Skip to main content

Table 4 Summary of comparison among integrated knowledge translation, engaged scholarship, Mode 2 research, co-production and participatory research (presented here from left to right according to the timeline of their emergence from the most recent to the earliest)

From: How does integrated knowledge translation (IKT) compare to other collaborative research approaches to generating and translating knowledge? Learning from experts in the field


Integrated knowledge translation

Engaged scholarship

Mode 2 research


Participatory research



Research, Implementation [16]

Research/teaching scholarship [44]




Original purpose/intent

A collaborative approach between researchers and knowledge users to increase the chances that research findings will be applicable to those under study [16]

A participative research process that expands the capabilities of scholars to gather perspectives of key stakeholders and study complex problems; the ultimate aim is to create knowledge that advances science and practice, and is more penetrating and insightful than that which is done in isolation [45]

To bring awareness to the production of knowledge within context, by increasing the flexibility to mix, coalesce and reformulate rapidly, increase the diversity of included partners, seek awareness of what the end-users see as the issues to enhance the usability and social accountability of the research, broaden the sphere of what constitutes knowledge [23]

Provides a new way of understanding and evaluating hybrid, heterogeneous arrangements that extend well beyond traditional conceptualisations of political science (policy), economics;

co-production is the active involvement of consumers in various stages of the knowledge production process [46] (interchangeable with co-creation)

To address community issues in a collaborative, consultative, democratic, reflective, reflexive, dialogical and improvement-oriented fashion that builds capacity and creates actionable, ownership of findings [47];

it mobilises living knowledge of people connected together in their context and creates a common understanding of ways to act for the common good [48]

Primary motivation

Explicit focus on increasing knowledge use and impact [16]

Explicit focus on reconnecting academia with societal needs, education for democracy, civic responsibility/engagement and public scholarship [44]

Explicit focus on return on investment and increasing accountability [23, 44]

Explicit focus on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of public services by involving consumers in the development and delivery processes

Explicit focus on social and environmental justice and a desire for impact change, particularly to benefit underserved/vulnerable citizens and communities

Epistemological stance

Neutral [44]

Social constructionism [49]

Critical realist, within social construction [45, 50] (objective ontology, subjective epistemology – a process of constructing models to represent aspects of the world and comparing them with rival plausible alternates)

Described as post-modernist, post-positivist, post-industrialist [23, 51] (linkages have been drawn between Toulmin and phronesis-oriented philosophy [52])

Shares features of critical realism; counter-hegemony [5], has been viewed by others from a pragmatic perspective, as bricolage [14, 53]

Relational ontology (emphasis on interrelationships and co-constitution) or the conjoined production of one nature-culture [54]; epistemology is unstable and still evolving

Some discussion of neo-materialist underpinnings

Pluralist interpretivist perspective (Aristotelian praxis, hermeneutics, constructivism, constructionism, critical theory, existentialism, pragmatism, process philosophies and phenomenology) (Northern Tradition) [55, 56]

Critical pedagogy (Southern Tradition), aspects of pragmatism, pluralism, egalitarianism, Liberation theology [48]

Extended epistemology of “practical knowing” [55] (experiential, presentational, propositional and practical ways of knowing)

Theoretical underpinnings

Initial Context for IKT: Planned Action/Change Theory [57] (set of logically interrelated concepts that systematically explain the means by which and predicts how planned change occurs in a specific environment, and helps planners control variables that increase or decrease likelihood for change); deliberate change engineering in social systems

Engaged Scholarship Diamond Model links data to theory (designed by the researcher, through engaged scholarship) [57]

Model involves research design, theory building, problem formulation and problem solving within a study context, and in an iterative fashion [57] Model outlines how academics relate their teaching, discovery, integration, and application activity and retain balance between each [57]

Policy theory

Ostrom’s policy theory underlies the concept of co-production [8]

Lewin: iterative, collaborative action–reflection cycles (problem awareness, shifts in understanding, formulation of a plan of action, transformative action and progressive iterative learning, and cementing new behaviour based on effective corrective action) [48], a mode of embedded, collective self-inquiry

Theory implicit/explicit

Explicit within the KTA process, implicit as a stand-alone concept



(fragmented, evolving)



