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Health Res Policy Syst. 2018 Dec 12;16(1):120. doi: 10.1186/s12961-018-0389-7.

Deconstructing knowledge brokering for commissioned rapid reviews: an observational study.

Author information

1
The Sax Institute, PO Box K617, Haymarket NSW 1240, Ultimo, NSW 2007, Australia. gabriel.moore@saxinstitute.org.au.
2
School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Edward Ford Building (A27), Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. gabriel.moore@saxinstitute.org.au.
3
The Sax Institute, PO Box K617, Haymarket NSW 1240, Ultimo, NSW 2007, Australia.
4
School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Edward Ford Building (A27), Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
5
Centre for Medical Psychology & Evidence-based Decision-making (CeMPED), Level 6 North, The Lifehouse, The University of Sydney, 119-143 Missenden Rd (C39Z), Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Knowledge brokers are increasingly used by policy agencies, yet little is known about how they engage with policy-makers and facilitate discussions with them about their research needs. This study examines knowledge brokers' behaviour in one-off interactions with policy-makers commissioning rapid reviews. It describes how knowledge brokers engage with policy-makers, build trust and gain agreement about the review's parameters.

METHODS:

We observed and transcribed 15 structured knowledge brokering sessions and used line-by-line analysis to derive, test and refine a coding schedule. The final coding schedule was applied to all transcripts. We assigned 35 codes to three tasks identified in the data, namely eliciting information, exploring the policy context and negotiating the content of reviews.

RESULTS:

The knowledge brokers we observed were skilled facilitators who built trust by their open stance, neutrality, and knowledge of research and policy contexts. Trust engendered an interplay of expertise in which review questions and scope were clarified and contextual factors evaluated. Negotiation about the content of the review focused on understanding how it would contribute to the policy process, comparing options and assessing feasibility. Key functions of knowledge brokers included eliciting and clarifying information, linking the review questions to the context and purpose, moving fluidly between policy and research perspectives, and weighing up review options against policy objectives. Four knowledge brokering roles were identified, namely diagnostic, facilitative, deliberative and interpretative.

CONCLUSIONS:

This study identified ways in which knowledge brokers established rapport with policy-makers who commissioned reviews, enabled disclosure of essential information and explored contextual factors that affected the review's purpose and intended use. Knowledge brokers were competent in the discourse and conventions of both policy and research and were skilled in negotiating complex policy and political environments, assisting policy-makers to evaluate options and craft a review proposal that was targeted, responsive and feasible. Mutuality, respect and an interplay of expertise were integral to the knowledge brokering process. Future research might usefully examine whether other rapid review programmes using knowledge brokers have similar results as well as the transferability of the four knowledge brokering roles to other contexts and settings.

KEYWORDS:

health policy; knowledge broker; knowledge brokering; rapid review; rapid synthesis; research utilisation

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