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Knowledge Brokerage, SDGs and The Role of Universities/Le Courtage des Connaissances, Les Odd et le Role le des Universites/El Corretaje del Conocimiento, los Ods y el Papel de las Universidades.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by member-states of the United Nations in 2015 represent an ambitious agenda to address the dual goals of economic prosperity and environmental sustainability by 2030. This will require the concerted and focused efforts of developed and developing countries alike. It will also require strong partnerships across the spectrum of public, private and civil society organizations as well as multilateral development agencies. The university, as a hub of creative, intellectual and innovative activity, will undoubtedly play a pivotal role. Whereas in the past, universities were traditionally perceived as 'set apart' or more detached from the developmental function of the state, this integrated 2030 sustainable development agenda, and national efforts to promote localization of the SDGs, will necessitate the re-configuration and re-calibration of relations among the university's typical range of collaborators. Furthermore, in order to strengthen the contribution of university research to national policies and development programmes aimed at achieving the development outcomes articulated by the Global Goals, knowledge brokerage will need to be prioritized as a key function of contemporary universities. Ultimately, the role of the university will need to be re-examined, as it re-positions itself to support the 2030 development agenda and to help chart the development trajectory for the Caribbean into the second half of the twenty-first century. Moreover, universities across the globe will need to become more socially embedded in national and regional development processes, fully embracing roles as knowledge brokers, conveners and facilitators of development partnerships.

Jeffrey Sachs, in addressing an audience at the University College in Dublin, Ireland in 2016, emphasized that the complexity of the SDGs calls upon universities to lead (Sachs 2016). In order to implement programmes that will lead to the achievement of the SDGs, the most pressing development challenges in the context of each country will need to be identified, specialist expertise will need to be harnessed to devise relevant and context-appropriate solutions, resources will need to be prioritized, and decision makers in the public sector, private sector, and civil society will need to demonstrate the collective will to act. Research and knowledge are, therefore, at the core of the 2030 development agenda. In order to ensure that the university's contribution to the 2030 development agenda is maximized, there will need to be greater articulation between scholarship, innovative solutions, strategic partnerships and activism to support country strategies to achieve the SDGs.

There is an increasing realization that traditional, positivist, Mode 1 science approaches are seldom sufficient in seeking to address complex, contestable, context-specific issues like sustainable development (Bielak et al. 2008, Chambers and Pretty 1993, Funtowicz and Ravetz 2003, Gibbons et al. 1994). This article argues that as Caribbean countries examine strategies for accelerating SDG localization and implementation and executing the needed structural transformation for more inclusive and sustainable growth, it is critical that the linkages between the university, government, industry and development partners be strengthened in order to facilitate the multi-directional flow of information, the co-creation of knowledge and the application of research to solve the region's development challenges. With a more enabling research ecosystem, a more relevant research agenda and a more systematic focus on knowledge brokerage and research translation, the research to policy and research to practice gap can be reduced significantly and the integration of indigenous knowledge and research application into new development pathways for achieving the SDGs in the Caribbean can be accelerated.

This article is an exploratory piece that examines key issues related to the knowledge brokerage function in universities as an under-developed link to achieving desired levels of research application, innovation and development effectiveness, all of which are essential for the achievement of the SDGs, particularly in the Caribbean context where consecutive decades of sluggish economic growth and high debt burdens have resulted in limited fiscal space for new, productive investments. The article provides insights drawn from the experience of The University of the West Indies (UWI)--Trinidad and Tobago Research and Development Impact Fund (RDI Fund). It highlights ways in which knowledge brokerage has helped researchers make substantial contributions to addressing specific development issues. The article also elucidates some of the challenges in employing knowledge brokerage approaches which must be tackled if we are to cultivate greater demand for university research and, in so doing, facilitate greater research use, research uptake and research translation.


This article employs case study development and literature review. The literature review examined the field of knowledge brokerage and the range of knowledge brokerage strategies and mechanisms utilized by various actors internationally, particularly in the public sector, higher education and the field of international development. The review explored the evolution of the policy and practice of knowledge brokerage, not only as it relates to the typical research and innovation process, but more broadly, as a supportive and enabling tool to facilitate greater societal impact of research and the achievement of development outcomes, and in the context of the constantly evolving role of the university in society. For the purpose of this review, knowledge brokerage was considered to be at the intersection of concurrent discourses on research impact, policy and programme evaluation and development effectiveness. This places knowledge brokerage in a prime position to draw on multiple paradigms and methodologies, and in so doing, transform the traditional ways in which the university has undertaken its mission of knowledge creation, dissemination and transfer.

In developing the case study on the RDI Fund and knowledge brokerage strategies used by RDI Fund projects presented in this article, an in-depth review was conducted of the Fund's annual reports, project progress reports and completion reports. Interviews were also conducted with researchers implementing RDI Fund projects and in particular, with the lead researcher from the Cocoa Research Centre whose project forms the basis of the case study presented in this article.

