Operating Grant: Knowledge to Action - Tips from the Chair and Reviewers

Please note: This is intended as a guidance document only. Please view the current Knowledge to Action competition for up-to-date information and requirements.

Martha L.P. MacLeod, PhD RN, University of Northern British Columbia
Cathy Ulrich, CEO Northern Health

When you're preparing Knowledge to Action grant applications, our advice is to think about:

Funding Opportunity Objective

The specific objective of this funding opportunity is to:

  • Increase the uptake/application of knowledge by supporting partnerships between researchers and knowledge-users to bridge a knowledge to action gap, and in so doing, increase the understanding of knowledge application through the process.

Focus of the Competition

  • The proposal addresses both the translation of knowledge itself and the knowledge to action (KTA) process
  • The process of translating knowledge into action:
    • What is the knowledge to be translated?
    • What is the process of translation?
  • Ensure that the project takes a research approach to implementation or community development. The project needs to have:
    • Clear, focused research question(s)
    • Strong research methods
    • Strong research team


  • This is about integrated knowledge translation:
    • A true partnership
    • Knowledge-users fully engaged, and involved throughout
    • A comprehensive integration of knowledge into practice or policy – or other forms of action that include but go beyond end-of-grant dissemination
    • There is evidence of an equal amount of "pull" and "push"

An Expectation of Partnership

  • A partnership between researchers and knowledge-users
  • A ‘real' partnership – not just a linkage of convenience
  • Partnership is over time – and shows a strong potential for the future
  • A relationship that keeps the opportunity for research and knowledge translation (KT) open and reciprocal:
    • Partnership not only moves knowledge to action – the researcher generates and the knowledge-user acts, and both are changed as a result
    • Partnership is reciprocal - The researchers' and knowledge-users' perspectives, questions and understanding are changed as a result of the partnership

Knowledge to be Translated

  • What is the knowledge to be translated?
  • What is the theoretical or conceptual frame or basis for the knowledge itself?
  • Demonstrate that there is research generated/evidence-based knowledge that is ‘ripe' for translating into policy and/or practice

Situating the Knowledge to Action Process

  • Situate the process of taking knowledge to action within the KTA literature.
  • Be clear about what theoretical model, or approach you're using to frame the knowledge to action process.
  • Consider what knowledge you're contributing to the evidence about how to translate knowledge into action.

Merit Review Criteria

Our advice on meeting the Evaluation Criteria comes from our different perspectives as Knowledge-User and Researcher, and includes the following:

1) Research Question


  • The research question is clear.
  • It is one that needs to be answered in order to improve practice/policy.
  • It is a question that can enable action.
  • The proposal and support letters show clear and consistent understanding between researchers and knowledge-users.


  • It is a researchable question.
  • It is an important question.
  • The question clearly has arisen from the research evidence.
  • The researchers show an understanding of the question's relevance to knowledge-users.

2) Research Approach


  • The knowledge is ready for translation.
  • The KT methods can be practically implemented.
  • Knowledge-users have been engaged in the process enough to understand the methodology and commit to supporting the particular method.
  • The KT methods are likely to achieve the anticipated results.
  • The end-of-grant KT plan demonstrates applicability to the settings and audiences chosen as targets for the KT plan.


  • Evidence is articulated for the chosen research approach and steps.
  • KT methods chosen are evidence-based.
  • The knowledge is ready for translation.
  • There is consistency between the question, its justification, and the method.
  • There is enough clarity and detail of the KT methods to show that the researchers are "in command of the method".
  • The methods will actually enable the team to translate the knowledge.
  • The end-of-grant KT fits the type of knowledge that will actually be generated.

3) Feasibility


  • Knowledge-users are contributing to the team and its actions in real - not token - ways throughout the process.
  • Knowledge-users on the team are positioned to enable the selected KT methods.
  • Resource implications are appropriately identified and addressed.


  • The right people are on the research team and will enable the planned methods to be implemented.
  • The roles and responsibilities are appropriately matched to the jobs that need to be done.
  • There is evidence that there is a working relationship between the researchers and the knowledge-users.
  • The timeline is realistic.

4) Outcomes


  • Both the actual translation of knowledge into action and the research on the knowledge to action process will make a difference in the real world.
  • There is a reasonable plan to address sustainability, and any limitations are acknowledged and justified.


  • The approach to generalizability/transferability is consistent with the research approach.
  • It is clearly articulated how we will know what differences have been made in practice, policy, and perhaps theory, through the knowledge to action process and the research about the knowledge to action process. An evaluation plan may serve this purpose.
  • The evaluation plan is appropriate for the project and will effectively assess impacts and outcomes.

Letters of Support


  • The research study is described through the lens of the knowledge-user.
  • They have clearly described the relevance for policy and/or practice of translating the knowledge.
  • The letters show tangible commitments.


  • The letters are from the right people - people who can actually contribute to the action part of the KTA, and/or advise the team in important ways.



  • There is realistic allocation of resources.
  • The resources are appropriately distributed between the research component and action component.


  • The budget includes the resources necessary for building partnerships and capacity development.
  • There is a description of how leveraged funds will be used.
  • There is tangible in-kind or real contribution from the knowledge-user.



  • Does it catch my attention and imagination?
    • Important
    • Clear, coherent
    • "This is really interesting"
    • "That needs to be done"
    • "They can do it"


  • Can I catch the vision and understand the method even though this may not be my field?
    • It is sound research
    • It is written well
    • It is well conceptualized
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