knowledge mobilization

Last month I had the pleasure of attending a talk by David Yetman, discussing a program developed at Memorial University that works to “mobilize knowledge” between the university and outside interests. The program acts as a liaison of sorts, between interested community members and interested researchers. It’s an open door for communities to invite researchers to participate in questions relevant to them.

The program is interdisciplinary and completely voluntary. Yetman admitted that collaboration between faculty members and administration is a tricky thing, and that for this reason the program members actively sought out responsive members in the faculty, and worked with them, rather than trying to change the minds of those uninterested in collaborative research projects.

The project staff, “knowledge mobilization officers” work as a kind of knowledge broker – in many ways facilitating the business side of research, helping find funding, but also facilitate ways to disseminate research in ways appropriate to the project (perhaps pointing to the need for multiple styles of research publication, in that the standard journal publication may not be what is needed).

They have also been developing a search engine/database for research projects community members are interested in. The database provides researchers and community members a way to connect. The database would allow researchers to look for relevant research questions, and link them to members of the community that would help with it. He mentioned the need for “finding audiences” for academic research, and that “80% of what we do is building relationships”.

Pushing the business angle did cause my anthropological ears to ring a little.  The “benefit to society” thing has been done to death in my readings for this project, and while increased collaboration was argued to benefit society, Yetman also said that knowledge mobilization officers “do not pass judgment on the type of project”, but that an ethics guideline was in the works.

I asked if knowledge mobilization officers, being interested in “finding audiences”, advocated Open Access publication of research – and I was disappointed to learn the program had not yet explored Open Access Publishing (and even though the program is small, and just starting, I still choke swallowing this one…). I promised myself I’d check back with them down the road to see if information on Open Access Publishing couldn’t be provided by the knowledge mobilization officers as standard practice.   [just editing this, and again, how do you talk about mobilizing knowledge, and ignore Open Access? uggh!]  [thinking more on it, I think Yetman comes from a medical research background, and I have no idea how well received open access publishing is in that area]

Looking at the relationship between academia and surrounding communities, and having this opportunity to see it more generally through multiple disciplines, I appreciate ethnography more. Not so much the value of ethnography as a “scientific method”, but the lessons one can learn looking at anthropology’s often brutal relationship with people/communities/states [things that make you go "hmm..."]. I asked Yetman how disputes would be settled between researchers and community members inviting research – what happens when the research doesn’t go as planned? Yetman admitted this was a challenge, but he felt that the knowledge mobilization officer, while not responsible for such a situation, would still be able to lend a hand. He said in no way would the knowledge mobilization officer, nor the community member inviting the research, have any control over the research output.

I also asked about Minerva style funding, and how interests could be balanced out – if at all. He said that many researchers would be interested in military funding, and admitted that large-scale funding could be an issue if it were let to dominate research agendas. Here exists the problem of promoting collaboration without judging “good or bad”. Ie: in the article linked at the bottom of this post, it discusses knowledge mobilization as coming from technology transfer, which involves patents, and making profit. So maybe this program will end up promoting the “closed” side of the intellectual property debate.)

Even if it ignores ethical issues, steps around research responsibility, and hasn’t yet figured out how important open access publishing is, it does do one thing that I like – it opens a door for people to approach the university with their questions and concerns.

While a liaison can help on the community side, I still think anthropologists have the right idea building collaboration into the research methods, and to facilitating the collaboration themselves. Ie: do we need a special database to find relevant research questions, when we have the internet, or live in a local community? Are these issues not constantly being discussed in the news,  on blogs, and on youtube? Yes, at least with online ethnography. A knowledge mobilization office could help researchers get their feet into the community however, and help local organizations advertise their issues and interests.