Knowledge brokerage

Lomas (2007) defined knowledge brokerage as:
all the activity that links decision makers with researchers,
facilitating their interaction so that they are able to better
understand each other's goals and professional cultures, influence each
other's work, forge new partnerships, and promote the use of
research-based evidence in decision making.

Knowledge brokerage goes beyond moving information from a producer to a user. It focuses on facilitating and promoting social interaction through relationship and network development between researchers, decision makers and civil society with a view to efficiently and effectively sharing and utilizing knowledge, boosting the use of research outputs while also stimulating ideas for new research oriented to the needs of those in the policy and practice realms (Karner et al. 2011, CHSRF 2003, Schroeder and Pauleen 2007, Van Kammen, de Savigny and Sewankambo 2006).

Perceived primarily as a social role (Ward, House, and Hamer 2009a), the rise of knowledge brokerage is seen as a natural response to the identified gaps in the use of knowledge (Dunn 1986; Kislov, Wilson, and Boaden 2016) and is centered on the premise that the facilitation of productive social interaction is a key determinant for effective knowledge transfer (Armstrong et al. 2006). Knowledge brokers, therefore, serve as the catalytic interface between knowledge creators and knowledge users, acting as a neutral go-between to foster equitable relationships between the two (Ward, House, and Hamer 2009a). Implicit in this, however, is the acknowledgement that evidence can go beyond the research generated and include tacit knowledge which resides within individuals and organizations based on their culture, environment and experiences. Brokerage then mediates a two-way flow of information where traditional knowledge producers also benefit from knowledge exchanges with potential beneficiaries and the research process evolves more collaboratively and towards transdisciplinarity.

In practice, knowledge brokers are referred to by many different names depending on the context within which they operate. Some examples include champions, liaison officers, linkers, synthesizers, boundary spanners, intermediaries, research translators, research navigators, knowledge transfer associates and diffusion fellows (Graham 2008; Ward, House, and Hamer 2009a; Kislov, Wilson, and Boaden 2016). Knowledge brokers help to bridge the gap between knowledge producers and users by enabling translation and connecting actors across organizational boundaries (CHSRF 2003). Like the terms used to refer to the activity, the goals of knowledge brokerage also are variable and context-specific but can include encouraging knowledge exchange, fostering communication among disparate groups, advocating for research utilization, facilitating the transformation of policy issues into research questions, understanding and communicating researcher and decision maker priorities, identifying synergies and opportunities for partnership and collaboration, strengthening alignment between academia and industry, and facilitating research impact (Lightowler and Knight 2013). Key knowledge brokerage tasks include issue identification, match making, appraisal, synthesis, translation, dissemination, collaboration, engagement and linkage (CHSRF 2003; Robeson, Dobbins, and DeCorby 2008; Lomas 2007; Jones et al. 2013).

Examination of the literature reveals two main approaches to knowledge brokerage: the individual and the organizational (Graham 2008; Ward, House, and Hamer 2009a). The former involves individuals adopting the role of broker as a third party operator or linker while the latter sees organizations functioning as intermediaries mandated to focus on brokerage as a specific operation (Graham 2008). Given the complexity and multi-dimensionality of knowledge brokerage as well as the diverse skills required to be effective, it has been argued that an organizational team-based approach should be pursued whenever possible so as to balance the tensions that arise when using the individual approach (Kislov, Wilson, and Boaden 2016).

While knowledge brokerage has been lauded as an important tool in the knowledge transfer process, it is not without its encumbrances. Ironically, the lack of evidence derived from rigorous evaluation supporting its effectiveness or illuminating how it works and the contextual factors that influence it (Conklin et al. 2008; LaRocca et al. 2012; Dobbins et al. 2009; Bornbaum et al. 2015) has been highlighted as the chief drawback. The difficulty in evaluating knowledge brokerage is in large part due to the complexity of the activity but is also due to the multiplicity of brokering models utilized and the tendency to combine aspects of various brokering models within a single intervention (Ward, House, and Hamer 2009b). Also challenging is the significant amount of time and resources required to render brokerage strategies successful either in engaging knowledge management activities (Amsallem et al. 2007), in cultivating relationships and partnerships (Bowen and Martens 2005), or in capacity building activities such as role modelling and mentorship (Robeson, Dobbins, and DeCorby 2008), as well as the range of skills which need to be inculcated to ensure the broker is effective (Ward, House, and Hamer 2009a).

Although there are multiple definitions of success and effectiveness of knowledge brokering interventions, the literature highlights some identifiable determinants for successful knowledge brokerage initiatives. In general, the success of knowledge brokerage activities relies heavily on how these activities are organized, the skills of the individuals involved in the process and the building of their capacity to participate, cultivating trust among the parties involved, a commitment to the co-construction of knowledge through the use of participatory research methodologies as well as on myriad of political, social and economic contextual factors (Karner et al. 2011; Phipps et al. 2017). While knowledge brokerage may be context-specific in its implementation, determinants of successful knowledge brokerage appear to transcend context (Phipps et al. 2017).

