PDF version

Meet the New NCDDR

Access to high-quality information has the potential to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. With an emphasis on knowledge translation, the NCDDR will promote the production and aggregation of research results that can be used in shaping new technology, improving service delivery, and expanding decision-making options for people with disabilities and their families. The U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) funds these initiatives through its January 2006 award to the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), which operates the NCDDR. This grant continues 10 years of support for the NCDDR. During this new 5-year funding cycle, the NCDDR will "serve as a lead center in the area of Knowledge Translation/Knowledge Dissemination and Utilization" (U.S. Department of Education, 2005, p. 23853).

This issue of FOCUS will describe how the impetus for NCDDR's reorganization relates to NIDILRR's new emphasis on knowledge translation. It will also outline several of the services the NCDDR will offer to NIDILRR grantees and, in some cases, to interested consumers.

NIDILRR's New Long-Range Plan and Knowledge Translation Program

Knowledge translation plays a significant role in connecting research and development to the needs of intended users. As the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR, 2006, "About Knowledge Translation") has defined it, knowledge translation is "the exchange, synthesis, and ethically-sound application of knowledge—within a complex system of interactions among researchers and users—to accelerate the capture of the benefits of research." NIDILRR's long-range plan has adapted the CIHR definition for the purposes of the disability and rehabilitation research field.

NIDILRR's long-range plan defines knowledge translation as the following:

The multidimensional, active process of ensuring that new knowledge gained through the course of research ultimately improves the lives of people with disabilities, and furthers their participation in society. The process is active, as it not only accumulates information, but it also filters the information for relevance and appropriateness and recasts that information in language useful and accessible for the intended audience. (U.S. Department of Education, 2006, p. 8195)

NIDILRR's science and technology advisor, Dr. Art Sherwood, participated in a webcast held on May 31, 2006, titled "Meet the New NCDDR." He described knowledge translation as "cyclic in nature… it's a two-way street between the researcher producing the knowledge, the consumer of that knowledge, and then the feedback from the deployment of that information back to the researcher to refine and tweak the process of generating knowledge." As Dr. Sherwood also pointed out, research quality is increasingly stressed "in our current era of accountability." The information produced, disseminated, and consumed via NIDILRR sponsorship should be both "meaningful and relevant" (Independent Living Research Utilization, 2006, paragraph 14).

NIDILRR research should not only affect the end user but also influence other intermediary beneficiaries: researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. The goal of the NCDDR is to expand production, access, dissemination, and use of disability and rehabilitation research among NIDILRR management, grantees, people with disabilities and their families, and disability-oriented practitioners and service providers. The NCDDR has established several services and collaboratives to achieve these goals.


NCDDR services have three major aims. They are

These services are spread over five categories:

(1) research quality, (2) development, (3) dissemination, (4) technical assistance, and (5) utilization effectiveness. Some services will be available only to NIDILRR- supported researchers, while others will be available to everyone.

Research Quality Services

NIDILRR describes research and development that correspond to three stages of knowledge, which generally develop sequentially. Stage 1 (discoveries and descriptions) and Stage 2 (methods, measures, and theories) "provide the critical foundation for new ideas, information, analyses, and scientific tools… upon which to base the conduct of valid and reliable research and development activity" (U.S. Department of Education, 2006, p. 8174). Researchers working at projects characterized by Stage 3 knowledge design interventions, or develop products, assistive and adaptive technologies, and environmental systems.

The first two stages of knowledge will affect NIDILRR's research priorities, which will take into account what researchers already know about a particular topic. NIDILRR is likely to ask researchers to determine "if an adequate theoretical basis exists upon which an intervention can be developed" (U.S. Department of Education, 2006, p. 8174). Consequently, certain research designs are more suitable to particular kinds of questions, depending on the type of new knowledge or product to be developed.

The NCDDR will establish three task forces, one focusing on standards of evidence and methods, a second on systematic review and guidelines, and the third on knowledge translation and knowledge value mapping. Members will be NIDILRR grantees. The task forces will develop consensus statements and position papers on how to align the most rigorous research designs possible to the research questions current in the field of disability and rehabilitation research. The NCDDR will also investigate strategies to identify evidence supporting technology-related quality measures in order to place the results of NIDILRR-sponsored development activities along an innovation development continuum. Ensuring the relevance of these research guidelines to consumer needs is also a high priority.

