Speaking Scientifically: The Role of Communication in the Translation of Novel Brain Science Research into Policy

  • Author / Creator
    Hills, Shilo
  • This project examines how addiction and mental health policy comes to incorporate novel research findings from brain and neurosciences by asking: “What role does communication play in the translation of research into policy?” I use a multiple case design to compare and contrast varying communication patterns involved in the translation of three distinct sets of research findings. Each of the three cases in the dissertation stem from similar, but distinct sets of research findings from brain science, and have been translated into policy to varying degrees, with noticeably different translation paths. These varying patterns of translation are demonstrated in the ways research concepts and terminology are included and communicated within policy documents. My research reveals that communication tools are employed in different ways across the three cases. Analysis was guided by the SPEAKING model from speech code theory in order to systematically analyze and examine policy documents published by Alberta government ministries from 1990 to the present. 1990 marked the beginning of the ‘decade of the brain’, when technological ideas allowed for greatly enhanced brain imaging techniques. From that point forward, researchers became increasingly able to map out and pinpoint various neural pathways and brain regions associated with conditions like addiction and mental illness. Since government policy documents are carefully constructed because they are intended to guide and govern practices on a field level, they serve as an important record over time. In Alberta, these documents are produced by government ministries that are responsible for planning, developing and managing government-operated affairs, including health care and education. Through systematic analysis of policy documents related to each of the cases, I found that the three sets of brain research findings varied in how and to what degree they were translated into addiction and mental health policy. Further, the communication patterns exhibited by each of the cases differed in how these research findings were conveyed.
    In comparing the communication patterns constituting different dynamic translation processes, I firstly contribute to the literature on translation by developing a process model to show how the deliberate and careful construction of metaphors can act as a robust mechanism for facilitating the travel of ideas between contexts. Secondly, I contribute to this body of scholarship by explicating the nature of editing rules and how they operate in relation to one another during the translation process. Thirdly, I provide a more nuanced explication of the general patterns of communication underlying the translation of knowledge from one context into another. By examining the usage and explanations of research findings across cases, my analyses reveal how communication patterns can constitute different dynamic translation processes. Overall, my research shows that processes of translation can be deployed through specific ways of communicating, and that the ways in which research concepts are explained and edited over time can be accomplished through construction of language that resonates with local audiences to realign perceptions and establish common understandings.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.