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By Anna Sarkissian
Most research contributes to a body of knowledge, but it can also be useful to citizens and improve society, David Yetman explained last Thursday afternoon.
Based at the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development at Memorial University in St. John’s, Yetman manages knowledge mobilization, which is defined as an on-going dialogue between researchers and individuals or organizations. Findings are then communicated widely using language that is accessible to the general public.
“I see knowledge mobilization as an umbrella,” he told the crowd of graduate students, faculty, and staff at the presentation, which was organized by the Office of Research. “You can pick and choose what it means to you.”
Yetman also unveiled Yaffle, which is Memorial’s search engine designed to pair up people and academics. In the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, a yaffle is an armload of sticks or fish.
“So we say Yaffle is an armload of research,” he said.
Faculty members post profiles listing their areas of expertise while community members can propose new research ideas. Currently, the project is geared toward Newfoundland and Labrador only, but the Harris Centre is willing to share the software free of charge to other universities to develop their own 'Powered by Yaffle' databases.
Yetman described the Harris Centre as a conduit of knowledge. They regularly host public policy forums, a speakers series, and regional workshops with the goal of engaging the community, making connections and impacting policy.
He stressed that working with the media is an important aspect of knowledge mobilization. News outlets are often looking for stories that are positive, involve people and offer concrete solutions.
“People gravitate toward stories that affect them emotionally. We have to look at how we package and share research, and how we evaluate it,” Yetman argued.
In the era of accountability, publicly funded institutions are bound by their responsibility to the community, he said. “People are asking the question, what have you done for me lately?”