Understanding knowledge use for sustainability
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Understanding knowledge use for sustainability

Filetype[PDF-1.38 MB]


  • Journal Title:
    Environmental Science & Policy
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    Scientific research is increasingly motivated to produce knowledge for sustainability decision-making and action. This is driving some funders, academic institutions, and researchers to pursue research approaches that are more interactive with potential users of the knowledge created. Yet despite compelling evidence that these more collaborative approaches lead to increased use, it remains unclear what constitutes use and how to evaluate its societal impact. To understand knowledge utilization better, we use data from in-depth interviews of research project team leaders funded through an applied coastal research program in the United States. We show that, empirically, what constitutes ‘use’ remains elusive: researchers believe that their efforts yield usable knowledge that is impactful but find it difficult to provide clear descriptions about specific uses, user identities, attribution, and evidence of broader outcomes. We argue that rather than an impediment to understanding knowledge utilization, these findings may suggest the inherent messiness of knowledge production and use. These results build on prior findings about the methodological obstacles to studying or explaining knowledge utilization and offer new insight into factors that shape the linking of sustainability knowledge and action.
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    Environmental Science & Policy, 120, 222-230
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