Do academic knowledge brokers exist? Using social network analysis to explore academic research-to-policy networks from six schools of public health in Kenya
Jessani NS, Boulay MG and Bennett S (2015) Do academic knowledge brokers exist? Using social network analysis to explore academic research-to-policy networks from six schools of public health in Kenya, Health Policy and Planning [Epub ahead of print], doi: 10.1093/heapol/czv107
The potential for academic research institutions to facilitate knowledge exchange and influence evidence-informed decision-making has been gaining ground. Schools of public health (SPHs) may play a key knowledge brokering role—serving as agencies of and for development. Understanding academic-policymaker networks can facilitate the enhancement of links between policymakers and academic faculty at SPHs, as well as assist in identifying academic knowledge brokers (KBs). Using a census approach, we administered a sociometric survey to academic faculty across six SPHs in Kenya to construct academic-policymaker networks. We identified academic KBs using social network analysis (SNA) in a two-step approach: First, we ranked individuals based on (1) number of policymakers in their network; (2) number of academic peers who report seeking them out for advice on knowledge translation and (3) their network position as ‘inter-group connectors’. Second, we triangulated the three scores and re-ranked individuals. Academic faculty scoring within the top decile across all three measures were classified as KBs. Results indicate that each SPH commands a variety of unique as well as overlapping relationships with national ministries in Kenya. Of 124 full-time faculty, we identified 7 KBs in 4 of the 6 SPHs. Those scoring high on the first measure were not necessarily the same individuals scoring high on the second. KBs were also situated in a wide range along the ‘connector/betweenness’ measure. We propose that a composite score rather than traditional ‘betweenness centrality’, provides an alternative means of identifying KBs within these networks. In conclusion, SNA is a valuable tool for identifying academic-policymaker networks in Kenya. More efforts to conduct similar network studies would permit SPH leadership to identify existing linkages between faculty and policymakers, shared linkages with other SPHs and gaps so as to contribute to evidence-informed health policies.