Increasingly, forestry researchers must do more than solve abstract problems; they must also make those solutions available to those who can use them. Research results and other sources of innovation fall far short of their potential to change management practice when these resources do not become part of the working knowledge of those
A. SCOTT REED and VIVIANE SIMON-BROWN • Oregon State University, College of Forestry Extension Service, Richardson Hall 109, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.
who will make the changes. And, once these resources are applied, the resulting adaptive management raises new questions that drive further research and knowledge development. To ensure that this iterative process occurs effectively, a process for accomplishing as many as possible of the following goals is necessary:
• Application of research results: Through effective transfer of new knowledge and methodologies, research results become part of operational practice.
• Validation of new knowledge: Practitioners ensure that research results are realistic based on their years of experience.
• Operational testing: Practitioners test new practices and new information at an operational level to confirm whether the results are operationally significant.
• Feedback that can help prioritize additional research: After applying new knowledge and practices, practitioners provide feedback to researchers to guide their future research and help them refine new research hypotheses.
• Ongoing dialogue: Knowledge generators, knowledge transfer professionals, and those who apply the knowledge interact through systematic, designed or informal interactions, thereby generating new innovations that would not otherwise have occurred.
The continuum from the development to the application of knowledge involves three major players (DeYoe and Hollstedt 2003): researchers, knowledge transfer (or "extension") professionals, and practitioners. A fourth major category of player, the citizens and communities in which forestry activities occur, cannot be neglected. As such, we mention the role of the public periodically throughout this chapter.
Researchers generate and develop knowledge. They define problems, identify desired outcomes, plan their approach, conduct basic and applied research, and explore the development possibilities. Their work can thus be described as thinking, seeking answers, questioning and formulating hypotheses, testing hypotheses, assessing and interpreting the results of their studies, and publishing the results. They may or may not develop the technology permitted by these results or carry out pilot testing and ground-truthing. They generally communicate mostly within the scientific community.
On the other end of the continuum, practitioners operationalize the researcher's work. They are actively engaged in communication within their organization and with key stakeholders, in operational testing and implementation of new approaches, and in conducting trials of adaptive management. Based on the results of this work, they may evaluate efficacy, supply innovations that modify an original concept, and provide feedback to those who proposed that concept. Finally, they adopt new knowledge and technologies, and either develop new policies and practices or revise old ones. In short, they act and implement while responding to the issues and deadlines that govern their work, and weigh contingencies and risks in so doing.
Knowledge transfer professionals complete the continuum by bridging the gap between those who generate the knowledge and those who apply it. To do so, they engage in audience education and training by linking traditional scientific and operational knowledge with new discoveries, by collecting and synthesizing information, and by demonstrating techniques or conducting operational testing in close cooperation with practitioners. These professionals employ a variety of strategies and technologies to accomplish these goals, and help the audience to identify their needs and any new research and development capable of meeting those needs. And they communicate, facilitate, mediate, synthesize, simplify, and act as liaisons between researchers and practitioners. In addition, they provide outreach and troubleshooting services once the researchers and practitioners have begun to interact.
Institutions that engage in the transfer of knowledge to the forestry community have highly variable organizational structures, but share the common goals of helping both researchers and practitioners to solve problems, manage their resources, and better engage—all of which contribute to the long-term sustainability of forests and provision of their many benefits.
Peter Bloome, professor emeritus at Oregon State University, has proposed that successful knowledge transfer depends on three principles:
• responsiveness to locally identified issues, which helps to ensure an audience's receptivity toward educational activities that address their expressed needs;
• well-informed citizens capable of contributing to sound community decisions; and
• the achievement of broad social goals through the development of relationships and encouragement of communication among those who share a common vision.
Although these principles are directed at a citizen audience, they can be generalized for other audiences. Based on our own experience, three general categories of key factors are required for successful transfer: a common philosophical foundation, an empowering institutional environment, and effective design principles. Although each category is critically important, we have paid special attention in this chapter to the third category, for which those engaging in knowledge transfer individually have the most direct influence. As transfer professionals, we are familiar with a formalized transfer program so that is our focus here. However, we also summarize the associated principles to help landscape ecologists recognize and apply the principles and approaches outside a formal program.
The broad goal of this chapter is to systematically describe the elements of effective knowledge transfer that match important information with receptive learners who can use that information. Effective knowledge transfer is predicated on (1) engaging these learners in ways that make the educational content clearly relevant to their circumstances, (2) building alliances among individuals and organizations with shared goals, and (3) working to adapt both past experience and new knowledge to improve operational practice. The specific goals of this chapter are thus to suggest a common set of terms and definitions that describe the key elements of knowledge transfer; describe the key elements of successful knowledge transfer activities; illustrate the essential skills for developing, implementing, and evaluating transfer activities; and describe some challenges of adapting knowledge transfer to changing circumstances.
Was this article helpful?