The evolving role of the University

Universities have played an important role in the creation and dissemination of knowledge going as far back as the 12th century. They were viewed as highly respected centres of excellence dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge (Minogue 1973) and were considered one of the most important institutions in society given the admiration for education (Ibid. p.15). Over the years, various authors have highlighted the ways in which universities have evolved and the emergence of different university models based on a number of internal and external factors.

Globalization, the digital revolution, shifts in public policy together with changing funding priorities as well as financial pressures faced by governments have led to new types of activities being undertaken by universities, a greater focus on income-generating activities and a much more complex environment for managing teaching, research and knowledge production processes (Grobbelaar and De Wet 2016). The growing trend of public managerialism and public accountability in higher education have also resulted in shifting the goalpost, particularly as it relates to university research. In countries such as the UK, an intense focus on performance benchmarking indicators and metrics-driven research assessments linked to the allocation of government funding for research have led to increased competition to demonstrate research impact in spite of a range of perverse effects this has had on the research mission of the university (Elton 2000; Garlick and Pryor 2004; Tijssen et al. 2006).

The developmental university model maintains that a publicly funded university should meet the expectations of society and be socially responsible by proactively contributing to national development (Sutz 2005). Karunanayake (2012) emphasizes that a developmental university has to "generate knowledge for a national purpose to bring about developmental outcomes." Castells (1994) explains that the developmental university plays an important role in national development but does not do so solely through the production of knowledge but rather through other instrumental roles including focusing on the reconstruction of society, the manpower development paradigm and the political socialization model, thereby also serving as an ideological and socialization apparatus.

The more recent entrepreneurial university model is one that emerged from the decline in public funding for universities over the past four to five decades, which led to greater emphasis on universities becoming self-sufficient and leveraging their knowledge, expertise and physical assets to create technology hubs and research-to-innovation parks that stimulate commercialization, entrepreneurship and private investment in university projects. The entrepreneurial model focuses more exclusively on the economic development function of the university (both the economic performance of the country or region as well as the financial performance of the university), which has been referred to as its 'third mission' in addition to teaching and research (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff 2000). This entrepreneurial paradigm and the triple helix model of university-industry-government partnerships emerged partly in response to the recognition that the university is pivotal to the creation of new inventions and the transfer of new knowledge and technology, and partly in response to the spotlight placed on national and regional innovation systems in creating knowledge economies that could enable developing countries to achieve much higher levels of economic growth by leveraging human capital resources.

The regional university in the Caribbean

The thinking behind the developmental university model also influenced higher education in the Caribbean. The regional University of the West Indies emerged out of Eurocentric arrangements with the University of London in 1948, establishing a medical school in Jamaica. In 1960, the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA) (which had been in operation in Trinidad since 1922) merged with the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) to formally establish the UWI St. Augustine Campus. The regional university, as conceived by its founders, was meant to be "a light rising from the West" dedicated to liberty and learning. The then Premier of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams, envisioned a university that would be "the conscience of the nation" (Sherlock and Nettleford 1990); a university that would allow all citizens of diverse backgrounds and talents to access a university education; a university that was fully charged with the responsibility of ending intellectual colonialism in the West Indies. Throughout the 1960s, a growing 'West Indianisation' of the university could be observed in its staff, students and curriculum (Brereton 2011). The granting of a new Royal Charter in 1962 renamed the UCWI and formally established The University of the West Indies as an autonomous degree awarding institution, no longer dependent on the University of London (Cobley 2000), marking a significant milestone in the evolution of higher education in the English-speaking Caribbean. In 1963, the third UWI residential campus, the Cave Hill Campus, was established in Barbados and in 2008, the Open Campus was created to deliver online/blended courses and degree programmes, primarily to non-Campus territories in the Eastern Caribbean.

The University of the West Indies now has close to 50,000 students across its four campuses. Fully cognizant of the economic and social challenges facing the Caribbean and its evolving role as the regional university, the UWI's mandate under its new Strategic Plan 2017-2022 is to contribute to revitalizing Caribbean development through three focal areas: increasing access, strengthening alignment and enhancing agility. Within this strategic framework, research, innovation and the translation of knowledge and ideas to influence policy, practice and the development of new products will play a pivotal role, particularly as the Caribbean region seeks to strengthen economic diversification, enhance productivity and the ease of doing business, and find solutions for the many social challenges facing our Caribbean societies. As the regional UWI embraces a more entrepreneurial dispensation, however, the persistent poverty, inequality, crime and violence that continue to characterize Caribbean society, dictate that its developmental mission must be further energized and emboldened if the Caribbean is to move closer to achieving the SDGs.

For this reason, the principles underpinning knowledge brokerage models that prioritize relational activities between knowledge producers and knowledge users for increased capacity building and knowledge exchange are considered vital at this point in time. Not only will they enhance the university's ability to effectively connect its knowledge to the right users but in so doing, it will also serve to stimulate increased research demand and use, which in turn will generate greater economic and social benefits for Caribbean communities.

