Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a knowledge translation tool

Driedger, S.M., Kothari, A., Graham, I.D., Cooper, E., Crighton, E.J., Zahab, M., et al. (2010). If you build it, they still may not come: Outcomes and process of implementing a community-based integrated knowledge translation mapping innovation. Implementation Science, 5, 47.


The resource describes the use of geographic information systems (GIS) mapping as a knowledge translation (KT) tool for evidence-informed decision making. GIS mapping advances evidence-informed decision making by linking the producers of data with users of data who want to report on and use evidence to inform decision making. This resource describes the use of mapping software and maps by Ontario Early Years Centres (OEYCs) data analysts and managers and its impact on decision making. The authors highlight how the GIS software was implemented, the training of and use by data-analyst/manager pairs or dyads, the barriers and limitations to using a GIS-based KT tool for evidence-informed decision making, and the nature of decisions that were derived from the application of the GIS-based KT tool to the local community.

Steps for Using Method/Tool

The KT intervention was supported by a number of steps, including use of a geographer who facilitated the use and supported the “producers” of evidence. The “users” of evidence (e.g., managers) also participated alongside the data analysts in expert-led tutorials that addressed GIS basics; principles of making and interpreting maps; map classification and continued barriers assessment; and self-assessment regarding system barriers and organizational capacity for GIS use. Extensive evaluation and follow-up procedures were undertaken and data analysis followed qualitative inquiry. A number of hypotheses are provided that consider why there was not greater use of mapping, including:

  • The innovation
  • The adopters
  • The environment
  • The KT intervention
  • Outcome measurement

These summaries are written by the NCCMT to condense and to provide an overview of the resources listed in the Registry of Methods and Tools and to give suggestions for their use in a public health context. For more information on individual methods and tools included in the review, please consult the authors/developers of the original resources.

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