Context: The process of knowledge translation (KT) in health research depends on the activities of a wide range of actors, including health professionals, researchers, the public, policymakers, and research funders. Little is known, however, about health research funding agencies' support and promotion of KT. Our team asked thirty-three agencies from Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and the United States about their role in promoting the results of the research they fund.
Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with a sample of key informants from applied health funding agencies identified by the investigators. The interviews were supplemented with information from the agencies' websites. The final coding was derived from an iterative thematic analysis.
Findings: There was a lack of clarity between agencies as to what is meant by KT and how it is operationalized. Agencies also varied in their degree of engagement in this process. The agencies' abilities to create a pull for research findings; to engage in linkage and exchange between agencies, researchers, and decision makers; and to push results to various audiences differed as well. Finally, the evaluation of the effectiveness of KT strategies remains a methodological challenge.
Conclusions: Funding agencies need to think about both their conceptual framework and their operational definition of KT, so that it is clear what is and what is not considered to be KT, and adjust their funding opportunities and activities accordingly. While we have cataloged the range of knowledge translation activities conducted across these agencies, little is known about their effectiveness and so a greater emphasis on evaluation is needed. It would appear that “best practice” for funding agencies is an elusive concept depending on the particular agency's size, context, mandate, financial considerations, and governance structure.