NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellowship

“Can Participatory Design Contribute to Knowledge Mobilisation of Health Research into Practice?”

Joe Langley

£8 billion per year is spent on health-related research; there is a responsibility to demonstrate a return on investment. Yet translation of health services research knowledge into everyday practice remains a challenge. This challenge is known as the second knowledge translation gap (T2) or ‘campus to clinic’ gap.

An entire academic field has grown around this challenge; the field of Implementation Science which is the study of how research is implemented. A key part of implementation is ‘mobilisation’ of knowledge. This involves teaching, learning and education. It is about the exchange of knowledge – but very importantly is also about ‘activation’ or instrumental use of knowledge; putting it into practice.

Academic knowledge is not necessarily in a form that is directly applicable to the world. It must be synthesised and blended with other knowledge such as professional practice, contextual or patient experiential knowledge to make it appropriate for use in context in practice. This need for bringing together and merging different forms of knowledge opens the door for participatory and co-produced research methods (Mode 2 research).

Every year the NIHR fund 5 Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellowships, selecting specific individuals and awarding them a bursary for 70% of their time plus research and training expenses for 3 years to carry out research enquiry into mechanisms, barriers and enablers of Knowledge Mobilisation and to mobilise some health services research knowledge into everyday practice.

Joe Langley was awarded one of these prestigious fellowships in 2013/14 and so far, is the only Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellow who is not from a health sciences discipline. Joe explored the added value of design, and specifically ‘making’, as a form of Knowledge Mobilisation. He carried out case studies that used some form of ‘making’ within co-produced health research work, to share different forms of knowledge, merge them and ‘activate’ the resulting new knowledge within participants, systems and organisations.

These fellowships included:

  • Designing gamified smart inhalers with and for school age children
  • Designing an emotional support tool with and for patients on an acute cardiac ward
  • Improving midwifery services with and for midwives and expectant women
  • Developing a mental capacity assessment tool with and for speech and language therapists in the community and hospitals
  • Development of a testicular volume assessment tool and training kit

Funded by:

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)



Royal College of Midwives

The University of Sheffield

Bradford Royal Infirmary

Sheffield Children’s Hospital

NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC

TITCH Network

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