Establishing a springboard for the future

Raphael Beck, Amanda Barclay and Rachel Yeung

Left to right: Victoria General Hospital pediatric intensive care doctors Raphael Beck and Amanda Barclay with UVic psychology graduate student Rachel Yeung.

April 2008

Innovations in knowledge transfer

The University of Victoria is setting the pace for locally driven, nationally relevant community solutions. Through its research activities and engagement with the community, UVic brings a brighter future even closer for our city and the world, and UVic's Knowledge Mobilization Unit is a major reason for the power behind this momentum.

Started at UVic in spring 2006 under UVic�s Office of Research Services, the Knowledge Mobilization Unit is a three-year federally funded program to institute a first-of-its-kind pan-Canadian knowledge network in collaboration with York University which has a twin unit of the same name. Together they have established an interactive website and an extensive national database of researchers and research needs.

Knowledge mobilization encourages a two-way exchange between campus and the wider community by drawing knowledge in both directions. One example is the new working group led by UVic nursing professor Dr. Bernie Pauly which aims to develop community-based research that addresses issues related to housing and homelessness in Victoria.

"UVic's Knowledge Mobilization Unit connects those who research issues and solutions with those who make social policy decisions," says Laura Milne, the knowledge transfer specialist who runs the initiative on the Victoria campus. "Policy-makers come to us looking for data and expertise; our students and scholars reach out to communities with their resources and answers. By working in collaboration with decision makers, the research being done at UVic has a destination."

UVic is literally going places, branching out beyond its immediate boundaries and continually exploring benefits for the social, cultural and economic well-being of Canadians and people around the globe. For instance, the Knowledge Mobilization Unit is beginning to work with the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board in the Northwest Territories, and continues to network with York University and other institutions across Canada that have similar goals of encouraging evidence-based decision making.

 The Knowledge Mobilization Unit works in tandem with UVic's Office of Community-Based Research (www.uvic.ca/ocbr), and its partners include the Vancouver Island Health Authority, BC Cancer Agency and several provincial ministries.

Partnering for better health care

As part of a knowledge mobilization course, Rachel Yeung, a University of Victoria psychology student, helped the Vancouver Island Health Authority identify effective care-giving strategies for parents whose children have been admitted to intensive care.

Yeung got the opportunity to work with two Victoria General Hospital pediatric intensive care doctors - known in the medical community as pediatric intensivists - to develop a needs assessment survey that measured parent satisfaction. The goal of the survey was to assess whether or not the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit, the only service of its kind on Vancouver Island, is currently meeting the needs of parents and children in the region and, if not, what improvements should be made.

"This experience allowed me to apply my knowledge in research design and methodology to a real-life problem and learn directly from health practitioners working in the field," says Yeung.

"In classes like this the level of responsibility goes up a notch - both for the instructors and for the students. Student work isn't just being graded, it's being used to help make the world a better place," says Bonnie Leadbeater, course co-instructor.

Nursing program better together

A separate UVic pilot program giving UVic nursing students first-hand experience with the health care challenges faced by Aboriginal communities - by connecting them with members of the Tsawout First Nation�was also recently recognized by the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing. The Reciprocal Partnership Model in Nursing Education between UVic's School of Nursing and the Tsawout First Nation - created to increase the number of Aboriginal health care professionals and to advance a nursing curriculum that provides reciprocal learning opportunities- won the 2007 Education Innovation Award from the nursing association's western region.

"This type of partnership has never been tried before, and the community contributions were invaluable to the program," says Rhonda Underwood, project coordinator from the Tsawout First Nation.

It provided "a cultural learning experience for nursing practice that will last a lifetime," says Noreen Frisch, director of UVic's nursing school.

"The program provided a valuable opportunity for nursing students and Indigenous community members to come together and learn from each other," says Allan Claxton, chief of the Tsawout First Nation.

Taking Canadian history to the web

Another innovative project founded on local issues has also gained international prominence. The Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History Project was named the winner of the 2008 MERLOT Classics award as an "exemplary" online learning resource. It's the second time the California-based Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) has honoured the project.

Launched ten years ago with documentary materials from a Salt Spring Island murder, the web-based project now invites students to develop their research skills by "solving" 12 mysteries plucked from Canada's rich history. The website also includes 30 shorter "Mysteryquest" cases aimed specifically at middle and high school students. The mysteries and teaching support material originate from all regions of Canada and involve a span of nearly 1,000 years. "Winning a MERLOT award for the second time is a testimony to the enduring and constantly improving quality of the project and the hard work of our cross-Canada team. It is like a Pulitzer Prize in this field," says UVic historian John Lutz.

Find out more on the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History Project webiste.