Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Dr. Jeff Nisker


Knowledge translation (KT) has become a ubiquitous and important component within the Canadian health research funding environment. Despite a large and burgeoning literature on the topic of KT, research on the science of KT spans a very narrow philosophical spectrum, with published studies almost exclusively positioned within positivism. Grounded in a constructionist philosophical position and influenced by actor-network theory, this dissertation aims to contribute to the Canadian KT discussion by imagining new possibilities for conceptualizing KT.

This is an empirical-theoretical study which is based on eight months of data collection, including interviews, participant observation, and document analysis. This data collection took place in a basic science laboratory, a clinic, and amongst families involved in genomic research pertaining to Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Canadian city. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and organization of the data was aided by QSR Nvivo software. Theoretical insights put forward in this dissertation are based on a detailed description of the everyday, local, micro-dynamics of knowledge translation within a particular case study of an autism genomics project. Through data collection I have followed the practices of a laboratory, clinic, and family homes through which genomic knowledge was assembled and re-assembled.

Through the exploration of the practices of scientists, clinicians, and families involved in an autism genetics study, I examine the concepts of multiplicity, difference, and coordination. I argue that autism is practiced differently, through different technologies and assessments, in the laboratory, clinic, and home. This dissertation closes with a new framework for and model of the knowledge translation process called the Local Translations of Knowledge in Practice model. I argue that expanding the range of theoretical and philosophical positions attended to in KT research will contribute to a richer understanding of the KT process and move forward the Canadian KT agenda. Ethics approval for this research was obtained from The University of Western Ontario and from the hospital in which the data was gathered.