Unknown Terrain? Knowledge Transfer in the Social and Spatial Sciences


How are research results from the Social and Spatial Sciences transferred to user groups outside of the scientific communities? What are the key factors supporting the relevance of basic research for users in politics, private companies, administrations and educational institutions? What are the factors for success or obstacles to knowledge transfer? What are the boundaries for professionalizing knowledge transfer? How are transfer processes affected by particular disciplinary environments?

These questions are addressed by the collaborative research project together with the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL Leipzig). While several studies analyse knowledge and technology transfer processes in natural and engineering sciences, respective research in the fields of Social and Spatial Sciences is below par. It is widely acknowledged that researchers in the Social and Spatial Sciences engage in various consulting activities for politics and society. Mostly individual in nature, consulting services are neither recognized in the public discussion nor in the discourses of the scientific communities. Against this backdrop, the project aims at reflecting on current practices of knowledge transfer in these two disciplines as well as at developing practical solutions and guidance, how to best apply results from the Social and Spatial Sciences.  
The potential for transfer will be studied by identifying and analyzing good-practice examples in these two disciplines. Moreover, a focus will be set on disciplinary and professional norms and standards of scientists. Not least, we will develop a framework of guidelines in order to stimulate the idea of knowledge transfer at an early stage, trying to strengthen this element within the existing disciplinary reputational systems.

In terms of methodology, the analysis is mainly based on expert interviews, focus groups and expert workshops.

Main content

Selected Publications

Froese, Anna/Mevissen, Natalie/Böttcher, Julia/Simon, Dagmar/Lentz, Sebastian/Knie, Andreas (2014): Wissenschaftliche Güte und gesellschaftliche Relevanz der Sozial- und Raumwissenschaften: ein spannungsreiches Verhältnis. Handreichung für Wissenschaft, Wissenschaftspolitik und Praxis. WZB Discussion Paper SP III 2014-602. Berlin: WZB.