Knowledge exchange in the contemporary PhD

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Christina Hagger
Primary Health Care Research & Information Service


Whether higher degree research students are planning academic or industry careers, they benefit from developing a knowledge exchange (KE) mindset. KE is a different way of thinking. It fosters a systems view that understands research is only part of the answer for complex societal issues. KE thinking builds an understanding of the complexity of the world beyond academic circles. It recognizes value in real world, as well as research, knowledge. Importantly, researchers with a KE mindset understand the use of evidence to inform policy/practice is an intricate art as much as a science.

While effective researchers develop the critical outward facing KE mindset and skills over the length of their careers, it is rarely taught in research higher degree institutions. This is despite increasing recognition by the Australian Government to more explicitly embed 'soft' skills and innovation capabilities in research training programs.

A series of national KE workshops were developed for research higher degree students and early career researchers who seek to deliver better value from their research. The primary aim is to introduce the KE mindset and activate a transformational attitude and behavioral change centered on the value of research as a societal resource, not just an academic publication.

The workshops feature interactive panel presentations and discussions with research users from practice, consumer and policy backgrounds. These discussions allow participants to learn the benefits of building professional relationships across all sectors and to work with research users to inform and strengthen their research directions.

The workshop further presents a selection of tools, tactics and resources for generating relevant and timely research to inform policy and practice.

The student series is supported by a workshop designed for PhD supervisors to outline the climate for KE and why it is important in the contemporary PhD. The workshop introduces an international perspective and allows supervisors to share strategies that are working well to integrate KE thinking into their students’ practice.

Results and Impact
The workshops have been run consistently since 2014. Evaluations of the higher degree research KE workshop demonstrate that once researchers view their research as a resource, it fuels a change in their attitude and style of practice. Evaluation of the initial 2014 pilot PhD workshop, with 26 participants, utilized Theory of Planned Behavior to measure intentions to use incorporate KE in research. A total of 77% indicated they felt confident to use KE in their future work.

Participants in the Supervisors workshops have provided similar positive evaluation responses. As one participant noted, will ‘point (my) current students to (the KE) resources and, with future students, start thinking KE from start’.

Conclusion and Future Potential
A series of additional workshops are being developed with content increasingly co-created in collaboration with research users, particularly policy, to add an insider’s perspective.

These national workshops are a ground-up contribution to doctoral reform. They are cultivating a network of emerging researchers who seek to deliver a return on investment from their research.