Researching knowledge transfer and exchange in occupational and environmental health

There is growing recognition that many diseases and disorders, such as asthma, joint and tendon disorders, communicable diseases and some cancers can be caused, or aggravated by workplace exposures. Occupational health is one area where the translation of research findings into new policies and increased safety in the workplace can have an immediate and profound effect on work-related injury and disease. This process, known as knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE), involves the use of research knowledge in decision-making – for individuals setting workplace safety policy, managers supervising a workforce, or employees making decisions regarding risks in the workplace. While there is widespread recognition of the importance of communicating research knowledge to those who can benefit from it, there has been little research on the KTE process within occupational settings, and how this information can be effectively communicated outside academic circles. Research that focuses on KTE as a joint effort – where the expertise of both scientists and workers is considered and recognized – has yet to be examined within occupational settings. Dr. Anne-Marie Nicol is researching the process and context by which occupational and environmental research knowledge is exchanged from research scientists to policy-makers and to employees in the workplace. Her work includes analyzing the methods that occupational and environmental scientists use to promote their research knowledge, and examining what types of information the public and policy-makers use to make decisions about risk in the workplace. This research will help develop strategies to facilitate the effective exchange of research knowledge in a timely manner to people at risk from occupational and environmental exposures, and help ensure that the information people receive is useful and appropriate to their needs.