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Dissemination and knowledge mobilisation

This page gives some tips on engaging with some of the groups identified in your knowledge mobilisation plans.

If you haven't planned your approach, it's not too late.  Read our guidance on how to Plan knowledge mobilisation.

Policy makers and commissioners

Decision makers can cover a wide range of people, including:

  • those who create government policy
  • parliamentarians and civil servants
  • those who commission local health and care services. 

As a researcher, you might define ‘evidence’ as research. However, commissioners and other policy makers have a much broader definition of ‘evidence’ and will use information from different sources to create a compelling case for change. 

Here are a few things to bear in mind when engaging with policy makers:

  • research suggests that personal relationships and collaborations can be very effective when influencing policymakers
  • identify key contacts in departments (for example, civil servants), establish regular contact to update with key messages
  • policymakers are influenced by regular conversations with trusted colleagues whom they know, usually from within their own organisation
  • keep communication brief, and lead with your findings and the importance to policies/ services
  • information they receive will be modified by organisational pressures and tensions, so bear in mind the context.

Find out more

Patients, carers, and the public

Researchers often use written summaries to communicate their research to members of the public. However, it is important to tailor information to the group you want to engage with.

Here are a few important considerations when engaging with patients, carers and members of the public: 

  • any information should be in plain English and should avoid jargon
  • the key messages from your research should be made relevant and personal to the group you’re trying to engage. Using stories of lived experiences can help with this
  • written information shouldn’t be presented like a scientific publication. People are more likely to be interested in the key findings than the methods, so order it that way
  • consider stories, social media and illustrations - be creative. These different formats can overcome language and literacy issues.

Find out more

Health and care professionals

Health and care professionals can have many jobs within their professional role. These can be:

  • clinical, eg diagnosing and prescribing
  • managerial, eg developing IT systems, managing resources
  • public health roles, eg screening, health promotion
  • professional, eg nurturing networks, staying up to date with new research

They also often rely on many sources of evidence.

Mindlines model

One model used to demonstrate this is ‘mindlines’. A mindline is an internalised, collectively reinforced “guideline in the head” that clinicians use to inform their practice. It takes into account an individual’s experiences, their practical skills, the clinical guidelines, the things they were taught by their lecturers, what’s normal for their organisation and much more.

With so many influences, how does new research fit in? Here are a few considerations to bear in mind when engaging with health and care professionals:

  • check that the research is relevant to the context where it will be implemented and ask key stakeholders if the research findings will be useful to clients, staff and/ or systems
  • check how ready the research is, has it been implemented elsewhere? 
  • remember that the evidence will change shape once it goes into the health or care context, this is a reflection of the organisation, service demands, resource problems or wider politics

Mindlines is a relational method that draws a method called communities of practice. Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern, set of problems or a passion and who deepen their knowledge of this area by interacting with others. These communities allow key individuals to consider a breadth of evidence, take account of the context they are in and learn from each other.

More information

This webinar explains the nature and role of practitioner mindlines which aim to help researchers understand how to mobilise knowledge in a practice context: Webinar: Engaging practitioner mindlines: a relational approach to mobilising research knowledge

Young people with severe learning disabilities in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are being supported by a new service, shaped by ARC EoE (NIHR ARC East of England) researchers and health professionals working with families. Case study: Improved support helps young people with complex needs stay close to home

A guide for the Community of Practice approach in research Implementation, created in both a virtual gallery format and as a downloadable PDF. Guidance: The Implementation-Art Gallery

There are many other methods, theories and frameworks that could help you engage with this audience. For example, educational meetings,educational outreach visits, recruiting champions or opinion leaders and participatory techniques. You can find seminars on some of these other approaches here.

What else should I consider?


Consider what can be shared before the end of the study to maintain engagement and whet appetites for the final results. Take advantage of serendipity, because opportunities that lead to research impact are often unexpected and unplanned.

Engage with your evidence users throughout the research process to keep them abreast of research progress and share as much as possible with them - such as  interim results. 

This will maintain maintain engagement and help you keep the users needs in mind throughout your research . It will also whet appetites for the final results.

One size doesn’t fit all

Using several techniques is likely to increase accessibility, as different formats will work best for different people. 

Involve people

Involving evidence users in producing and sharing products will help ensure that products meet the needs of the audience and make best use of existing networks

Make your research available

You might also want to publish your research in a more traditional journal. must be immediately, freely and openly accessible to all. NIHR-funded research should be published immediately, freely and in an openly accessible way.

NIHR Open Research is a publishing platform that NIHR researchers to publish not only study findings but also incremental findings, case reports and even negative findings, thus supporting the entire life cycle of research. This means that other researchers can build on new ideas straight away and avoid the risk of duplication, so that new treatments and interventions for patients will become available quicker.