Variable participation of knowledge users in cancer health services research: results of a multiple case study
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BACKGROUND: Integrated knowledge translation (IKT) is a research approach in which knowledge users (KUs) co-produce research. The rationale for IKT is that it leads to research that is more relevant and useful to KUs, thereby accelerating uptake of findings. The aim of the current study was to evaluate IKT activities within a cancer health services research network in Ontario, Canada. METHODS: An embedded multiple case study design was used. The cases were 5 individual studies within an overarching cancer health services research network. These studies focused on one of the following topics: case costing of cancer treatment, lung cancer surgery policy analysis, patient and provider-reported outcomes, colorectal cancer screening, and a team approach to women's survivorship. We conducted document reviews and held semi-structured interviews with researchers, KUs, and other stakeholders within a cancer system organization. The analysis examined patterns across and within cases. RESULTS: Researchers and their respective knowledge users from 4 of the 5 cases agreed to participate. Eighteen individuals from 4 cases were interviewed. In 3 of 4 cases, there were mismatched expectations between researchers and KUs regarding KU role; participants recommended that expectations be made explicit from the beginning of the collaboration. KUs perceived that frequent KU turnover may have affected both KU engagement and the uptake of study results within the organization. Researchers and KUs found that sharing research results was challenging because the organization lacked a framework for knowledge translation. Uptake of research findings appeared to be related to the researcher having an embedded role in the cancer system organization and/or close alignment of the study with organizational priorities. Document reviews found evidence of planned IKT strategies in 3 of 4 cases; however, actual KU role/engagement on research teams was variable. CONCLUSIONS: Barriers to KU co-production of cancer health services research include mismatched expectations of KU role and frequent KU turnover. When a research study directly aligns with organizational priorities, it appears more likely that results will be considered in programming. Research teams that take an IKT approach should consider specific strategies to address barriers to KU engagement.
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