Connecting universities with policy and practice is increasingly important. Knowledge mobilisation (KMb) is not a new activity. Some university researchers have always worked with non-academic partners. In 2007, Jonathan Lomas (formerly of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation) traced examples of university engagement with non-academic partners to the German dye industry in the late 1800s. The US land grant universities (those that concentrated on more practical subject teaching) have well-established extension programmes that date back to the turn of the 20th century.
However, in Canada, collaborating with non-academic partners has been an individual activity that occurs despite institutional barriers such as tenure and promotion (T&P) where faculty members are rewarded for traditional academic scholarship as well as teaching and service. Although a conversation about rewarding community engaged scholarship in T&P review is under way, in Canada traditional scholarship remains the foundation of an academic career and reinforces the perception of the university as a traditional, self-perpetuating and monolithic organisation disconnected from society.
David Phipps is director of research services and knowledge exchange at York University, Toronto, Canada. For more on knowledge mobilisation at York University, and from David, see the Research Impact blog and follow @researchimpact on Twitter.