University of Alberta’s recognition for the value of KT work in moving research evidence into the hands of clinicians and the public: Have you conneKTed with Dr. Lisa Hartling?

Written by: Sabella Yussuf-Homenauth

Annually, the University of Alberta Alumni Awards recognizes the professional achievements, community service and innovation of graduates around the globe. We are extremely proud to have two distinguished researchers in the field of knowledge translation be among the recipients, and wanted to highlight some of their great work. We conneKTed with Dr. Shannon Scott from echo Research (Faculty of Nursing), and this week are delighted to bring you, Dr. Lisa Hartling.

“ Hartling and Scott are world-leading scientists in knowledge synthesis and knowledge translation.”
“Pediatrics professor, Hartling, has received millions of dollars for research in evidence-based health care and is the director of the Alberta Research Centre for Health Evidence, along with other provincial, national and international initiatives.”


Dr. Lisa Hartling is professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta. She is Lead of the platform formerly known as the  Alberta SPOR SUPPORT Unit Knowledge Translation Platform, and holds several directorships including the following: Alberta Research Centre for Health Evidence (ARCHE); University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center and Evidence Review Synthesis Centre; Translating Emergency Knowledge for Kids; and Cochrane Child Health.

 “I was honored to hear that we were nominated and very humbled when we were given the award. I have a huge team behind me and the opportunity to work with fantastic people. That is key to our success.”
“Knowledge translation is now a critical requirement of most research supporting agencies, including CIHR, who have specifically outlined: - “The objective of the CIHR is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and by strengthening Canadian health care system.”
— CIHR, 2018


Dr. Hartling, tells us about her progression in the field of knowledge translation:

“It has always been part of my research trajectory and career. I think there have always been elements of KT thinking in what I do."
“When I did my Master’s degree in the 1990s, evidence-based medicine was the thing, and its essence was getting evidence into practice. Although the terminology has changed a bit, I still see those principles embedded within the goals of KT.”

These principles are heavily embedded in the goals of the Alberta SPOR SUPPORT Unit Knowledge Translation Platform, which focuses on increasing the quantity, quality and uptake of patient-oriented research in Alberta. Dr. Hartling’s work aligns with this focus, particularly in the area of child health. She elaborates:

“I realized that my place and what I do have changed over time. I am a researcher at heart and I like the research enterprise. When I got into systematic reviews and knowledge synthesis, I enjoyed those exercises in terms of looking at the evidence to help answer clinical and practical questions, and finding the evidence to support best treatment choices or best management practices."
“In my initial years doing this, I thought that if I put the best research out, someone would find that information and use it. But I think over the years I’ve seen that my role as a researcher has evolved, where I need to be more proactively involved in the dissemination and ensuring the uptake and implementation of that evidence. So, my role, or my perspective of my role, has changed, especially as the field of KT has grown with more clarity of what it is.”

We asked Dr. Hartling her thoughts on the challenges with working in the field of KT:

“The biggest challenge is time and resources. There is the perception that it is simply writing a report or writing a manuscript and letting it passively disseminate. That is also what I thought many years ago, but it is much more than that. To actively do KT, takes a lot of time, resources, and skill-sets in terms of personnel, and it all entails costs. It is being proactive to ensure that results are taken up in practice, and how to do that will very much depend on the purpose and the audience that you are working with. There is now a science around it, and development of that science, including methods and evaluation, is to ensure that we are doing KT with intent and evaluating the impact.”

Dr. Hartling was a member of the planning committee for the KT Alberta event Advancing Implementation Science in Alberta (AISA), which explored the feasibility of establishing an implementation science laboratory in Alberta. As a distinguished member of the KT Alberta Community of Practice, whose voice lends to the vision and future of the field in Alberta and nationally, Dr. Hartling’s contributions at AISA drew on her overall goals for KT:

“My goal and hope is to advance the science, along with increasing the awareness and recognition that it is a science and that we need to apply scientific methods to KT. Everything we do as researchers and academics is scrutinized in terms of grants, peer review, publications, and promotion. Research demands a high level of methodological rigour, and yet, we expect the results to just go out and for there to be a change—whether it be in health outcomes or behavior—without applying the same rigour to planning, implementing, and evaluating that process.”
“I think Alberta has the potential and opportunity, especially with a single health system and integrated health system, to really intentionally plan activities for knowledge dissemination, implementation, and translation, and to embed them with strong evaluations to ensure that we are having the impact that we intend.”


“I don’t think you set out to change the world with a single study and it can’t be done by a single person. There are very few single studies that will change practice. It takes many studies over many years by many people and teams that eventually lead to change, and I think that is the same way we have to approach KT. It requires a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach. We need to forge those connections, and remove the silos.”
“That is something we saw when we were planning the KT Platform, and where the KT Alberta Community of Practice came from in part. When the initial needs assessment was done, we could find people doing KT all over the province but in different fields, and we wanted to bring them together in an environment where they could share and build on experiences. So that somebody from rehabilitation medicine can learn from someone doing cancer care, or behavior scientists can learn from those specializing in communications, etc. There is something to learn from everyone.”

To end both of these great interviews, I wanted to show our readers that, in addition to being two highly distinguished researchers and academics,  both Drs. Scott and Hartling are mothers and draw on many personal experiences as parents to fuel their passion for the work that they do.

— The children of Drs. Scott and Hartling collecting the University of Alberta 2018 Alumni Innovator of the Year Award, on their behalf.


To find out more about Dr. Hartling’s work, you can visit the ARCHE website .

How were you introduced to KT? Share your KT story with us!

Until next time!

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Land Acknowledgment

The Alberta SPOR SUPPORT Unit operates on and acknowledges the lands that are the traditional and ancestral territory of many peoples, presently subject to Treaties 6, 7, and 8. Namely: the Blackfoot Confederacy – Kainai, Piikani, and Siksika – the Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, Stoney Nakoda, and the Tsuu T’ina Nation and the Métis People of Alberta. This includes the Métis Settlements and the Métis Nation of Alberta. We acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis and Inuit who have lived in and cared for these lands for generations. We make this acknowledgment as a reaffirmation of our shared commitment towards reconciliation, and as part of AbSPORU’s mandate towards fostering health system transformation.