Skip to main content
Contact Us

As an applied research agency, Forest Research has a unique bridging role between the research community, policymakers and land managers. Effective knowledge exchange and research impact are critical to our purpose, ensuring our activities makes a difference and providing a rationale for our work and the basis of our contracts with key customers.

We have learnt much in recent years about going beyond one-way communication (or knowledge transfer) and engaging throughout the research process to ensure our outputs are accessible and useful, and ultimately make a positive contribution to the environment, economy, and society.

Knowledge Exchange and Impact Strategy

We have a new Knowledge Exchange and Impact Strategy, structured around three broad themes.

  1. Stakeholder engagementto ensure our stakeholders can interact effectively with us to improve the quality, relevance, uptake and impact of our research.
    We have Knowledge Exchange and Impact Plans for all core-funded projects and programmes, a successful new Forest Science Seminar series, and run regular thematic workshops where research findings can be interpreted, and their implications discussed with policy colleagues.
  2. Research capabilityto ensure research disciplines and teams work together and have the capacity to deliver high-quality, relevant outputs.
    We collaborate with land managers and the public, through citizen science, reporting pests and diseases, forest monitoring, testing decision-support tools and facilitating networks of practitioners to share insights from innovation.
  3. Evaluation and learningto elicit feedback from our customers and other stakeholders to monitor, evaluate and communicate our impact.
    This ensures that together we identify and respond to new opportunities to support innovation, resilience and delivery across the sector. We have prepared case studies to highlight our impacts, understand their causes and identify lessons for the future.

Each theme has a set of principles that we adhere to, allowing us to approach new opportunities and challenges effectively. Each also has a set of actions, or priorities for implementation

The themes, principles and actions are in line with established standards and guidance for knowledge exchange and research impact, including the Knowledge Exchange Concordat used by many UK universities, and the Science and Innovation Strategy (SIS) for Forestry in GB which guides our core-funded research programmes Core research programmes 2021-26 – Forest Research. Our own expertise in this field has also shaped them.

We aim to further improve our user experience through these actions. Our ambition is to strengthen and maintain Forest Research’s position at the heart of the forestry and environmental sectors – informing, advising, training, facilitating and collaborating with partners to address the climate and biodiversity crises and other challenges we face together.

For previous research that informed our Knowledge Exchange and Impact Strategy see: Integrating research for policy and practice.

For further information, contact Dr David Edwards

Principles of knowledge exchange

Our Knowledge Exchange and Impact Strategy is based upon 15 principles, organised into three themes. Together these principles guide the approach we take with our partners to maximise the relevance and impact of our research through dialogue and collaboration with policymakers, practitioners, and other key stakeholders. The principles are stated below.

Theme 1 – Stakeholder engagement

To interact effectively with partners, customers, and other stakeholders to improve the quality, relevance and uptake of our research.

1. Impact orientation: The key principle that guides our approach to knowledge exchange is a focus on the desired outcomes or impacts of research rather than solely on outputs, such as papers, reports, models, tools, and presentations. Impacts can be defined as the difference that we make beyond the research community, for example to environmental policy and practice.

2. Collaboration: Such impacts can rarely be realised by researchers alone – they require other actors to play a role. Hence, an impact orientation requires dialogue, collaboration, and partnership, throughout the research process, and shared responsibility and commitment from our partners to ensure impacts are realised.

3. Alignment: Acknowledgement that researchers, policymakers and practitioners operate with different agendas, timeframes and cultures. Our research is grounded in an appreciation of potential users’ needs and circumstances. Research impact can take years to be realised, and to meet the demands of customers, we make initial findings accessible where possible, helping to interpret uncertainties and agree next steps.

4. Engagement channels: Management of stakeholder relations through established points of contact, and a range of formal and informal channels, to ensure both dissemination and dialogue. A commitment to clear and accessible communication, using appropriate formats and content tailored to different users.

5. Ethics: An ethical culture for our knowledge exchange activities, which firmly commits to impartiality, but acknowledges the need to offer professional opinions in the face of uncertainty, and at times challenge stakeholders’ views, in the role of ‘honest broker’ rather than detached knowledge provider.

Theme 2 – Research capability

To ensure disciplines and teams work together, with the capacity to deliver high quality, relevant outputs, and facilitate research and innovation among practitioners

6. Research integration: Realisation of the benefits of integration and coordination between separate projects and teams, within and beyond Forest Research, to share ideas between complementary areas of work, develop coherent messages, identify gaps, establish common methods, and collaborate on shared outputs and activities. This may involve interdisciplinary working where disciplines combine to address problems in novel ways.

7. Innovation: Appreciation of the multiple, unpredictable ways in which impact can be generated, and hence maintain flexible and creative responses to opportunities and challenges, rather than follow predefined, linear pathways to impact (which run the risk of stifling innovation) while delivering against agreed outcomes. Coordinate and support research in a way that fosters innovation rather than adopt a ‘command and control’ approach that seeks to run all knowledge exchange centrally.

8. Training and organisational development: Commitment to building staff and stakeholder capability to carry out knowledge exchange and related communications activities; train and support staff, including during induction, with both a comprehensive set of guidance and training, and ad hoc support for individuals, projects and teams.

9. Practitioner engagement: Realisation of the central role Forest Research can play in building research capability among practitioners, by supporting innovation and adaptive management, and facilitating networks between land managers and researchers, and similarly for the public through citizen science projects.

10. Recognition and rewards: Realisation of the benefits of systems of recognition and rewards, through consideration and inclusion of knowledge exchange and impact in performance management, quality assurance, promotion criteria and procedures, and positive celebrations of success.

Theme 3 – Evaluation and learning

To elicit feedback from customers and other stakeholders to monitor, evaluate and communicate our impact, and reflect, learn and improve.

11. Monitoring and evaluation: Acknowledgement of the fundamental importance of monitoring and evaluation through a system that is proportionate, targeted and efficient, and addresses the need for both external appraisal and communication and internal learning and development.

12. Appraisal and communication: Evaluation and demonstration of performance against agreed governmental objectives, to satisfy the needs for accountability using key indicators e.g., Science and Innovation Strategy Outcomes. Demonstrate the added value of investing in research and the range of impacts we deliver, for example through case studies.

13. Learning and improvement: Elicitation of feedback from external research peers, experts and advisors, as well as intended beneficiaries, to understand sectoral needs, user satisfaction and their interpretation, uptake and use of outputs – and hence reflect, learn, share and improve the quality, relevance and impact of our research.

14. Impact types: Recognition of less tangible ‘conceptual’ impacts, i.e., changes to understanding, awareness and attitudes, as well as ‘instrumental’ impacts on decisions and actions, and hence to use qualitative methods as well as quantitative and monetary metrics. Consideration of intermediate steps towards impact goals, and unintended impacts.

15. Attribution: When attributing the causes of impact, ensure due credit is given to all involved, within and beyond research, including unseen enablers, and historical legacy work, and hence nurture a culture of collaboration rather than emphasise prominent individuals – an approach which more accurately represents how impact is realised in practice.