Beyond Physical and/or Digital Environments

Stephany Peterson (University of New Brunswick)

Digital connectivity and physical connection are as never before preoccupations of our global society. As virtual is temporarily no longer just an option, but our only choice, there is a paradigm shift about its form and use. As we emerge from this enforced reliance on digital, how can we encourage researchers to consider it an active choice of physical and/or digital participant engagement as what best suits the research question, its participants, and—as rarely considered as a measured part of the research process—its collaborators?

As researchers involving human participants, we are encountering specific questions of place: the "where" of engaging with participants in a digital capacity. By harnessing this disruption, we are poised to both better ask, and ask better, questions; particularly, impact on the persistent lag and rate of return of the research to practice process. These are ultimately questions that pertain to the interdisciplinary scholarship of collaborative knowledge mobilization: the nexus of knowledge between those who generate it, and those who use it. What can we aspire to implement in a digital research infrastructure, as the properties of: secure, ethical, and assistive; inclusive, diverse, equitable, accessible; collaborative, engaging, dynamic physical space in a digital sphere for generating, storing, and disseminating qualitative research data whose common purpose is for implementation and resounding impact?

What kind of space could we create that would provide researchers with a way to mindfully gather participants (through improved digital forms of traditional methods) and collaborators (such as funding agencies, social innovation organizations, government and policy makers, knowledge translators and disseminators) into the entirety of the research process? How can we shift social research to contextualize the movement of knowledge, from research to practice; actively and iteratively engaging those most greatly impacted by and with influence on a contextualized contribution to a process for tackling our most pressing and complex social problems?

To position our work and purpose in the emerging future of the Americas, this panel explores a Research Metaverse. We liken the step-wise process of the conference panel experience to the Choose Your Own Adventure model. The panel will engage the audience through a blend of live and pre-recorded steps, guiding them through a selection-based process of pre-recorded videos that, once they reach the conclusion of their customized experience, will return them to a live panel. Then, a Q&A tailored to their chosen experience provides opportunity for further discovery and networking. We see an emerging future of possibility within the digital research infrastructure of the Americas. When the entire scope and scale of what is being created is made clear to all within the process, each contributor has a better understanding of how they fit within the more comprehensive whole. A metaverse is the actioning of an ecosphere: the organization of ecosystems and interconnected relationships in a virtual world for researchers to explore; and, to create and hold space for collaborators, participants, and knowledge users and audiences to thrive in a digital world.

Click Your Own Adventure

Stephany Peterson (University of Brunswick)

Let me tell you a story.

It starts with two numbers: 17 and 15. 17 years and 15 percent.

In 17 years, about 15% of the vital research we are conducting today will become part of regular practice. 17 years and 15 percent: what is often called the know/do gap.

This tells the story of the bottleneck of knowledge between evidence and impact. But, the best stories don’t tell: they show.

The value and rigor of the knowledge being generated is not the issue. Nor is the genuine interest from those who use this knowledge to improve the world and effect change. So, the research has a story to share, and people are listening.

What is happening in the nexus of knowledge, between those who generate it, and those who use it? Those who generate knowledge are increasingly being asked to acknowledge the leaky pipeline to knowledge users. Knowledge users, from specialist practitioners to general community members, are increasingly being provided access to wide swaths of information, misinformation, and disinformation.

The shift is not what we are sharing but prioritizing how it is communicated. Humans have evolved for behavior to be most influenced by that which is shared as story. Gathering to share stories is part of what defines us as humanity. It is the foundation of our cohesion for cooperation and getting along with one another.

This is the bedrock of collaborative knowledge-based documentary media. The emerging future is collaborative knowledge mobilization that relies on a tale as old as time. It prioritizes the "show, don't tell" concept. This focuses on delivering transformative experiences through knowledge-based media to inform, engage, and empower—rather than simply communicating information and expecting exposure to that knowledge to somehow change the world.

This immersive session will show AND tell you about the strategy for the emerging future: when what we know becomes what we do.

Seeking a Digital Rosetta Stone for the Research Metaverse

Julia Zarb (University of Toronto)

In the early days of the Canadian pandemic response, we at the University of Toronto built the Rapid Evidence Access Link (REAL) as a digital knowledge mobilization platform to get newly emerging COVID-related "evidence" into decision makers' hands. We recognized our audience as all of those who had new decisions to make in the face of COVID impacts and measures. We have served, in four installations, not only government policy makers, health system and business leaders, but also the curious and concerned citizens trying to find up-to-date and credible information. REAL became a virtual podium for knowledge seekers and producers and was put into practical use in provincial and federal government settings.

The platform is based on "questions" that are received from non-research audiences and then interpreted, addressed and curated by scientists and other experts. The platform has an elegant workflow where individual experts or whole groups can "crowdsource" the most relevant information in a simultaneous and transparent digital environment. The interpreted "response" is simply summative and not interpretive. The snapshot of current understanding (gathered from social spaces, in addition to research resources) is translated back into summary lay language and tethered to an online space so that evolving updates are consistently available as new knowledge emerges. Each sentence that is published has an attached citation to counter misinformation.

When COVID emerged, the primary Canadian research shops and evidence synthesis groups were entrenched and trusted suppliers of information to policy. Lead times were long but the gaps and constraints in knowledge transfer were known and navigable. The REAL platform reflects a foray by informatics people into a science advice ecosystem. We recognized in early days that the existing "trade routes" weren't big enough—we needed to build bridges and widen the throughways to ensure that the growing waves of knowledge could flow with fewer barriers.

Our goal was to harness goodwill and move science into use for the broadest common good. We sought to democratize knowledge through a union of "open science" and "open technology" principles. Basically, we set out to braid people, process and technology to rapidly propel research into practical use.

In this session, I will explore the foundation of REAL as a "Rosetta Stone" intermediary between research and the public and policy makers. While the initial REAL platform, founded on four steps of "broker, exchange, develop and disseminate" was built well and successful, the better learning comes with an examination of the hope and resistance that the platform met in context. The implications of such work and related challenges will help us to navigate towards the most effective research metaverse for the Americas.

Discussion of Building a Research Metaverse

About Digital Americas

Conference Countdown

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