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Applied research organizations invest a great deal of time, and research funders invest a great deal of money generating and (one hopes) transferring research knowledge that could inform decisions about health and health care. Basing these knowledge-transfer activities on our evolving understanding of the most effective approaches to knowledge transfer will help us achieve value for money in our individual and collective investments in health services and health policy research. Research organizations and research funders can probably be excused for not basing their activities on research evidence until now, however, because the variety of relevant questions, target audiences, and disciplinary perspectives and methodological approaches used in empirical studies has made the identification of take-home messages from this field of research a very difficult task.

We provide an organizing framework for a knowledge-transfer strategy and an overview of our understanding of the current knowledge for each of the five elements of the framework. The framework provides an overall approach to knowledge transfer that can be evaluated as a whole over long periods of time, as well as specific elements that can be evaluated and fine-tuned over shorter periods of time.