, neonatal and obstetric physicians were instrumental to understanding the problem; geographers pinpointed what locations were more affected by early childbirths; epidemiologists made the connection to diseases and causes; and knowledge users helped shape the direction of the project and messages. 

Through observing and gathering team feedback, Winewas able to identify key elements required for working collaboratively on a large team. 

Wine explains, “It is essential to take the time to allow a team to form. Teams need to build trust and combine many areas of knowledge and expertise in order to guide and strengthen a knowledge translation plan and optimize iKT based research.”

Factors such as commitment, ownership and transparency are very important in supporting the overall iKT project plan and goals. As well, the collaborative process needs to be evaluated frequently, which allows for adjustments along the way. These elements help build team relationships, trust and capacity that can optimize the collaborative effort.

In the future, Wine hopes this research will provide practical recommendations to other iKT project teams and ultimately make a difference in how outcomes are communicated and translated into children’s healthcare policy, clinical care practice and disease prevention. 

Osnat Wine’s graduate studentship and Patient and Community Engagement Training (PaCET) grant are funded through the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute. Her supervisor is professor Alvaro Osornio Vargas in the Department of Pediatrics. 

Wine received a 2019 National Collaborating Centre for Public Health Knowledge Translation award for her thesis project.

 

 

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