Budgeting for Knowledge Translation
Tips, Tools & Life Hacks
By Carly Leggett
In my previous post on writing knowledge translation into a grant proposal, I highlighted the importance of outlining how you intend to pay for your knowledge translation activities in your grant application. But the dirty secret I didn’t share? This is a lot easier said than done.
In this post I go through some of the concepts, tools, and creative tricks we use to help researchers budget for their knowledge translation (KT) activities. I’ll highlight some key considerations and get you on your way to building a KT budget that is reasonable and achievable. Many of the examples discussed will be specific to end-of-grant KT (or dissemination), but broader concepts can be expanded upon as you start to think about the larger context of implementation and integrated knowledge translation (KT). If you need a quick refresher or are wondering if your research falls into that category, check out Leah’s post on integrated KT .
Consider Your Scale
The most important factor to consider when building your KT budget is (not surprisingly) the total amount of money you have (or expect to receive) from funders. Although this seems logical, being very clear and honest with yourself up front can be difficult. However, it will help you rein in your expectations for KT outputs. I mention this because a common request we get goes something like: “I want to create five unique infographics! We’ll highlight them on our new website! And people can access them from our custom-made app!”
These are excellent goals, creative ideas and all very en vogue — but as a rule, people underestimate the amount of time, energy, and resources (both financial and human) these types of activities require. For example, if you are working with an overall research grant budget of $50,000, you simply will not be building a brand-new website or designing a mobile app. The design and creation of a mobile app from scratch will cost you (at minimum) $10–15,000, and it’s likely not realistic to assign 20–30% of your total research budget to a single KT dissemination tool or exchange event. Please do not take this to mean that you cannot achieve such heights of technology — I only caution you to be realistic about how far your funds will go.
What might budgeting for KT look like? Depending on the type of research being undertaken, I’ve seen researchers assign anywhere from 2–10% of the total grant budget to dissemination and/or exchange activities. Read on for a few ideas of how to break that down and where to focus your funds.
Consider Your Activities
The money you reserve for your KT activities will vary depending on their type and scope, but there are a few common elements to consider:
Have you adequately accounted for this? Almost all dissemination activities require somebody to “do” the KT. Will it be a knowledge broker, project coordinator, or research assistant hired as part of the grant? Or would you prefer to contract the work to external vendors such as a graphic design firm or your local SPOR SUPPORT Unit? Have you considered the expenses for various phases of the KT strategy (e.g. synthesis, exchange, dissemination, and application)? Don’t forget about small, but time-consuming tasks, like creating and editing drafts, formatting images or documents, and printing and assembling materials.
Public, Patient & Stakeholder Engagement
Regardless of which stage of the process you embark on engagement, it takes time and money to properly and meaningfully engage people in your research. Luckily, our KT platform has a brand new budgeting tool to help you plan for these costs. Check out Trish’s post on how to use CHI’s new patient and public engagement budgeting tool for guidance in developing an inclusive and meaningful engagement budget.
Creation of Knowledge Products
Whether it’s infographics (Pat has an intro to this topic in Infographics: A Primer for Researchers), policy briefs, lay summaries, podcasts, webpages, whiteboard videos, mobile apps or more, make sure that you consider not only the cost associated with each, but also the quality that you are able to produce. A few theory-driven, evidence-based, and stakeholder-championed tools are worth more than a hundred shiny bells and whistles that nobody asked for in the first place. KT tools should be planned (using theory and evidence!) to reflect a reasonable balance of your budget and the impact you believe they can have (i.e. — practicality meets rigor).
Sometimes we get caught up in new and exciting dissemination technologies (Infographics! Whiteboard videos! Podcasts!) and forget to consider the costs of some of the more traditional (but still valuable) research dissemination strategies. Have you accounted for costs associated with publishing, travel to conferences, and poster printing?
Implementation & Evaluation
Although this is technically a combination of all four considerations listed above, it’s one that is so valuable it needs its own shout out. It is so easy to fall into the common trap of spending all of your time and money on creating a series of new KT dissemination tools, without planning for how you will actually distribute them or evaluate their impact. The most beautifully designed and perfectly crafted infographic will not be effective if you’ve left no space for working with the stakeholders who need to champion it to their leadership or promote it within their communities, or if you haven’t budgeted for personnel to manage the webpage where it’s hosted and track the metrics of its use. These critical elements of the KT process should be adequately reflected in your budget.
Consider a KT Contingency Fund
If you don’t feel like you have the information available to make specific budget allocations for KT activities up front (particularly in cases where dissemination and KT are to be informed by stakeholders — such as integrated KT), consider implementing either a blanket line item in your overall budget (for example — 5% of overall costs), or a contingency fund for unforeseen KT activities (for example — 15% of your existing KT budget). A blanket line item is more appropriate when your project is heavily KT-oriented and you can’t feasibly cost out every possible KT activity — instead it may be simpler to say that a certain percent of the total budget will go towards covering the expenses, overhead, and coordination of KT-related activities.
A contingency fund generally makes sense for projects that intend to involve stakeholders and end-users for feedback throughout the process in identifying or creating KT tools. For example, if you are planning to engage patients and families in determining whether you want to develop a video or an infographic, it’s impossible to foresee which to budget for. This option respects and allows for the iterative nature of many KT activities. However, not all funders may consider this item an eligible expense, so be sure to check the funding guidelines before including a KT contingency fund in your budget.
Ways to Save
With an ever-increasing demand for KT and innovative dissemination tools, coupled with a (seemingly) ever-decreasing amount of funding dollars, we at the George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) have come up with a series of ingenious ways to work on a tight KT budget. Read on for a few of our favourite “KT Hacks.”
There are a million and one unique and (often) expensive programs, apps and tools out there for use in KT activities, but many of them have a free version (or at least one you can trial until you determine what your needs truly are). Ages ago I explored this in my top 5 Free Sites for Knowledge Brokers, and I still use most of these sites in my work today.
A Little Help from My Friends
If you want to hire personnel to manage and implement your KT activities, but aren’t quite sure that you can justify the cost of a full-time staff member, consider collaborating with another researcher, program, or network to cost share. The skills and expertise required for the role of a knowledge broker can generally be translated between more than one project. So why not find another researcher with similar needs and join forces to hire the perfect person for you both?
The Youth are Alright
In the past, we’ve reached out to design colleges, high schools and community groups to identify students and youth looking for work experience or simply interested in engaging in the health sector around creative projects. This has led to some of the most inspired and powerful design and arts-based dissemination and design products I’ve ever seen including logos, videos and photography. Don’t forget to credit and compensate them appropriately (see my earlier mention of how to budget for this style of engagement). Having said this, make sure someone on your team has the necessary expertise to provide strategic guidance and oversee the development of any tools — students often have great technical skill, but may lack the necessary experience to take your infographic from pretty design to effective KT tool.
The key takeaway for KT budgeting? Expect the unexpected and do your best to plan for it financially! We really do encourage researchers to consider a contingency KT fund (even if only as a thought experiment), as a way to ensure that you are able to meet and deliver on all of your KT goals and objectives, without worrying about lacking the financial resources to do so.