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Bridging the Science–Management Divide: Moving from Unidirectional Knowledge Transfer to Knowledge Interfacing and Sharing

Dirk J Roux, CSIR
Kevin H Rogers, University of the Witwatersrand
Harry C Biggs, South African National Parks
Peter J Ashton, CSIR
Anne Sergeant, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


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Sustainable ecosystem management relies on a diverse and multi-faceted knowledge system in which techniques are continuously updated to reflect current understanding and needs. The challenge is to minimize delay as ideas flow from intent through scientific capability, and finally to implementation to achieve desired outcomes. The best way to do this is by setting the stage for the flow of knowledge between researchers, policy makers, and resource managers. The cultural differences between these groups magnify the challenge. This paper highlights the importance of the tacit dimension of knowledge, and how this renders the concept of knowledge transfer much less useful than the concepts of information transfer and technology transfer. Instead of knowledge transfer, we propose that “co-production” of knowledge through collaborative learning between “experts” and “users” is a more suitable approach to building a knowledge system for the sustainable management of ecosystems. This can be achieved through knowledge interfacing and sharing, but requires a shift from a view of knowledge as a “thing” that can be transferred to viewing knowledge as a “process of relating” that involves negotiation of meaning among partners. Lessons from informal communities of practice provide guidance on how to nurture and promote knowledge interfacing between science and management in R&D programs.

Key words

communities of practice; knowledge interface; knowledge transfer; science–management divide; R&D programs; shared understanding; tacit knowledge

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087