HILJ CPD Reading vol 35 no 3 – Localising and tailoring research evidence helps public health decision making.

Thanks to an idea from Alan Fricker, we’re reading articles from HILJ for our CPD. I’m in charge of this round and I’ve picked the following article:

van der Graaf, P. , Cheetham, M. , McCabe, K. and Rushmer, R. (2018), Localising and tailoring research evidence helps public health decision making. Health Info Libr J, 35: 202-212. doi:10.1111/hir.12219


Published research evidence is typically not readily applicable to practice but needs to be actively mobilised.


This paper explores the mechanisms used by information professionals with a specific knowledge mobilisation role to make evidence useful for local decision making and planning of public health interventions.


Data are drawn from a NIHR project that studied how, when, where and by whom published research evidence is used in commissioning and planning across two sites (one in England and one in Scotland). Data included 11 in‐depth interviews with information professionals, observations at meetings and documentary analysis.


Published research evidence is made fit for local commissioning and planning purposes by information professionals through two mechanisms. They localise evidence (relate evidence to local context and needs) and tailor it (present actionable messages).


Knowledge mobilisation roles of information professionals are not recognised and researched. Information professionals contribute to the ‘inform’ and ‘relational’ functions of knowledge mobilisation; however, they are less involved in improving the institutional environment for sustainable knowledge sharing.


Information professionals are instrumental in shaping what evidence enters local decision making processes. Identifying and supporting knowledge mobilisation roles within health libraries should be the focus of future research and training.

I work a lot in public health so I’ve picked this because of relevance to my own area of practice. I also think that knowledge mobilisation is something that we as information professionals should maybe pay some attention to.



What? What do you think of this article? How do you feel about tailoring and localising evidence? What do you think of the research methods? Is there something else that you would have liked to have seen included in the article?

So what? Does this change your view of public health practice? Does it make you critically reflect on your own practice, especially when conducting evidence searches?

Now what? Will you change your practice as a result of reading this article? If so, how? If not, why not?

3 thoughts on “HILJ CPD Reading vol 35 no 3 – Localising and tailoring research evidence helps public health decision making.

  1. What?

    I thought it was a really insightful article. The picture that it gives of public health K* work resonates with my own experience, particularly the frustrations around national data/evidence not being all that useful, or examples of things that have been done elsewhere not being translatable to a local context. I was really struck by the example that was given of the K* worker using evidence around crime etc. rather than health-related evidence to get an alcohol strategy off the ground, as this was likely to play better with decision makers. This was a good reminder that PH is an intensely political environment and evidence alone isn’t sufficient to make “evidence-based” decisions.

    So what?

    It made me reflect critically on my work with public health. I think it’s really key with them to have good reference interviews and find out as much about the context as possible to make sure that I give them evidence that they can use and give it to them in a form that will be useful. This can be challenging in my experience – I don’t know why, but some people get weirdly cagey around this, so trust is important.

    It also made me reflect on the limits of what I can achieve if I think of myself as a “clinical” or “healthcare” librarian – using sources other than strictly healthcare databases is something I do already for public health, but I feel like this is becoming more and more important, as things in PH are just so connected to all kinds of other outcomes.

    Now what?

    I will change the way I do reference interviews and try to get more background information about what my requesters are expecting from the search. I think including questions such as “what kinds of documents would help you most?” will help.

    I write summaries of the evidence already but I could do more to tailor them to the request.

    I’m also going to think about presentation of results and putting them into a format that is easily digestible if appropriate.

  2. What?

    This is somewhat outside of my field having not worked in public health so I was glad to have a window on it. I found the article a little depressing (due to the amount of “practical wisdom” and business power in the decision making) but also satisfying in that it showed people doing the work to try and improve this situation. I was not greatly surprised by tailoring and localising – this seems self evident to me if you are trying to get people to engage and accept evidence. In critical appraisal we consider if it is applicable locally – this felt similar but with more input.

    So what?

    I don’t have experience of public health practice but I know it should be highly evidence intensive – I have been reminded of the politics in any public decision making process. I am left wondering about the sources that PH K* people use (I liked the K* designation!).

    Now what?

    I think the article reinforces the arguments I have been advancing around tailoring metrics and reports to be more useful / engaging. I’ll very much keep in mind the need to consider the fullest picture available to me of what the decision makers I work with are interested in / prefer etc.

    Enjoyed the article – thanks for picking it Lisa and for the useful questions!

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