Knowledge translation and exchange in the Canadian microbial food safety sector

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Wolfe, Dianna Marie
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University of Guelph

Knowledge translation and exchange (KTE) is integral to the formation of evidence-informed policy. Prior to the work presented in this dissertation, a significant body of literature existed in the healthcare field regarding research-to-policy KTE; however, little was known about KTE between researchers and policymakers in the Canadian food safety system or the context-specific barriers that influence KTE. A mixed-methods approach was used, grounded in concepts from the healthcare literature, to explore Canadian food safety researchers’ KTE awareness and activities with policymakers, the barriers hindering KTE engagement and success, and timing and informational disparities between research and policy needs that may hinder KTE success. Canadian food safety researcher awareness of and engagement in KTE activities with policymakers was high. However engagement in activities identified as having the greatest potential for KTE success—i.e., collaboration with policymakers at all stages of the research process, provision of syntheses such as systematic reviews, and provision of a searchable database of research findings—was low relative to end-of-research dissemination of findings to policymakers. Several barriers were identified that limited KTE engagement and success from the researcher’s perspective, including an inability to identify relevant policymakers, high policymaker turnover, a lack of resources and support in the research organization, a perceived lack of KTE skills on the part of researchers, and an inability to break free from traditional publish-or-perish research roles. Apparent informational disconnects (i.e., research output not meeting policymakers’ apparent informational needs) were identified that may further hinder KTE and evidence-informed policymaking. While new methodologies, such as systematic review, have been adapted for food safety research, boosting researchers’ potential ability to produce policy-relevant evidence, a cultural shift must occur in research and policymaking organizations, if sustained KTE is to be successful. As well, significant future investment must be made on the part of research organizations and policymakers, if KTE barriers are to be mitigated. Future research should evaluate KTE tools (e.g., sustained linkages between researchers and policymakers, provision of syntheses, provision of access to a database of research findings) to identify specific methods that may facilitate research use in food safety policymaking.

Knowledge translation, Food safety, Mixed-methods, Bibliometric analysis, Survey, Research use, Evidence-informed policy making