Knowledge brokerage lessons from the UWI-Trinidad and Tobago Research and Development Impact Fund (RDI Fund)

The transfer of evidence and knowledge gained from research to influence policy and practice is widely regarded as an important and valuable process (Thompson, Estabrooks, and Degner 2006; Cooper and Shewchuk 2015). However finding efficient and effective mechanisms to systematically facilitate this continues to be a perennial challenge in many spheres and has become a major policy driver around the world (Ward, House, and Hamer 2009a; Tetroe et al. 2008). The gap between research, policy and practice is well documented in the literature (Walker and Schandl 2017; Lomas 2007; Contandriopoulos et al. 2010). It is sometimes described as the 'know-do gap' (Lomas 2007), the 'missing link in the evidence to action chain' (Ward, House, and Hamer 2009a), the 'knowledge-to-action gap' (Graham et al. 2006) or the 'science-policy-practice gap' (Karner et al. 2011).

Many universities, even in the developed countries, have been grappling with the challenge of how to bridge the research-policy-practice gap. It is now common knowledge that simply producing relevant knowledge does not mean that it will be processed by potential beneficiaries or influence policy, practice, attitude and behaviors in any visible or tangible way. Knowledge brokerage has been identified as one tool for improving the use of research outputs in ways that can be directly beneficial to the various stakeholder communities served by the university, including the public and private sectors, civil society and multilateral development partners. It is also acknowledged that knowledge brokerage can be a useful tool for shaping research agendas as it helps to clearly identify areas which call for further inquiry and investigation, which can be jointly pursued with research partners that have a vested interest in the area and a commitment to using the resulting outputs.

With a view to enhancing the relevance and impact of the university's research agenda, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus established The UWI-Trinidad and Tobago Research and Development Impact Fund (RDI Fund) in 2012. Funded by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Campus sought to establish an instrument that could serve to "infuse a philosophy of knowledge mobilization in the service of development" among researchers on the Campus. The creation of the RDI Fund was also a means of focusing the Campus' research agenda on "addressing the most pressing development needs of the country in a strategic and targeted way" by providing an incentive for researchers to "plan for impact" in the design and implementation of their research (RDIFund 2015).

The RDI Fund supported an impact-oriented, multi-disciplinary research agenda, seeking to address the issue of 'siloization' which often impedes the full application of university research to complex and inter-connected development problems. Cognizant of the 'pull side' of the know-do gap, the RDI Fund sought to foster a greater appreciation amongst stakeholders and potential beneficiaries of the value and potential impact of research, innovation and knowledge transfer. Success in these areas was considered critical to strengthening the synergy between scholarship and development impact and producing research in a way that will bring about transformational change and development impact in the wider society (RDIFund 2015).

By establishing this new funding modality, the RDI Fund sought to build a critical mass of researchers that employed 'an impact approach', encouraging project teams to actively engage with their stakeholders and potential beneficiaries at all stages of the project from ideation through implementation, to work in multi-disciplinary teams, and build long-term partnerships and relationships, which could be leveraged long after the projects are completed to further expand research use and translation opportunities. This approach emphasizes the centrality of knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange to the action-research process and to facilitate greater societal impact of research. It also acknowledges that there are multiple ways to achieve this, which is exemplified in the myriad ways employed by the different RDI Fund projects funded to seek to optimize knowledge exchange and research impact.

Based on the experience of the RDI Fund, the projects that embraced knowledge brokerage as one of their key strategies were most effective in reducing the time lag for knowledge use, ensuring that the insights gained from research were transferred to beneficiaries and achieving the sustainability of project outcomes as well as a greater measurable overall impact. Projects which invested less in knowledge brokerage activities, particularly in the more intensive engagement strategies such as ongoing stakeholder engagement, collaboration and capacity building were not as successful.

By placing emphasis on knowledge transfer, stakeholder engagement and development impact, the RDI Fund encourages researchers to strategize for impact from the inception of their projects as opposed to waiting until the end of the project and hoping that impact would automatically appear. This strategic approach involves the identification of a 'pathway to impact' (informed by the Economic and Social Research Council's impact toolkit and theory of change methodology) leading from research activities to outputs to outcomes to impacts. In this way, project teams are incentivized to be more receptive and flexible in designing research projects that are responsive to the needs of their respective stakeholder communities and are shaped by the policy and practice needs and challenges of potential beneficiaries (RDIFund 2016).

Based on the RDI Fund's experience, project teams who proactively dedicate time and resources to developing, updating and utilizing a stakeholder engagement plan, in collaboration with their project participants and beneficiaries are most successful in realizing lasting and measurable impact at the end of their projects. The Fund also places great importance on the translation and dissemination of research findings to strategic groups as effective communication and greater awareness of the relevance of the research increase opportunities for the transmission and utilization of the knowledge. By utilizing these strategies, RDI Fund projects are able to contribute to the localization, implementation and monitoring of the SDGs by generating indigenous knowledge and context-specific data sets.

