Knowledge Mobilizers: Getting to the heart of the matter

February 23, 2021

Knowledge Mobilizers is a story series from the Knowledge Mobilization Hub that highlights knowledge mobilization (KM) projects around the university. At SFU, KM is about collaborating on, and exchanging, research discoveries to create a positive impact in our far-reaching communities.

For Scott Lear, SFU health sciences professor, mobilizing knowledge is an integral part of helping people adopt healthier lifestyles, particularly increasing physical activity. Important work given that less than 1 in 5 Canadian adults are getting enough activity and physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for early death worldwide.  

“All of my colleagues are doing research to make a difference. We have used publications as a metric for what making a difference is, but we need to do more.”

Lear engages in active knowledge mobilization — from integrated knowledge translation projects to sharing tips on social media — to support health through physical activity and healthy lifestyles. His goal is to motivate the public, as well as influence policies and planning that support physical activity.

As an applied health researcher, Lear’s research naturally aligns with knowledge mobilization. His early research projects got started by adding one community member to his research team, later expanding this engagement with more members and deeper involvement throughout research projects.

However, he still felt there was more he could do. “Even though my performance reviews are based on my publications,” he observes, “those publications don’t reach the people I’m trying to get more active.” With that feeling, plus personal experience of the challenge of navigating the health system, a love of writing, and an upcoming sabbatical to take, he decided to start a blog.

Feel Healthy with Dr. Scott Lear” is a blog for anyone who is interested in health. Lear devoted sabbatical time to develop the blog, this included completing the SFU Writers Studio Program, reading blogs about blogging, setting a writing schedule and goals, and creating a communications strategy.

All the planning paid off: Lear now writes one blog post per week, inspired by what is going on around him, from new research (e.g. “Exercise snacking is good for you”), to the time of year (e.g. “Keep up your exercise this winter”). His blog has over 450 followers and his posts reach from 20 – 2000 additional readers, a much larger audience than the typical journal publication. He drives readership through an active presence on Twitter, with 1-3 tweets per day. More recently, he has started dabbling in other mediums such as podcasting.

Clearly, this takes time and dedication; but Lear emphasizes that it is worth it because of the impact he’s making, such as readers who have shared that the blog has helped them with their health goals, and receiving requests to use or adapt programs he has developed.

In addition, there are benefits to his teaching, research, and sense of achievement. Through writing the blog and being active on Twitter, he shares that he is “learning far more about my field than I was before.” And, he credits social media and his blog with helping him become a recognized and familiar expert in his field, which is critical, as “name recognition is one of the most important things for academics.” Further, he explains, “I do it because I enjoy it!” The take away? Lear’s knowledge mobilization activities are benefitting society, people, and his career.

Want to learn more about knowledge mobilization?

Register for a knowledge mobilization workshop. On February 26th you can learn from Scott Lear and Ian Young, SFU communications, in Unlock your Research Impact: Twitter for Researchers, part of the SFU Knowledge Mobilization Hub’s lunch and learn series. In addition, there are some great resources available at Research Impact Canada, a knowledge mobilization network of institutions, of which SFU is the newest member.