Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Jessica Polzer & Anita Kothari


Knowledge translation (KT) is a dominant discourse in the governance of health research in Canada. I critically examine the KT discourse of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Canada’s major health research funder. Informed by a governmentality perspective, I explore how the KT discourse operates to shape the directions of health research and the activities of health researchers using critical discourse analysis with a sample of publicly available CIHR documents.

This KT discourse is constructed through three rationales: a “gap” between knowledge creation and its application; financial and health care accountabilities for public investment in health research; and, the expectation of economic prosperity and an international competitive edge for Canada. Through these rationales, the use of health research becomes problematized and KT is constructed as an unquestioned solution.

KT is constructed to function in ways consistent with the three rationales in shaping health research and researchers in particular directions. Ideal health research is “innovative”, “world-class”, and demonstrates an economic return on taxpayers’ investment. Health researchers are constructed as the workforce in a transformed “research enterprise”, expected to meet knowledge “users’” needs. CIHR is constructed as the Government of Canada’s “health research investment agency”, a national manager of health research and researchers and international authority in KT.

KT operates as a technology of governance, with potential effects in prioritizing particular health research agendas and privileging particular kinds of researcher orientations within the context of neoliberal rationalities of government. The rationales are considered in relation to evidence-based medicine and new public management to critically reflect on the contemporary governance of health research and researchers in Canada.