I would have kept the questions pouring, but few others were participating so I shut up and talked to him when the talk finished. I explained my interest in “sharing knowledge” and Open Access, and when I told him I was in the anthropology program he told me he always got a great response from anthropologists, who he said expressed more interested in community collaboration. During the talk he also mentioned how the program was new, but tried to incorporate what it could from participatory research methods that have been developing in anthropology and other disciplines. [he mentioned proactive and reactive strategies, community workshops hosted in different areas in the region]

One audience member inquired about measuring and quantifying the success of such collaborations – Yetman replied that was a challenge, but that qualitative assessments seemed to work pretty well.

Here is an article discussing some of the projects successes and strategies:

“Putting Knowledge Into Practice”

[on the first round writing this, I used the word "interested" about 20 times. ]

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for posting this entry. I have been working on KMb issues since 2001 and thought you might be interested to know that most of my work is not inside the university but outside and beside. As someone involved in the creation of the original KMb program in Canada, the adoption of sharing mechanisms (such as OA and Creative Commons) within the academic community has been slow (almost painful). I look forward to your future entries.



  2. Thanks for contributing! Would you have any suggestions for promoting Open Access among kmb programs? I’m trying to start a student driven email campaign to promote OA among anthropologists, but perhaps we could create some sort of statement on OA that appeals to KMB workers as well…


  3. Open Access is important for KM. Universities can’t claim to be open to engagement with non academic research stakeholders if they privilege their publications by keeping them from open access. CIHR has an open access policy and SSHRC is moving in that direction. York’s KM Unit has 2 community collaboration stations where community working with York researchers can get access to ll journal in the York Libraries regardless of their open access nature.


  4. Hey thanks. Another blogger, “Thinkingdifference” pointed me in the direction of the SSHRC policy at:

    Based on the awareness level I’ve encountered researching OA among anthros, I’m not too hopeful voluntary strategies as discussed in the SSHRC policy are going to work – and as Peter Suber discusses on OA news regularly, what works best is implementing mandates at an institutional level.

    Are the publications that come out of knowledge mobilization programs always published publicly? I can see how in engineering, design, medical research and other more practical disciplines, collaboration between the university and business interests could be a more private matter (perhaps out of concern over intellectual property).

    Thanks for stopping by!


    • making it voluntary is a step towards cuture change. Scholars can only be as open as their journals allow but by incrasing the choices of OA journals the culture will change. It’s a small step but moving in the right direction. Everything we write, when not governed by journals’ copyright, is published under a creative commons copyright license 2.5, non commercial non derivative.


  5. 16th International Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES)

    By Drs Aris and Daphne N. Poulianos
    Kunming, China 31-7-09

    The title of this paper may sound a little deterministic, but I am convinced we human beings went through a longer period of hominization, than usual historians, including marxists, allow to conclude today.
    We definitely come from apes, but not African ones. Once upon a time lived in Europe over fifty species of monkeys. But an ape, which I named Helladopithecus semierectus, lived on trees, seventeen million years ago (ANTHROPOS, V3, N01, Jan. 1976, pp3 – 30, Athens).
    The well known Pikermi fauna of the Miocene period is found from Hungary through Balkans to Iran: (Wagner, A1840: Fossile Uberreste Von einem Affen und anderensau getierren aus Griechenland. Abh. Bayer. Akad. Wiss, 3, Munchen). Among other finds, a very important of that period was Mesopithecus pentelici, whose range also extended over a large territory, beyond Greece, and which is known to be a terrestrial monkey. It’s wide extension over a large territory, presupposes, that some anthropomorphic monkeys could ’’descend from trees’’ (Roghinski, J.J. & M.G. Levin, 1963: Anthropologhia, Moskva, str. 184 – 185), and begun to walk. Consequently among those “descenders” could be some andecedent forms of man.
    Another lower jaw from Attica found by a german officer during the years of occupation (1942) and described by G.Von Koenigswald, (1972: Einunterkiefez eines fossilen Hominoiden aus dem unterpliozan Griechenlands. Konikl. Nederl. Akademie Van Wetenschappen. Series B, 75, No 5, str. 385 – 394, Amsterdam), seems to be an advanced form which does not belong to Dryopithecinae, and which might also represent the beginning of African Primates. Koenigswald gave him a not very successful name “graecopithecus”. Its age is about 9 million years old. The lower jaw of another specimen found by the French expedition in 1972 near Thessaloniki, was named Dryopethicus macedoniensis. But it is also of a more advanced type than the Dryopithecinae, and according to Koenigswald is more closely affiliated with the hominids. Its age is Upper Miocene (Vallesian).
    Finally, the find described in this paper (Helladopithecus), is the upper part of a left femur found by our expedition in 1974 near Tharounia, a village in the island of Euboea. The age established lately, is Lower Miocene, about 17 million years old, confirmed by its stratigraphy, as well, and kept now in the Anthropological Museum of the Archanthropus man at Petralona, Chalkidiki.
    It is fully described and decided to be a semierectus monkey, as these authors call the whole complex of similar finds from Attica and Makedonia too.
    The new bone find is 98 mm. long (given the signal name ‘’A.E. – 1’’, seems to belong to a rather young individual, and its whole length (proportionally counted) cannot be more than 350 mm. That is the standing height should be about 140-150cm. Its weight, according to Debetz index (ICVS), approximately should be about 40-42 klgms. The stoutness index then is about 22, 85 (the same index for Orang, Chimpanzee and Gorilla, being 32-33, while for man is 18-21.

