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The Use of Placement Fellowships in Knowledge Exchange

Ann Bruce

Funding: The University of Edinburgh, College of Humanities and Social Science, Knowledge Transfer Grant

May 1 2010 – July 2 2010

Background

Placement Fellowships are supported by research councils and policy organisations as a means of knowledge exchange between policy and academe. This grant funded a workshop, the intention of which was to elucidate the benefits and challenges of Placement Fellowships in enabling knowledge flow between academia and policy. This workshop built on the existing evidence on the use of Fellowships and explored practical experiences with a view to informing future Fellowship schemes. The intention was not to evaluate existing schemes but to benefit from their experiences. The workshop was organised in collaboration with the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) programme, a partnership of research funding organisations with strong interests in effective tools and approaches for knowledge exchange.

Aims and objectives

  • Explore areas where Placement Fellowships have been useful, in particular (1) the role of Placement Fellowships in addressing issues at the science-policy interface that otherwise appear intractable, and (2) the role of Placement Fellowships in providing short-term expertise lacking within government departments
  • Investigate the role of Placement Fellowships in improving the efficiency and speed of knowledge exchange between academe and policy communities
  • Investigate the role of Placement Fellowships in improving understanding of research questions and whether this leads to better integration of research outputs into policy
  • Investigate whether Fellowships, as knowledge exchange mechanisms, can alter the relative balance between the degree of ‘instrumental’ (observable) change to policymaking, and the degree of ‘conceptual’ (implicit) change in the thinking of policymakers
  • Explore the challenges and potential pit-falls from the use of Placement Fellowships
  • Explore the ways in which Placement Fellowships can be beneficial beyond the immediate placement period/research project

Research methods

The research consisted of a single interactive and participatory workshop with 14 specially invited Placement Fellows, former Placement Fellows, policy hosts and placement scheme funders. swill be interactive and participatory in nature.

Key findings

  • Fellowships allow academics to explore the reality of policy making and enable improved communication and exchange of information between the two sectors. However, it is not always possible to predict exactly where the policy impact will occur in advance.
  • Personal relationships were seen as a key factor in successful knowledge exchange.
  • Knowledge exchange could be in the form of instrumental change resulting from the expert input of the Fellow but also result in conceptual changes in ways of thinking.
  • Academics can use their freedom and wider expertise to prompt questions, evaluate assumptions and possibly broaden and reframe policy questions by looking at them from different perspectives.
  • In setting up a Fellowship it was important to understand how the Fellow connects with the department and it may be helpful to consider the stage of the relevant policy cycle and the type of input that is required.
  • A key determinant of successful knowledge exchange was the extent to which the Fellow could avoid being sucked into the day-to-day departmental activities.
  • A number of actions could be taken to secure longer-term benefits from the placement.

Publications

The Use of Placement Fellowships in Knowledge Exchange - final workshop report (49.2 KB)

Further information

Contact Ann Bruce, ann.bruce@ed.ac.uk