As countries explore ways of strengthening the means of implementation for the 2030 development agenda, useful lessons can be extrapolated from the experience of the RDI Fund projects with implementing specific strategies for increased knowledge transfer and knowledge brokerage.

The Cocoa Research Project--A Caribbean knowledge brokerage case study

Project description

In this section of the article, we examine one RDI Fund project which embraced knowledge brokerage as one of its main knowledge transfer strategies and dedicated significant time and resources to this activity. The project entitled "Leveraging the International Cocoa Gene Bank to Improve Competitiveness of the Cocoa Sector in the Caribbean using Modern Genomics" was funded in the first cohort of RDI Fund grantees in 2012. The project team was based at the Cocoa Research Centre (CRC), at the time a new research Centre of the UWI St. Augustine Campus. This Centre was expected to become fully self-sufficient (financially) and sought to use this project as a platform for (re)establishing The UWI as a global leader in cocoa research and a first port of call for entities along the cocoa value chain locally, regionally and internationally. It has done this by leveraging its prime access as custodian to the International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad, regarded as the most genetically diverse and accessible cocoa collection in the world with over 2200 varieties of cocoa (Butler and Umaharan 2004).

The primary objective of this project was "to improve the productivity and quality of cocoa through the development of genetic markers and agronomic strategies to improve the competitiveness of the cocoa industry." The project sought to do this by stimulating scientific enquiry in the functional research groups of the Centre: Conservation, Genomics, Pathology, Quality, Agronomy, Form and Function, and Value Addition. Through this project, the CRC positioned itself strategically as a resource to all those involved in the cocoa value chain locally and regionally in order to exploit the economic opportunity represented by forecasted increases in demand for fine-flavour cocoa products globally, particularly among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). It also saw an opportunity for research on improving cocoa yield following the drastic reduction in local cocoa production, yield and profitability over the last century in spite of the fact that the region's cocoa industry attracts a premium for its fine-flavour cocoa.

The project therefore addressed critical research and development (R&D) issues which would need to be overcome in order to improve the competitiveness of the cocoa industry in Trinidad and Tobago. This is aligned with the country's national growth strategy for the industry as well as the national development strategy Vision 2030 and the draft national economic diversification strategy and roadmap. The project addressed both demand side and supply side challenges, leveraging R&D to find solutions for increasing productivity and profitability, improving quality and reducing the cost of production. Some of the specific areas it was felt could be targeted using a genomic R&D approach included improving yield, increasing tolerance to disease and other stressors, improving market access by identification of low cadmium uptake accessions and improving market segmentation by exploiting niche quality and development of new products through identification of high nutraceutical content accessions and the development of chocolate health products, all by exploiting insights gained into the genetic diversity of the gene bank collection.

Knowledge brokerage strategies employed by the Cocoa Research Centre

The CRC embraced several strategies borrowing from all three knowledge brokerage models identified earlier. These strategies included information dissemination using various traditional and social media instruments, consultancy, matchmaking, stakeholder engagement, network development, research collaboration, capacity building and commercialization.

Knowledge management strategies

These strategies focused on dissemination and translation using ICT and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, and websites). To aid research translation, in addition to the prolific publication of the expected peer-reviewed academic journal articles, the project team produced content for a range of knowledge products including articles in national and regional newspapers, electronic blogs, and social media posts. The team also participated in television and radio interviews, and hosted and participated in research expos, knowledge fairs, food festivals and business/trade fora--including UWI Research Expo and CRC's annual World Cocoa and Chocolate Day Expo, UNDP/GEF's Knowledge Fair and the CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum--and a range of workshops, symposia, seminars, conferences, invited talks, etc. The CRC also cultivated research demand by transforming current policy and practice issues into research questions developed in collaboration with strategic partners and leading to consultancies, sponsored research and new requests for technical and advisory services.

Linkage and exchange strategies

These strategies focused on developing research partnerships and collaborations with local, regional and international partners in academia, policy, industry and NGOs including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), Lindt, Stanford University, University of Hamburg, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT), the European Cocoa Association/the Association of Chocolate, Biscuits and Confectionery (ECA/CAOBISCO), Federation of Cocoa Commerce (FCC), Lutheran Relief, Swiss Contact, and Catholic Relief Services. The project team was also able to secure sponsored research grants from the EU/ACP, Mars, Mondelez, and World Cocoa Foundation, as well as consultancies with several farmers groups and cooperatives. The CRC works closely with the Cocoa Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago, a strategic relationship that has helped ensure that the development of the cocoa sector remains a priority for the economic diversification strategy of Trinidad and Tobago.

The CRC has also played an instrumental role in the creation of new networks such as: The Partnership in Conservation (a network of 57 farmers representing all the cocoa producing regions of Trinidad and Tobago), the Chocolate Guild (a network of chocolatiers, bakers and chefs who use local cocoa in their product development), CocoaNext (a network of regional cocoa stakeholders--nationals, NGOs and other groupings), Cacaonet (a global body committed to the conservation of cacao genetic resources), and the Caribbean Cocoa Breeders Network. The CRC is also represented in the Cocoa Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago and has cultivated a close ongoing working relationship with the research division of the Ministry of Agriculture. This connectivity has allowed the CRC to cultivate strong relations with decision makers and actors in a range of organizations and to be present in discussions that lead to new opportunities and collaborations locally regionally and internationally.

