Bridging the gap between research and impact
Universities and researchers are increasingly being asked to demonstrate the impact of their research. As a consequence researchers need to think more about the relevance of their research beyond academia and come up with ways to mobilise their research into policy, practice or industry. However what is missing is the training and development of the skills, attributes and disposition among researchers to be able to undertake the work required to achieve impact beyond academia. Therefore how can researchers bridge the gap between research and impact?
The barriers to achieving research impact
Moving knowledge from one area to another utilises all aspects of knowledge brokering, that is, not only knowledge brokering, but also knowledge transfer and exchange, knowledge translation and knowledge mobilisation. The skills associated with each area of knowledge brokering rely on both explicit and tacit knowledge, they rely on both know-what and know why as much as know-how and know who. Skills in all areas of knowledge brokering are often assumed as part of an individual’s role, this is the case in academia as in every other sector. Consequently whilst knowledge brokering, transfer and exchange, translation and mobilisation occur, we argue because it is not viewed through a holistic and strategic lens, or through a communication and development mind set, the process of moving research into impact is often not undertaken methodically and strategically, consequently its full potential is not realised.
Knowledge brokering, transfer and exchange, translation and mobilisation – Bridging the Gap
The gap between research and impact is wide. The ability to move research into policy and practice is difficult, for a variety of reasons. Moving knowledge into policy, practice or industry requires researchers to not only understand their own sector, but also the sectors in which they wish their research to have an impact. It requires not only the analytical skills required to undertake research and produce new knowledge, but the strategic skills to understand how varying sectors operate and function and the pathways within those systems that can be accessed by researchers. It involves not only the skills to translate research into easy to understand and digest formats, but skills in communication, marketing and stakeholder engagement. It requires researchers to work collaboratively with individuals who don’t understand research, at all stages of the research process. It requires them to think not only as researchers but development professionals.
There are many models and concepts, tools and resources available to researchers to undertake knowledge brokering, transfer and exchange, translation and mobilisation. But I think we will see even more research impact when we also focus on developing the skills, attitude and disposition needed to move knowledge into policy, practice and industry and only then will we truly be bridging the gap.