    But among all these indirect methods of identifying a find, the best would be to measure exactly the Torsion angle, in order to establish the percentage of its erect position. Thus a new method was developed to measure the torsion angle in a broken femur bone. This method is based on the assumption that the torsion angle (Θ) of a bone is directly proportional to the angle of its cylindrical surface (α). (See designs 2 and 3). The axis of a bone is the line passing through all gravity centers of all its side section (AB). The edge of the cylindrical surface of a bone is the line uniting all corresponding corners of the cross – section (ΓΔ). That is: θ=Κ.α, where Κ – proportionality coefficient.
    And this assumption is based on
    a)the geometrical similarity of corresponding bones of different animals.
    b)The physico-chemical similarity of bones, and
    c)On the approximately constant ratio between animal weight and cross-sectional area, that is the stress of bone loading is almost constant (the animal weight per unit of cross-sectional bone area).
    In order to find Κ we take a similar unbroken contemporary bone, and measure its angles θ and α:
    Κ= θ. Unbroken / α. unbroken
    Then we measure the angle α of the broken bone and find angle
    θ.broken = K.a unbroken = θ. Unbroken . α. broken / α. unbroken
    Angle α is the average of angles β & γ.
    The angles β & γ can be found by photographing the bone and measuring these angles on the picture. In order to make edge ΓΔ clearly distinguishable we illuminate the bone from the side. Then ΓΔ becomes the border line of two differently illuminated surfaces. In our case we took 17 differently oriented pictures of both bones, broken and unbroken (see pictures in the text and table 1).
    The result of these procedures showed that θ (torsion) broken = 18ο , which means that this monkey was about 65% erect during his lifetime. That means he was pretty much erect, certainly more erect than most today’s African primates. Thus, it is concluded, Helladopithecus could be the forerunner of Homo.
    Finally, we raise to the rank of a separate family the whole complex of Helladopithecus finds from Greece, classifying it right after the Hominid family. As a result of the above process we have the first standing man on earth, Homo erectus trilliensis, spreading all over the world from this region of the Aegean, of the SE of Europe 13 million years ago.
    The over one hundred years long discussion among anthropologists (‘’polyphyletic versus monophyletic origins’’) sounds is ending. Monophyletic origin of man (from Helladopithecus to Homo erectus trilliensis) to our opinion is more or less confirmed who spread from Atlantic to Pacific and then all over the rest of the world. It seems every biological species on earth develops from one center, and then it spreads all over.
    In the mean time excavations are going on: A new find, a part of the skeleton of a young girl of 14 years old was found. The find was named Homo erectus trilliensis Daphnae, after the name of the lady present in this hall Mrs Daphnae A.Poulianos.


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