Capacity building strategies

Numerous outreach, teaching and training activities were organized by the CRC, which were geared towards clients at multiple points along the value chain locally, in the Caribbean region as well as in Latin America and also internationally. These capacity building workshops have focused on chocolate making, sensory training, quality management, genetic improvement of cacao planting material, cocoa disease management and improving post-harvest processing, graduate student training, service provision in the areas of DNA fingerprinting, quality assessment, certification, and branding support.

Special mention must be made of the project team members themselves, particularly the team leader Pathmanathan Umaharan together with Daren Sukhu, Lambert Motilal and several others, all of whom embraced their role as individual knowledge brokers in addition to their primary role as scientists, researchers, lecturers, and lab technicians. It is noteworthy that the team has managed to effectively put into practice knowledge brokering strategies without dedicated staff or resources for knowledge brokerage activities. Faced with human resource and financial constraints as a small research Centre seeking to maximize the partnerships, recognition and impact from this RDI Fund project, the CRC effectively mainstreamed knowledge brokerage into its operations and project activities by integrating knowledge management, linkage and exchange, and capacity building initiatives into all stages of project execution.

Impact of knowledge brokerage activities

Through the activities of this project, the CRC has been able to attract much needed capital through sponsored research grants, build numerous partnerships with local, regional and international partners, establish new networks locally, regionally and internationally as well as implant itself in the value chain. Farms have been rehabilitated, more confectioners are using cocoa and creating niche value-added products, and more policy makers are engaging with the Centre, moving from science push to policy pull. Notably, the Centre is also attracting a lot of global attention as many more international entities--commercial, developmental, multilateral and NGOs--are actively seeking out the CRC to establish partnerships, collaborate and or provide services.

The greatest success to date has been the raising of the profile of the entire cocoa industry within recent years, such that it has now been earmarked as a priority area in support of national economic diversification plans. The CRC has been invited to work with the relevant policy makers, including the Cocoa Development Company and the Economic Advisory Development Board (EADB) to develop a country strategy for the industry; the government has also committed to supporting the International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre (IFCIC) through its Public Sector Investment Programme. The IFCIC will be a one-of-a-kind innovation centre for cocoa in the Caribbean and will bring together in one physical space a modern cocoa orchard, a fine chocolate factory, teaching theatres, incubators, a restaurant, labs and a live cocoa museum. In addition to government support, it has attracted funding from the EU under the ACP Science and Technology Programme and also brings together a range of collaborators including the Cocoa Industry Board of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum and Newer Worlds (a management consulting firm based in the UK).

Through its brokerage activities, the CRC team was able to gain some important insights including the high demand for training from new farmers, an increasing demand for assistance in improving farm profitability from existing farmers and the identification of an emerging cadre of enthusiastic chocolatiers who want to improve their skills and marketability particularly through the development of value-added and niche products. The team also found that these activities not only helped to streamline the research project but facilitated data collection and analysis, thus enabling a more astute selection of research partners, aligning the research agenda more closely to the needs of their stakeholders and making their work more attractive for external hunders.

Consequently, a number of new projects have been developed leveraging the outcomes of the projects as well as the relationships, partnerships and collaborations established during its implementation, attracting additional research funds, as well as funding for developmental projects and outreach activities. As a result, in addition to their successful academic outcomes, including the publication of 16 refereed articles, three completed theses (and three ongoing), five book chapters, and 20 international and nine local conference presentations, the project has attracted approximately TT$24M in counterpart funding, TT$18.3M in follow-on funding, and more than USD$40K income generated from requested services, generating valuable foreign exchange.

Insights from the CRC case

The CRC's experience with knowledge brokerage demonstrates the value and tangible benefits that can be derived from a deliberate strategy to go beyond the traditional role of knowledge producer to that of knowledge broker. Through the project's activities, the CRC was able to establish itself as an effective and credible intermediary, bringing together researchers, business, farmers, processors, confectioners, policy makers, multinational corporations, multilateral development partners and others all along the value chain. The knowledge brokerage tactics employed, enabled the CRC to foster and strengthen relationships, partnerships and networks among all knowledge producers and users which, once nurtured, would serve as conduits for further developments in this area and can only aid efforts to make the cocoa industry a transformative economic vehicle in the country and the region.