Historical roots

Geographic origin


United States

United Kingdom/Europe, later United States

United States, United Kingdom (post 2000)

United States United Kingdom, South America

Disciplinary origin




Economics, Public policy

Social sciences (Psychology in North America, Community Development, Education in South America)

Health research vs. other research

Health Research/Medicine/Nursing

General research

General research

Civil rights and social care

Civil rights and social sciences

Disciplinary background of early developers

Health Research Funders (CHSRF and CIHR), Canada

Jonathan Lomas, CEO CHSRF (1997), Canada

Ian Graham, VP Knowledge Translation (2007), Canada

Ernest Boyer, President of the Carnegie Foundation/Educator (1996), United States

Andrew Van de Ven- Educator (2006), United States

Michael Gibbons, Physicist (1994) United Kingdom/Europe

Helga Nowotny, Educator (2003) Europe

Elinor Ostrom, Economist (1978), United States

Edgar Cahn, Civil rights law professor (2001), United States

Kurt Lewin, Psychologist (1946), United States/United Kingdom: ‘Northern Tradition’

Paulo Freire, Educator/Philosopher (1970), South America: ‘Southern Tradition’


Unique features

Only approach with roots in a health research and subsequently developed within health research and implementation contexts

Term ‘knowledge users’ is unique to IKT (i.e. explicit focus on policy-makers/decision-makers positioned to influence change or implement the generated knowledge

Originally developed in an academic setting driven by university researchers in the United States

Explicit inclusion of student partners, institutional agreements

Embraces and equally emphasises all forms of scholarship (discovery, integration, application and teaching); cutting across teaching, research and service

Originally developed by educators in the United Kingdom and Europe

Explicit inclusion of industry/private sector involvement as a partner; only approach to explicitly consider for-profit partnerships

Originally developed by an economist in the United States

Explicit inclusion of patients (as consumers of health services), who can be considered ‘temporarily marginalised’

Originally developed in social sciences by a psychologist (Northern tradition) and an educator/philosopher (Southern Tradition) in the United States

Explicit focus on social justice, power and emancipation as common outcomes

Explicit focus on researcher’s humility

Capacity-building is an intentional outcome

What partners are called

‘Knowledge user’, ‘Health system decision-makers’, ‘policy-makers’, ‘administrators’, ‘clinical leaders’, ‘patients’

‘Stakeholders’, ‘public members’, ‘communities’, ‘organisations’, ‘society’, ‘students’, ‘citizens’

‘End-users’, ‘industry’

‘Consumers’, ‘service users’, ‘citizens’

‘Community members’, ‘community of interest’, ‘citizens’, ‘community groups’, ‘partners’

Role of partners

‘Knowledge users’, particularly policy-makers/decision-makers and those positioned to use generated knowledge to impact change

Role is negotiated (equal or equitable power and authority throughout the research process)

‘Stakeholders’ contribute diverse perspectives/’xpertise and work with researchers to resolve the conflicts that rise from them to lead to higher levels of understanding

‘End-users’ are actively engaged from the outset to ensure research agenda and objectives meet societal needs

‘Consumers’ are actively engaged as change agents (differing capabilities and interests, which sometimes may require finding synergies or trade-offs among them) in the planning and delivery of public services

‘Co-producers’ are recipients and shapers of service/goods; they may have differing capabilities and/or skills that require trade-offs/synergies

‘Community members’ (experts in lived experiences and ability to use results to influence/make local changes) and researchers (facilitators with expertise in research design/obtaining funding etc.) work together to solve a given issue

Power sharing

Equal or equitable role, power and authority throughout the research process

Leveraging expertise of stakeholders and researchers (‘arbitrage’) in co-creation of knowledge

Non-hierarchical relationship between end-users and researchers in co-reaction of knowledge

Shift in power towards service users to improve planning and delivery of public services

Empowerment and capacity-building of communities to have an equal or equitable role, power and authority throughout the research process

  1. Adapted from Bowen 2015 [44]; Table 10.3, ‘Comparison of KT, ES, and PR’
  2. CHSRF Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, CIHR Canadian Institutes of Health Research, IKT integrated knowledge translation, KTA Knowledge to Action