Theme 2: Knowledge Transfer and Extension
Click on the workshop links below to expand the section and read presentation summaries as well as gain access to presentation and workshop files.
Workshop 2-A: Models of Extension in the 21st Century
Michael Toombs, Director of the Research and Innovation Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and General Manager of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario explained the role of the OMAFRA’s Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) program in building research knowledge systems for the 21st Century.
The public sector is no longer a “paternal” organization with centralized agricultural research and extension programs. Therefore, the role of all key actors in the agriculture sector – farmers, producers, commodity organizations, producer advisors, researchers, commercialization organizations, government and funders – has dramatically evolved in response to this shift.
Research priority setting, participation in advisory committees, research communication and policy development are a few examples of new tasks currently shared by key actors in the sector.
KTT accelerates the transformation of knowledge into action by incorporating a dissemination and information exchange component into all stages of research projects and not only at the end – from priority setting to implementation. Most importantly, KTT strategies engage research end-users throughout the research process. The OMAFRA-University of Guelph Partnership has conducted various research projects around KTT to ensure scientific discoveries are transferred to the right people as quickly as possible.
René Mongeau, President of the Ordre des agronomes du Québec (Order of Agrologists of Quebec) spoke of the current role and future challenges of agrology professionals in the stimulation and support of innovation processes in the sector.
His presentation made a call for greater stakeholder collaboration by emphasizing that extension and agricultural research have increasingly become a shared responsibility.
Changes in population characteristics and distribution, cultural shifts in farming systems, and the rise of large agri-businesses in place of local retailers are only a few examples of how agricultural practices have changed in the last 50 years. Despite this complex environment, the role of agrologists remains the same: to facilitate knowledge sharing within the sector.
While professional institutes of agrology protect the public by assuring that agrologists meet professional standards to deliver extension services efficiently, agrologists must support the development of farm operations by providing quality agricultural services and competent research-based consulting.
Mongeau concluded his presentation by stating that opportunities are in place to undertake a more coordinated approach to tackle dissemination issues. Nevertheless, the greatest challenge is to break down the silos that prevent stakeholders from working together more closely.
A thriving agricultural sector depends on both the development and availability of new technologies, and better communication with Canadians.
Workshop 2-B: Maximizing Technological Transfer
Amy Argentino, Manager, Projects and Programs with the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) described the knowledge transfer activities carried out by the CHC within the Canadian Agri-Science Cluster framework to communicate research results with end-users, primarily growers.
Lessons learned during her experience in Cluster 2, highlighted the need to allocate enough resources to develop a comprehensive communications plan that includes the development of printed and web-based resources.
Sharing of success stories in articles highlighting how growers have directly participated and benefited from research, an increased online presence, and direct collaboration with linking agents or knowledge brokers are crucial for maximizing technology transfer in the sector moving forward.
Most importantly, comprehensive and targeted knowledge transfer strategies should be incorporated into the earliest planning stages of any research project to achieve wider impact.
Presentation: Canadian Agri-Science Cluster for Horticulture 2 – Looking Back and Growing Forward: Lessons Learned in Knowledge Transfer – English
Présentation : Grappe agro-scientifique canadienne pour l’horticulture 2 – Un retour sur le passé pour mieux cultiver l’avenir : Leçons apprises dans le cadre du transfert des connaissances – Français
Dr. Bronwynne Wilton, Consulting Project Lead with the Synthesis Agri-Food Network provided an in-depth analysis of knowledge transfer (KT), its role within the research cycle, benefits, major challenges and key enabling factors.
KT can be used as an all-encompassing term to include technology transfer, knowledge mobilization, knowledge translation, extension, and research dissemination. Using multiple forms and pathways, KT aims to put research knowledge into action by getting information to targeted audiences using tailored dissemination channels.
Unlike linear models of communication where researchers or extension agents deliver a message to end-users, KT facilitates exchanges of information between various stakeholders, and assisted by knowledge brokers, encourages research uptake throughout the research cycle.
The inclusion of funding for KT activities in the next Federal-Provincial-Territorial Policy Framework, the integration of KT objectives into the mandates of key institutions – from academia, industry, to the provincial and local ministries of agriculture – and enhanced transparent collaboration across the sector can enable the environment needed to implement new participatory research methods and enable effective knowledge transfer.
End-user involvement in the research process, dynamic networks and partnerships, institutional capacity (staff and infrastructure), sound planning, timely transfer efforts, improved incentive and tenure policies for KT activities, and positive attitudes toward collaboration for KT are examples of successful best practices for maximizing knowledge transfer.
Dr. Wilton stressed that unless academia enables the structures needed to implement major knowledge translation and transfer (KTT) strategies, researchers should collaborate with other key stakeholders who are already part of greater innovation systems such as the private sector or non-profit associations.
Presentation: Maximizing Knowledge Transfer in Canadian Agricultural Research Programs – English
Présentation : Maximiser le transfert des connaissances des programmes canadiens de recherche agricole – Français