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The invisible made visible: The role of evaluation in informing processes of knowledge exchange

Abstract

Governments hoping to succeed in the Knowledge Economy increasingly view university research as a critical resource to be utilised. For industry to thrive and for policy-making to be effective, knowledge transfer must evolve into genuine knowledge exchange among all actors in the '˜triple helix' but the means of achieving this are non-obvious. Through a variety of targeted funding schemes, tacit knowledge of such processes is developing but impact assessments still focus on tangible outputs.

We have found that rigorous evaluations of non-academic impacts of publicly-funded research can capture insights and good practice. We take the view that such evaluations are formative, enabling continuous organisational learning about effective knowledge transfer by both research funding bodies and participants (academic and non-academic).

We draw on several diverse evaluations of innovative funding schemes in the UK which seek to promote change at the individual, institutional or cultural level. Findings from these evaluations highlight the importance of interactive processes and an emphasis on the role of '˜knowledge intermediaries' that can enhance the likelihood that research findings will be utilised beyond academia. Learning from evaluation can thus accelerate and deepen the interactive relationships between researchers and research users that can contribute to the Knowledge Economy.