Graduate College

Knowledge mobilization refers to a mindset and sets of practices that enable scholars to enhance the usability and impact of their research by making scientific findings accessible and relevant to the public.

Gustavo Fischman, a professor of educational policy at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and director of the edXchange knowledge mobilization initiative, lectured on Sept. 14 to a room of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows about his expertise in this field.

The class, “Preparing Future Faculty and Scholars” (aka PFx), is a seminar available to degree- or nondegree-seeking graduate students.

“[Knowledge mobilization’s] simplest form is the ethical responsibility of all knowledge producers, knowledge brokers [and] knowledge users, to our societies,” Fischman said. “If what we do just stays in the library, it’s not very productive. It’s not useful, it’s not contributing to solve anybody’s problems.”

According to Fischman, it is important for academics to use knowledge mobilization in order to bridge the gap between themselves and the general population. This concept aims to create awareness of the ethical dilemma that educational inequalities are preventing society from understanding groundbreaking research by scholars.

Fischman explained that knowledge mobilization is not about practicality, but rather eliminating any existing barriers for the public to access and engage with new findings and information.

“For 100 years, the system of knowledge production was based on peer review, and we need to maintain that, […] but the discussions about such knowledge was among ourselves,” Fischman said. “Now, the conversation is to include societies at large.”

Knowledge mobilization is not only a practice promoting scholars to make their research more user-friendly, but it also gets them to consider professional growth and development outside of academia.

Some career options for postdocs and PhD candidates other than faculty positions include working for government, nonprofits, public service, industry, research firms and business.

Angel Garcia, a fifth-year PhD candidate and graduate teaching associate studying geological sciences at the School of Earth and Space Exploration, wishes to end up in academia but is still curious about what else is out there.

“I am interested in becoming faculty as my career, but also it is good to see other opportunities outside of faculty,” Garcia said. “[The lecture] has put in a more organized way the thoughts than I had about exposing myself as an academic and a professional.”

Meanwhile, Grace Hunt Watkinson, a sixth-year PhD candidate studying history at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, wants to find another way to use her degree.

“I am this year going out on the job market so I’m looking for ways to be more competitive and for, hopefully, some alternative paths outside academia,” Hunt Watkinson said.

Fischman’s lecture seems to have inspired graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the audience to think about knowledge mobilization and its potential benefits to both academics and the general population.

“It goes back to the big ethical aspect,” Hunt Watkinson said. “It’s about not just ‘publish or perish’ but balancing that with these specializations that need to be shared with other populations that are not just in the university system.”

Ultimately, Fischman’s words on knowledge mobilization appear to have caught the attention of postdoc scholars and graduate students as they prepare to leave the university and focus on their careers.

“There are jobs out there for you, just go grab them,” Fischman said. “The more you know about this, the easier it will be for you to show that you are comfortable.”