Based on the effectiveness of its knowledge brokerage, the CRC has also been able to widen the scope and reach of its research agenda, becoming even more embedded in the value chain attracting significant counterpart funding to support further R&D in the areas of cadmium bioaccumulation, genome sequencing, improving marketing, production and processing, as well as the establishment of an International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre which will provide training and apprenticeships on all aspects of the value chain, serve as a pilot demonstration facility for showcasing innovations and best practices, and provide a suite of technological and business services including traceability studies, certification, quality management, DNA fingerprinting and incubation. The CRC has also been able to generate additional income providing certification, post-harvest support, sensory analysis, cadmium mitigation, chocolate making support, DNA fingerprinting, breeding support and start-up support to clients throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The authors view this RDI Fund case as an example of how knowledge brokerage can help to strengthen development effectiveness and impact by better aligning research with the needs of stakeholders and deepening linkages to policy (e.g. cocoa industry development and economic diversification), increasing research demand, translation and capacity building for a range of entities along the value chain, particularly the farmers, processors and value-added producers. Thus, in addition to achieving academic impact by publishing its research in scientific journals (which the CRC still continues to do prolifically), the CRC places specific emphasis on facilitating societal impact through knowledge brokerage and the transfer of knowledge to the relevant stakeholder communities and communities of practice, in a timely and effective manner.

Challenges for effective knowledge brokerage in the Caribbean

Knowledge dissemination is a necessary but insufficient component of research impact. Passive dissemination has been found to be ineffective in getting research to influence policy and practice (Grimshaw et al. 2006). Even active dissemination alone as a knowledge transfer strategy has been found to be inadequate for successful transfer of knowledge into practice, although use of knowledge brokers to support active dissemination has been found to significantly increase intent to make use of the knowledge disseminated but not necessarily actual use (Amsallem et al. 2007; Armstrong et al. 2007). Involving potential beneficiaries in the research process has been found to be the best predictor of use of knowledge generated (Lomas 2007). Moreover, the earlier the beneficiaries are engaged the better (Conklin et al. 2008; Greenhalgh et al. 2004) and one-to-one encounters have been found to be the most efficient mechanism for transferring research (Lomas 2007). The use of relational strategies such as network development, partnerships and collaborative research to enhance successful knowledge exchange (Greenhalgh et al. 2004) have been found to be particularly effective.

In Caribbean SIDS, there is a range of contextual (political, social and cultural) factors that impinge on the research process, ultimately affecting research demand, research supply, research use and research translation. There is a need to further strengthen policies, institutions and funding arrangements to develop greater linkage mechanisms between government, academia, industry and development agencies that will serve to bridge programmatic and operational divides between these actors and to support a thriving research ecosystem. Altbach et al. (2011) explain that the main dimensions of the ecosystem for tertiary institutions comprise the macro environment, that is to say, the political and economic situation of a country (including its rule of law, enforcement of basic freedoms, governance, funding, academic freedom and safety) as well as leadership at the national level (referring to the strategic vision for the future and the capacity to implement reforms). Fostering an enabling environment for research will, in turn, help to treat with the cultural shifts to increase research demand, research use and research uptake.

The experience of RDI Fund researchers as they pursued stakeholder engagement strategies during project formulation and execution, has highlighted a range of issues that need to be taken into account and mitigated against when engaging in knowledge brokerage. These include the lack of trust by communities in researchers and in the university; misconceptions of the roles of different players in the knowledge transfer process; understanding the difference between research, knowledge creation and policy formulation; ignorance of the national policy making process; lack of data; the tendency to value foreign expertise while regarding local expertise as sub-standard or lacking credibility; highly entrenched silos both within the university and in the public sector; ineffective communication flows; the perverse effects of politics and national election cycles; under-developed networks between government, academia, private sector and civil society; insufficient alignment between the goals of knowledge brokerage and the reward and recognition system in Caribbean universities; insufficient 'user pull' on the demand side and lack of widespread capacity for data analysis; inadequate funding for knowledge brokerage activities; low priority given and low value ascribed to incorporating research and data into the decision making process; and the lack of awareness of successful models in the region.

An increased emphasis on knowledge brokerage and the institutionalization of knowledge brokerage practices in the university's research mission can be useful to address these challenges since most are related to the human relations and human interaction in knowledge transfer processes. Knowledge brokerage focuses on these processes explicitly and will foster greater social embeddedness of university research, which is a critical success factor for achieving societal impact. Knowledge brokerage, therefore, should not be treated as an 'add-on' but rather a core part of the university's strategic alignment with public sector, industry and development partners. By extension, this would entail the resourcing of supporting mechanisms such as knowledge brokerage policies, funding for dedicated knowledge brokerage staff and activities, allocation of time for knowledge brokerage activities, recognition of knowledge brokerage initiatives in university assessment and promotion criteria, knowledge brokerage mentorship and skills training for researchers to cultivate the requisite skill sets to successfully carry out knowledge brokerage activities.

Recommendations for strengthening knowledge brokerage in the Caribbean

As highlighted earlier, linking knowledge producers and users during the initial stages of a research project has facilitated the successful uptake of research into policy and practice. What is necessary in order to achieve a critical mass as well as sustained societal impact of university research is the nurturing of an enabling research ecosystem that supports and rewards knowledge brokerage as well as the institutionalizing of knowledge brokerage practices for consistency and sustainability. A supportive external environment, one where collaboration is encouraged, sufficient resources are provided and processes are in place to identify and capture knowledge would enable research, research collaborations and research outcomes to flourish. Investing the resources required to cultivate robust, multi-directional, long-term relationships between knowledge users and producers, supported by good knowledge management systems is therefore critical.

