When conducting research, it is crucial that the knowledge generated is disseminated and shared with the people who can use it to improve care and outcomes. This is known as knowledge mobilisation. Whilst lots of research is published in academic journals only a small percentage actually influences practice or policy. One reason for this is that researchers don’t always know which approaches or strategies work best to share their research effectively with the people who need it.
To address this gap the NIHR have launched an exciting new initiative. In 2023, the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme expanded the remit of studies with a trial or project (SWATs) to include studies testing alternative ways of disseminating and sharing knowledge with key evidence users. Research teams can apply for up to an additional £30,000 to embed dissemination and knowledge mobilisation SWATs in their main study. This is an innovative way to build understanding about the best way to disseminate and share research knowledge to promote its uptake and use.
So, for example, a team applying for NIHR HTA funding might include a dissemination and knowledge mobilisation SWAT that compares a face-to-face stakeholder event to a written summary of research results sent to study participants. Participants could be patients, public and/or healthcare professionals, depending on the SWAT. A randomised design could be used to allocate study participants to receive the study findings in one of these two ways, and a mixed methods evaluation completed to consider acceptability, and knowledge gained from the two dissemination methods.
While SWATs are welcome across NIHR programmes, for now this particular type of SWAT is being encouraged within the HTA programme. Depending on how things go there, other programmes may start to encourage similar knowledge mobilisation SWATs in the future.
NIHR has some new ‘Plan knowledge mobilisation‘ pages, which will be a useful reference for those considering a SWAT testing alternative ways of disseminating and sharing knowledge.