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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 policy makers, practitioners, and other key stakeholders. The principles are stated below.
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.
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.
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.
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