Providing training and ongoing professional development to develop the right set of skills for the diverse range of stakeholders would be necessary (Phipps et al. 2017), keeping in mind that the effectiveness and success of knowledge brokerage relies on how the process is organized, contextual factors as well as the actors engaged in the process and their skills (Karner et al. 2011). Adjusting the project funding model through negotiations with donors and development partners is vital to be able to set aside funds for knowledge brokerage, particularly at the end of research projects since this is the stage in project execution when projects have the most knowledge to transfer. Therefore, donors should consider 'end-loading' the project to be able to provide budget line items to support knowledge transfer and knowledge brokerage functions, thereby providing significant levels of tiered funding to maximize the potential societal impact of a project (as opposed to a one-time payment at the beginning or middle of the project, which is in conflict with the need to maintain long-term relationships to achieve research utilization and impact (Lightowler and Knight 2013)). This would also entail a re-education of donors who tend to want to see higher percentages of project funds disbursed in the early stages of project execution.

Institutionalizing knowledge brokerage in university research operations will help to ensure sustainability. This is the opposite of what typically applies in universities where knowledge brokers tend to be project-based with fixed term contracts, lack of career progression opportunities and little or no support for professional development. This can have an impact on employee morale, resource allocation and priority placed on brokering. Organizations, therefore, will need to put knowledge management systems in place to ensure that the lessons learnt and the relationships developed by investments in knowledge brokerage are not lost once projects are completed or knowledge brokers move on. Universities should also put specific incentives in place (funding, staff, training, mentorship, assessment points for knowledge brokerage, etc.) to encourage researchers to employ knowledge brokerage practices more systematically. This would help with building a new type of research culture that eventually pervades the entire organization and will be reflected in the way in which the university engages its stakeholders and at the same time, is perceived by its stakeholder communities.

Formalizing partnerships using Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) or Letters of Intent (LOIs) is important to create formalized working groups or communities of practice with the necessary long-term support so that they will endure (Lightowler and Knight 2013). Being intentional versus transactional with stakeholders is key to building mutually beneficial long-term relationships as opposed to simply extracting data or communicating scientific results (more typically associated with onedirectional knowledge transfer--the 'science push' approach).

In the Caribbean, instituting specific traditions, hosting events and creating the necessary spaces for informal interactions among research partners, beneficiaries and development partners will help create opportunities for linkage and exchange to occur in more frequent and more natural ways. Cultural shifts to embrace more purpose-driven social interaction (mixers, socials, virtual communities of practice, etc.) and greater research-informed discussions and decision making will help to bring research producers and users closer together and facilitate a more practical understanding of each other's work culture and environment so that research can more effectively lead to changes in policy and practice.


The current economic, environmental and social challenges facing Caribbean societies warrant a new approach to development policy formulation and implementation. The 2030 development agenda presents a multidimensional and inter-sectoral framework for tackling global development issues with the aim of putting countries on a more sustainable path to progress by maintaining a balance between people, planet and prosperity. In considering the overarching question of means of implementation of the SDG agenda in the Caribbean, the authors of this article believe that knowledge brokerage is critical to strengthening the contribution of research and knowledge to shaping policies and programmes that will ultimately help to achieve agreed development outcomes and improve the quality of life of Caribbean citizens.

While some may argue that knowledge brokerage occurs naturally through information sharing and knowledge dissemination, the fact remains that passive dissemination fails to ignite the full potential of knowledge brokerage and its ability to serve as a catalyst for development transformation and the host of related tangible and intangible benefits arising from stronger partnerships, increased funding, the cross-fertilization of ideas and building of trust, all of which in turn, facilitate enhanced societal impact of research. If the regional UWI is to fulfil its mandate as a developmental university with an even stronger emphasis on advocacy and social activism in its quest to revitalize Caribbean development, the knowledge brokerage dimension of the research mission needs to be strengthened. The RDI Fund project on cocoa development was outlined as a Caribbean case that demonstrated some of the key mechanisms through which knowledge brokerage was effectively put into practice. While the Caribbean context presents unique challenges to knowledge brokerage and research impact, these are not insurmountable and can be addressed through an increased focus on engagement and knowledge exchange. The resulting increased stakeholder engagement, research application, knowledge mobilization and uptake will, undoubtedly, better position the university to enhance its brokerage role and leverage partnerships and resources to advance the implementation of the SDGs in the Caribbean.


The authors wish to acknowledge, with gratitude, the diligent research assistance provided by Miriam Self in the preparation of this paper.


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Title Annotation:Sustainable Development Goals
Author:Richards-Kennedy, Stacy; S.t Brice, Lois
Publication:Social and Economic Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:50CAR
Date:Dec 1, 2018
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