Knowledge mobilisation – the icing on the cake?

I bet Mary Berry could teach me a thing or two about knowledge mobilisation.

This rather unusual thought came to me a few days ago as I was deciding what to bake for our Team’s weekly cake and coffee get together.  It’s just an informal gathering, time to catch up with colleagues, and a bit of time out from systematic reviewing to eat cake: there really is no pressure to create the most awesome amazing cake at all….honestly, it’s not a competition.

This led me on to thinking about the book my husband bought me for my birthday last year… through which I should be learning how to turn Everyday Bakes into Show Stoppers (jazz hands please). For me, the essence of the book seems to be that you can go to a lot of effort to choose a great cake recipe, pick good quality ingredients, mix it carefully, bake it sensitively, but if you don’t make an effort decorating it, you’re really not doing it justice. You know you’ve failed in cake baking if you find yourself presenting it saying ‘Don’t worry, it tastes much better than it looks…’

Which is a bit like research knowledge mobilisation isn’t it?

We Researchers work carefully to create research which is relevant, useful and elegant. We think about the methods, the questions, the data we’re gathering, we write it all up, considering where we’ll publish. So we have our cake. But we need a way to tempt others into using it. Research without a clear sense of how it will be shared/translated/disseminated/mobilised is like baking a gloriously moist red velvet cake, and then not decorating it to look like a life-sized baby : a colossal missed opportunity. (the faint-hearted might not want to click this link, it gets quite gruesome! OR, scroll forward to 56sec to get to the action).

In fact, knowledge mobilisation isn’t a discrete event at the end of a research process at all, and it’s not the cherry on the icing on the cake; it is part and parcel of research. So, what we can learn from Mary Berry about knowledge mobilisation? Well, in the same way that I can’t ever imagine Mary Berry presenting a naked cake for eating, I don’t think I can ever imagine research without thinking how it will be mobilised…

The cake I almost created…..wait…. those are dead squirrels, aren’t they?

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