Think of it as a knowledge matchmaking service.
Social sciences and humanities researchers have a new interactive online tool for building connections with governments and community organizations, thanks to the launch of the ResearchImpact Web site.
Unveiled on May 30 to over 5,000 delegates at the 2007 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Saskatoon, the site allows researchers at York University and the University of Victoria to share their expertise and findings with community partners. The process is known as Knowledge Mobilization (KM). Through the site-fostered exchange of theories, concepts and evidence, researchers will be better able to help inform policy decisions, professional practices and social programming.
"We want to ensure that York’s leading-edge research is being used to develop more effective public policies and drive social innovation," says Stan Shapson, vice-president research & innovation at York. "This Web site provides a new tool with which to continue our outreach efforts and create sustainable partnerships."
The ResearchImpact site also allows community groups, non-governmental organizations, labour groups and professional associations to make specific requests for assistance with their research needs. Students can use the site to get involved in Knowledge Mobilization activity within their fields of study. It’s all part of ResearchImpact’s promise to turn research into action.
"This is a great opportunity for the University to articulate its value to the broader community," says David Dewitt, associate vice-president research (social sciences and humanities). "By building upon existing research capacities in our respective institutions, we are creating more opportunities for our researchers to have a greater impact on shaping discussion and decision-making in our communities."
ResearchImpact is still in its infancy, but the Web site’s launch marks another step towards building a national program at universities across the country. In time, it aims to create a comprehensive national repository of social science and humanities expertise where researchers and community partners can find each other, work together using broadband tools and share their results.
The Web site is just one of many Knowledge Mobilization activities jointly created by York and UVic through a three-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. In parallel to traditional technology transfer programs for science and technology research, KM is an institutionally-focused method for connecting researchers in the social sciences and humanities with the users of research, such as government officials and community leaders.
In the past, such knowledge exchanges were driven by individual professors and often ad hoc. With the Knowledge Mobilization unit in place there is institutional capacity and staff are available to broker relationships. That activity can range from organizing breakfast meetings where researchers can present their findings to informing people at the University and in our surrounding communities, such as York Region, about the services they offer and the opportunities for collaboration.
The difference is tangible: Knowledge Mobilization staff have had over 200 specific face-to-face interactions with faculty, graduate students, York Region officials, government workers, and community agencies. The results? Growing numbers of student internships, project collaboration and community-University partnerships, all of which are listed on the ResearchImpact site.