An Agriculture Knowledge Translation and Transfer (AgKTT) Framework

Published on
November 22, 2022
M. A. (Amy) Lemay, PhD
Science Analyst & Advisor
Founder, Vista Science & Technology
M.R. McDonald
Professor, University of Guelph
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Knowledge translation and transfer (KTT) is essential for research to have an impact – for accelerating the use of research-derived knowledge and driving the adoption of agri-innovations. The challenges of mobilizing new and emerging research knowledge into broader use and application are well documented by KTT researchers and practitioners, particularly for agriculture research and innovation.

The adoption of best management practices (BMPs) has far-reaching impacts beyond ecological resilience, and environmental sustainability, including improved competitiveness, productivity, profitability and consumer trust. Yet, policies and programs that promote the adoption of BMPs face the challenge of low and inconsistent levels of adoption. BMPs are research-based and knowledge intensive agri-innovations that are developed through rigorous basic, applied and multi-disciplinary research. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the critical role of KTT in driving and accelerating the use and application of new knowledge, technologies and innovations, there is still relatively little known about the role of KTT in the use of agriculture research and the adoption of agri-innovations, such as BMPs. Understanding the role of KTT in the adoption of BMPs could provide important insights and evidence to inform effective policy and program design, implementation and evaluation, leading to improved adoption of BMPs.

This challenge highlights four elements that inform policy, programs and practices related to agriculture KTT in the short, medium and long term.

Unique aspects of agriculture KTT

Agriculture research and innovation face unique challenges and barriers. As a social-ecological system, agriculture is defined by complex, interacting, interdependent social and ecological structures, functions and dynamics that add a level of uncertainty and indeterminacy to the knowledge produced by research, making effective KTT all that more difficult. Existing KTT frameworks, models, strategies, method sand tools have been developed for other sectors, particularly healthcare and education, which do not reflect or support the unique aspects or realities of the agri-food sector. The efficacy and effectiveness of most KTT strategies, tools and methods have not been tested or validated for agriculture applications. There is a lack of evidence of what works for agriculture KTT.

Four core agriculture KTT contexts

Most current KTT frameworks include three core knowledge contexts: knowledge production, knowledge processing and knowledge use. A fourth context, the social-political context has been inadequately and insufficiently defined and integrated into existing KTT frameworks and models. The social-political context encompasses policy and governance factors that enable and hinder the success of the KTT. Policy and governance are distinct, but inter-related and interdependent dimensions of the social-political context. Policy is an integral part of governance, but generally viewed as the exclusive domain of government to establish priorities, rules, regulations, procedures, mechanisms and programs needed to achieve specific goals or outcomes for KTT. Governance involves the broader social system of governing and refers to the range of political, social, economic and administrative processes, rules, mechanisms and institutions needed for steering, coordinating and managing agriculture KTT.

Agriculture KTT critical success factors

Critical success factors are elements or conditions that are consistently linked to successful KTT. Four KTT critical success factors (CSF) linked to the four KTT contexts (knowledge use, knowledge processing, knowledge production and social-political) are reported in this research summary briefing note. It is expected that future research will identify additional KTT CSF. Successful KTT is:

1) Embedded in a well-established farm extension and advisory programs (knowledge use context).

2) Integrated within a broader research infrastructure (knowledge production context)

3) Linked to a value-added knowledge network of diverse knowledge stakeholders (knowledge processing context)

4) Supported by stable policy and governance priorities and mandates (social-political context).

Single research project-based KTT is necessary but insufficient

Current KTT approaches are targeted at single research projects with researchers responsible for developing, coordinating and carrying out the KTT for their projects. Communicating and sharing the results of research projects is an integral part of the research and innovation process. However, there are several implications of a project-based, researcher-driven approach to KTT, which could limit the long-term potential for agriculture research and innovation to have tangible impacts for the agri-food sector. Single research studies seldom provide sufficient evidence on which to base decisions, actions or changes to practices. It is unlikely that knowledge users will change the way they act based on the results of a single project.

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