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BMC Health Serv Res. 2019 Oct 30;19(1):772. doi: 10.1186/s12913-019-4573-4.

Initiation is recognized as a fundamental early phase of integrated knowledge translation (IKT): qualitative interviews with researchers and research users in IKT partnerships.

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Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, 155 College Street, Suite 425, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 3M6, Canada.
Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, 155 College Street, Suite 425, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 3M6, Canada.
Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, 200 Elizabeth Street, 13EN-228, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2C4, Canada.



Health care researcher-research user partnerships, referred to as integrated knowledge translation (IKT), have been adopted on an international basis, and are an effective means of co-generating and implementing evidence into policy and practice. Prior research suggests that an initiation period is essential for establishing functional partnerships. To characterize IKT initiation and describe determinants of IKT initiation success, this study explored IKT initiation processes, enablers, and barriers among researchers and research users involved in IKT partnerships.


A descriptive qualitative approach was used compliant with COREQ standards. Canadian researchers and research users in research collaborations were identified on publicly-available directories and web sites, and referred by those interviewed. They were asked to describe how partnerships were initiated, influencing factors, the length of initiation, and interventions needed to support initiation. Sampling was concurrent with data collection and analysis to achieve thematic saturation. Data were analyzed using constant comparative technique by all members of the research team.


In total, 22 individuals from 6 provinces were interviewed (9 researchers, 11 research users, 2 connectors). They confirmed that IKT initiation is a distinct early phase of partnerships. The period ranged from 6 months to 2 years for 75.0% of participants in pre-existing partnerships, to 6 years for newly-formed partnerships. High-level themes were: Newly identifying and securing partners is an intensive process; Processes and activities take place over a protracted period through multiple interactions; Identifying and engaging committed partners is reliant on funding; and Partnership building is challenged by maintaining continuity and enthusiasm. Participants underscored the need for an IKT partner matching forum, IKT initiation toolkit, and funding for non-research activities required during IKT initiation to establish functional researcher-research user partnerships. Themes were largely similar regardless of participant years of experience with IKT or being involved in a new versus pre-existing partnership.


IKT initiation is a recognized and important early phase of IKT that establishes functional partnerships, and once established, ongoing partnership for subsequent projects is likely. Further research is needed to develop and evaluate approaches recommended by participants for stimulating IKT initiation.


Integrated knowledge translation; Partnership initiation; Qualitative research

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