Development Services

Many of the new NCDDR's development services pertain to NIDILRR grantees' use of, inclusion in, and production of systematic reviews. A systematic review treats a tightly defined review question and uses predetermined and justified methods for choosing what research studies to include in the review, as well as for applying a formal analysis to the evaluation of the strength of the studies' findings. The goal is to determine via the strength of the aggregated body of findings how much evidence there is to address the review question. Two international organizations, the Cochrane Collaboration and the Campbell Collaboration, have led longstanding and prominent work in developing and disseminating systematic reviews. The Cochrane Collaboration focuses on topics related to health-care research, while the Campbell Collaboration has spearheaded their application more generally to the social and behavioral sciences.

The NCDDR will offer free access for current NIDILRR grantees to the Cochrane Library. Users will register for 120-day renewable subscriptions through the NCDDR Web site, where staff are also available to provide search assistance. The NCDDR will promote familiarity with and production of systematic reviews in the field of disability research by helping establish a disability research coordinating group within the Campbell Collaboration and encouraging NIDILRR grantees to use its resources.

Not including certain information in a report of research study results—whether published or not—may mean that the study findings cannot be used in evidence-based systematic reviews or other evidence-based compilations. The NCDDR will develop a Web-based tool to facilitate the production of NIDILRR grantee research reports tailored to the search needs of evidence-based systematic reviewers. This Reporting Facilitator will address a range of specific research designs used by NIDILRR-sponsored researchers in order to ensure that reporting guidelines and formats are generated that address all necessary report components appropriate to each research design. KTDRR staff will assist individual NIDILRR researchers, as needed, in using the Web-based tool.

Dissemination Services

The NCDDR has developed new content for its Web site ( The new Web site highlights resources for knowledge translation to support planning, implementing, and evaluating knowledge translation and its outcomes. It will no longer host the electronic library of resources developed by NIDILRR grantees, and the Research Exchange publication has been discontinued. The following dissemination projects are in development:

Technical Assistance Services

As in the past, KTDRR staff will provide direct assistance to NIDILRR researchers, whether on- or off-site. The KTDRR will continue to offer workshops, which will feature topics related to knowledge translation; among these will be training in systematic review delivered in partnership with representatives of the Campbell Collaboration.

Utilization Effectiveness Services

These services will offer NIDILRR grantees strategies to plan for, promote, and measure the use of their research findings. NIDILRR engineering research centers play a prominent role in developing products for consumers, such as assistive and adaptive technologies. The NCDDR will help NIDILRR grantees establish standards of evidence applicable to the phase of product development. Staff will disseminate evidence-based research reviews of pertinent topics and other informational materials that will help NIDILRR-funded engineers and other grantees develop products, services, and a variety of informational resources based on the most rigorous evidence available. For consumers, the NCDDR will develop a grading system to determine the level of evidence on which products, services, and recommendations for practice are based.

Intended Outcomes

This FOCUS has described how the KTDRR is drawing on a variety of inputs to develop its activities and outputs. The primary and/or initial audience for many of these initiatives is NIDILRR-sponsored researchers. In the short term, the NCDDR aims to raise researchers' awareness of and support for standards of evidence, the systematic review process, the scope of high-quality technology innovation, the range of disability research topics, and the need for translating knowledge for consumers. It is hoped that if these short-term goals are achieved, researchers will increasingly come to consensus about and so attend to these standards of evidence as they design, conduct, and assess their research and development activities. Findings from NIDILRR-sponsored projects will then be more likely included in systematic reviews. Ideally, disability and rehabilitation researchers will also choose to participate in producing systematic reviews on topics of high relevance to the field, taking consumer interests into account. As researchers increasingly incorporate their use of knowledge translation and knowledge dissemination and utilization strategies into their NIDILRR-sponsored research plans, they will also produce consumer-oriented versions and applications of research findings. In the long run, the NCDDR seeks to bring about the following outcomes:

Since 1995, SEDL's NCDDR has conducted research and dissemination activities and provided technical assistance to ensure that NIDILRR's core constituencies have ready access to disability-related research findings that can improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. The new NCDDR will continue this tradition by focusing on knowledge translation and working to help ensure that consumers and practitioners can access and use high-quality evidence-based knowledge on disability and rehabilitation issues.


Canadian Institutes of Health Research. (2006). Knowledge translation strategy 2004-2009. Retrieved June 15, 2006, from

Independent Living Research Utilization. (2006, May 31). Meet the new NCDDR. [Web cast]. Paragraph 14. Transcript retrieved July 27, 2006, from

U.S. Department of Education (2005, May 5). National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research—Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program—Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects Notice, 70 Fed. Reg. 86, 23852-23854.

U.S. Department of Education (2006, Feb. 15). National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research—Notice of Final Long-Range Plan for Fiscal Years 2005-2009, Fed. Reg. 31, 8165-8200.

View FOCUS Technical Brief Archived Issues

Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 May 2024 at 05:29 PM CST