Brokering research knowledge at York University

York University has received a groundbreaking research award to develop Canada’s first institutional strategy designed to connect university research in the social sciences and humanities with policy-makers across Canada to ensure that this research helps inform their decision-making.

York and its partner, the University of Victoria, have been awarded $665,000 through the Intellectual Property Mobilization (IPM) program to establish knowledge mobilization units at York and the University of Victoria. These units will match health researchers with key policy-makers in government, health and social service agencies.

IPM is a unique initiative designed to accelerate the transfer of technology and knowledge residing in Canadian universities, hospitals and colleges to the private and public sectors. The program is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“We want to ensure that leading-edge academic research is employed by policy-makers and community groups to develop more effective, efficient and responsive public policies,” said Stan Shapson (right), vice-president research & innovation at York. “Universities and governments have made great strides in recent years to ensure the commercialization of scientific research, and this award will now allow York University and the University of Victoria to create a parallel opportunity for researchers in the social sciences and humanities to have an impact on important social issues that matter to Canadians.”

Canadian universities have long been successful at technology transfer – transferring research with commercial potential to private-sector partners. The knowledge mobilization units will provide a parallel service devoted to the humanities and social sciences. In addition to matching health researchers with key stakeholders in government and community agencies, the knowledge mobilization units will provide an interactive Web site, online tools and broadband networks to assist stakeholders in their interactions with researchers.  A seed fund will be used to attract matching external investments in health research.

Some of the areas in which research may be used to affect public policy include: health services, health policy, health and human rights, determinants of health, wellness, violence and injury, healthy aging, vulnerable populations and global health. York University and the University of Victoria will pilot their knowledge mobilization strategy on their respective research strengths in fields related to health and society.

Social science and humanities researchers make up more than half of all researchers at Canadian academic institutions and many have important collaborations with community partners and other non-academic stakeholders. Until now, no systematic service has existed in any Canadian university to help mobilize social sciences and humanities research outside academia, said Shapson.

“This is the first tri-council investment in an institutional knowledge mobilization service that has been made in social science and humanities research in Canada. It will provide a vehicle for health and social policy-makers to become more actively engaged in academic research and ensure that the results of research are relevant to their needs,” he said.

The knowledge mobilization project will also help train future policy-makers and increase Canada’s number of highly qualified people by giving graduate students and post-doctoral fellows valuable experience working with stakeholders. It will equip them with broader skill sets which they can then take into positions in the public, private and voluntary sectors.