Mobilizing Research Knowledge in Ontario and Wisconsin

August 7, 2013

We welcome Paul Baker to the News and Events site today to share an exciting field trip the School of Education took to Toronto this summer.  Here, he shares what the group learned at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education– with broad-reaching opportunities for outreach and community collaboration in higher education, and of course, libraries.

UW representatives of the School of Education with colleagues from Ontario.

Mobilizing Research Knowledge in Ontario and Wisconsin

by Paul Baker

Researchers do research. Teachers teach. Administrators administer. It’s easy for everyone to work in silos. But everyone could work smarter by taking advantage of what each has to offer.

How to make that happen?

For the past two years, staff from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Office of Education Outreach and Partnerships have solicited and received ideas for a new initiative within the School of Education they call a Collaborative Research Exchange.

The idea is to create–and institutionalize–physical and virtual opportunities for researchers, teachers, administrators, and community representatives to meet, discuss their work, and find innovative ways to boost each other’s productivity.

Jack Jorgensen directs the office of Outreach and Partnerships. He notes that education researchers and practitioners have traditionally faced several challenges when they have tried to engage in and apply evidenced-based research.

For example, researchers sometimes need help to locate and recruit schools and districts to participate in research projects. Practitioners can also serve as a rich source of information to inform future research questions and grant proposals.

At the same time, practitioners often want more access to research that could guide and inform their improvement efforts.

You may have heard terms like knowledge translation, translational research, engaged research, community-based research, or knowledge mobilization. They all refer, in one way or another, to a deliberate attempt to make research more useful to society.

Intrigued by knowledge mobilization activities in Ontario, three School of Education staff visited the University of Toronto in July. Jack Jorgensen, Beth Giles, and Paul Baker exchanged ideas with representatives of York University, the Ontario Ministry of Education, and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, among others.

York University’s David Phipps said that knowledge mobilization (KMb) is a way of making research useful to society. It’s also a way to enable social innovation. He shared inspiring stories of social innovations resulting from pairing students with community organizations.

York has brokered 320 relationships among faculty and community members. Some projects come to fruition and have extended lives, others are short term. But the end is the same: to share knowledge to benefit the community.

During their stay, the UW-Madison staff presented their ideas for a Collaborative Research Exchange at UW-Madison, and received feedback from a number of perspectives. Jack Jorgensen directs the office of Outreach and Partnerships. He says a Collaborative Research Exchange promises to enrich the work of both researchers and outreach personnel, ultimately improving their capability to coordinate resources when responding to the complex needs and challenges facing public education and our community at large.

Look for a public launch some time within the next year.

More about Knowledge Mobilization:


Paul Baker is a senior communicator for the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, a part of the School of Education. He produces summaries of current research, manages publications, works with news media, and plans an annual conference for statewide educational administrators. Current work also includes a new initiative to create more robust relationships between researchers and practitioners. Paul serves on the Wisconsin DPI’s Education Research Advisory Council and is is past chair of the Communication and Outreach Committee of the American Educational Research Association.