Note: The definitions presented here indicate the way in which the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement has used these terms in its work. Other organizations and individuals may define them differently.

Knowledge exchange (formerly knowledge transfer)

Knowledge exchange is collaborative problem-solving between researchers and decision-makers that happens through linkage and exchange. Effective knowledge exchange involves interaction between decision-makers and researchers and results in mutual learning through the process of planning, producing, disseminating, and applying existing or new research in decision-making.


Decision-makers in the health services field can range from frontline health providers to administrators to ministers of health. However, CHSRF works with two particular groups of decision-makers—managers and policy-makers. These individuals often work in health services organizations such as hospitals and regional health authorities, as well as ministries of health and relevant regulatory agencies.

Capacity and capacity building

In knowledge exchange, capacity is the set of skills, structures and processes, as well as the organizational culture, that allows, encourages and rewards knowledge exchange. CHSRF works to build the capacity of decision-making and research organizations to achieve knowledge exchange in order to make decisions on the basis of research and other evidence.

Linkage and exchange

Linkage and exchange is the process of ongoing interaction, collaboration and exchange of ideas between the researcher and decision-maker communities. In a specific research collaboration, it involves working together before, during and after the research program.


A synthesis is an evaluation or analysis of research evidence and expert opinion on a specific topic to aid in decision-making or help decision-makers in the development of policies. It can help place the results of a single study in context by providing the overall body of research evidence. There are many forms of synthesis, ranging from very formal systematic reviews, like those carried out by the Cochrane Collaboration, to informal literature reviews. CHSRF conducts syntheses aimed at making "best practice" recommendations for a specific area of management or policy development.


In addition to more traditional forms of research synthesis, CHSRF also produces summaries of research evidence. Summaries are a less formal way of pulling research together, generally using a more conversational tone. An example is the Mythbusters series, which sets out the research evidence behind public debates on current healthcare issues. Where a formal synthesis can be considered to be the creation of new knowledge, a summary clearly pulls together main messages from a number of published sources.


Dissemination goes well beyond simply making research available through the traditional vehicles of journal publication and academic conference presentations. It involves a process of extracting the main messages or key implications derived from research results and communicating them to targeted groups of decision-makers and other stakeholders in a way that encourages them to factor the research implications into their work. Face-to-face communication is encouraged whenever possible.

Dissemination strategy

A dissemination strategy is an evolving plan begun in advance of a research program that aims to:

  • extract clear, simple and active main messages or key implications from research results,
  • identify credible "carriers" of the message,
  • pinpoint key decision-maker audiences for the messages, and
  • develop ways to deliver the messages that are appropriate to the audiences being targeted and that encourage them to factor the research implications into their work.

Face-to-face communication is encouraged whenever possible.

Knowledge brokering

Knowledge brokering links researchers and decision-makers, facilitating their interaction so that they are better able to understand each other's goals and professional culture, influence each other's work, forge new partnerships and use research-based evidence. Brokering is ultimately about supporting evidence-informed decision-making in the organization, management and delivery of health services.

Knowledge broker:

A knowledge broker is an individual or an organization that engages in knowledge brokering.