Collaboration for evidence-informed decision making

Jacobs, K.L., Garfin, G., & Lenart, M. (2005). More than just talk: Connecting science and decision making. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 47(9), 6-21.


This tool was designed to increase the relevancy and accessibility of research findings for decision makers and to build effective relationships between researchers and decision makers. It provides practical information to help bridge the gap between these groups, including a clear process to facilitate knowledge translation. By addressing a number of identified barriers to collaboration, this tool will help build effective relationships between these two groups.

Recognizing that the decision-making context is becoming increasingly complex, decisions makers need to place more emphasis on interdisciplinary research. Greater collaboration with researchers is needed to meet the informational needs of decision makers and to increase the application of research findings.

This tool recommends increasing knowledge translation within the following five areas: conditions for providing useful services and products communication and collaboration strategies facilitation of knowledge translation and institutional change evaluation of knowledge translation outcomes measures of successful collaboration

Steps for Using Method/Tool

This tool emphasizes five key areas that researchers should consider when interacting with decision makers to advance knowledge translation. Questions, tips and recommendations are presented to guide these approaches to knowledge exchange, with the intention of improving its application.

1. Conditions for providing useful services and products

  • Acknowledge that the decision maker's "decision space" represents the range of realistic options available to address a specific issue.
  • Understand that the informational needs of decision makers can be influenced by the time frame defined by the decision (short term versus long term).
  • Determine the acceptable level of accuracy/uncertainty that decision makers require to make decisions and the associated benefits and risks of different policy alternatives.
  • Ensure the credibility of information and its sources.
  • Ensure that the scale of information is not too large to be useful, and attend to time frames during which decisions are made.
  • Recognize that information that is accessible and available to decision makers at the appropriate time has the best chance of being considered in the policy development process or when a policy window opens.

2. Communication and collaboration strategies

  • Develop a strategy for collaboration and communication to delineate roles and expectations of different stakeholders.
  • Recognize that collaboration is an iterative process requiring information flow between decision makers and researchers to allow for a constructive approach.
  • Focus on the usability of information where findings are provided in a format that allows for policy applications.
  • Recognize that increasing access to information will increase the power of stakeholders and their subsequent ability to respond to this new knowledge.
  • Also, consider the implications of equity issues and values in the decision-making process.
  • Create platforms for collaborative processes outside of universities.

3. Incentives for change

  • Identify the risks and benefits associated with different decisions for specific decision makers within their organizations.
  • Identify the presence of leadership within agencies or stakeholder groups to facilitate knowledge uptake.
  • Identify events or crises as opportunities to increase knowledge and act on them.
  • Use social scientists to identify stakeholders' needs and perspectives to encourage interaction and sustain relationships.
  • Use knowledge brokers to interpret and tailor research findings to stakeholders'informational and decision-making needs.

4. Mechanisms for evaluation and feedback

  • Develop an evaluation plan, with clearly identified outcomes and indicators, before initiating a program.
  • Evaluate the utility of particular tools and provide value-added products that have policy implications.
  • Identify individuals and organizationsthat are actual/potential stakeholders and solicittheir feedback.

5. Measures of success collaboration

  • Identify achievable and clear measures of success in collaboration from the perspective of multiple stakeholders (see primary document, p. 18).

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.

We have provided the resources and links as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by McMaster University of any of the products, services or opinions of the external organizations, nor have the external organizations endorsed their resources and links as provided by McMaster University. McMaster University bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external sites.

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