Partnership Centres explore ways to improve the use of evidence in policy and practice


The NHMRC’s three Partnership Centres, The Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre, the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre, and the new Partnership Centre for Health System Sustainability have a unique opportunity to contribute to the science behind increasing the uptake of evidence in policy and practice, attendees at a March 2017 workshop were told.

The workshop brought together representatives from the three Partnership Centres along with international experts to discuss practical ways to encourage the use of evidence in policy. Dr Bev Holmes, Acting President and CEO of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research in Canada, told the workshop that while there was a body of scientific literature around ‘knowledge mobilisation’, few organisations could draw on their practical experiences in the same way as Partnership Centres.

“You are doing the work and contributing to the science of knowledge mobilisation,” she said. “It is time to think of the larger picture, to … talk to the community about what we can do better.”

Only eight to 15 per cent of research is ever used in policy and practice, and it currently takes an average 17 years between the development of research and its use.

“In many cases we have the evidence, we know what we should be doing, but we are not doing it,” said Prevention Centre Director, Professor Andrew Wilson.

The CDPC is building communication and knowledge translation strategies into the design of each of its research activities, Director Professor Susan Kurrle said. A key aspect of this is involving consumers at every step of the research process, from development to implementation and dissemination.

Workshop participants applied their strategies to a knowledge mobilisation framework developed by experts Dr Holmes and Professor Diane Finegood, a systems science expert from Simon Fraser University.

“There is a dearth of work being done that shows solutions to complex problems with empirical evidence. Your contribution to the science of complexity is very important,” Professor Finegood said.

Other key strategies suggested in the workshop included:

  • Recognise that knowledge encompasses both research and practice
  • Set shared goals, vision and values
  • Build trust and respect among stakeholders through fostering relationships
  • Consider incentives and inhibitors that inspire collaboration and manage dissent
  • Provide adequate resources (funding and time) to support leadership and strategic communications
    Embrace failure: aim for continuous improvement.

Helen Signy, TAPPC Senior Communications Officer

Knowledge Mobilisation Workshop - Consumer Perspective (Joan Jackman)

The overall context of the Workshop was based on the ‘Key Messages’ that Knowledge Mobilisation (KM) is an established field with an evidence base about what works in some contexts. However, the complexity of health systems make it difficult to know which set of KM strategies will have sufficient impact.‘Systems thinking’ can provide a framework for selecting a set of complementary strategies.

Presentations by the two Partnership Centres highlighted the progress of each and dissemination strategies undertaken to date.

The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre targets its work specifically at policy and decision makers, with relevant advocacy organisations representing the consumers. The CDPC represented its integration and involvement of consumers in all aspects of CDPC work, with this seen as a unique feature and strength of the CDPC.

Of particular interest were Mike Kelly’s ,comments about the importance of ‘co-production’ in research, indicating that ‘ordinary people’ are knowledgeable about the worlds in which they live, recommending that researchers need to ‘start with people on the ground’ and not to underestimate the power of ordinary people.

For a copy of the presentations contact