Transfer and dialogue

Strengthening knowledge transfer between science, civil society, politics, and business through extensive communication and involvement of societal actors

What do we mean by this?

The transfer and exchange of knowledge between research organisations, science, civil society, politics, and business cuts across the following areas:

  • Science communication
  • Open access
  • Inclusion, dialogue, and involvement
  • Teaching of knowledge transfer and technology transfer, and supervision of student theses and scientific qualification works

Knowledge can be transferred in different forms, where we can make a distinction between the transfer of documented knowledge (for example, publications and licences), the transfer of personal knowledge, and the transfer of intellectual property.

Knowledge transfer is an important lever for making research results socially effective, i.e., for initiating developments, decision-making, or knowledge growth outside the scientific community. Likewise, getting the public involved opens up opportunities to create fresh impetus for new research. There are central programmes at the national and European level (e.g. Germany's High-Tech Strategy and the EU's Horizon 2020) that call for increased involvement of society in science and research processes. The research policy of the Pact for Research and Innovation III, for example, includes the aim of "strengthening exchange with industry and society".

Science communication includes the translation of research results into generally understandable language or into easily accessible, low-threshold formats. Research results and positions of science institutions can be communicated to the public through various media such as research museums, popular science publications, or Web 2.0 formats. Proactive knowledge transfer to politics can directly contribute to improving the political decision-making basis by providing specialist expertise, identifying essential future topics (research and technology trends), and providing research-based political advice.

Open access, meaning the free and long-term access to scientific results and scientific literature, increases the visibility of research results, creates broad accessibility, and thus promotes innovation activities. A distinction is made between Open Access Gold1 and Open Access Grün2. These two open access variants share the common purpose of making texts and objects freely available in digital form.

As early as 2003, all major German research institutions signed the "Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities", committing to making all published research results freely accessible on the Internet – for example in OA journals.

Active inclusion of society, open dialogue on new social and technological developments, and involvement of citizens in appropriate formats all lead to a better mutual understanding between science and society. In the process, interactions with society can not only increase the relevance of research, but also give rise to mutual learning processes and new scientific questions. Actor constellations and formats must be suitably chosen and the tasks and roles of the participants clearly defined depending on the topic and objective. For example, strategic dialogues on fundamental issues are on a different design level from participatory research processes.

Knowledge transfer and technology transfer promote the innovative capacity and economic development of sites and regions. In addition, international knowledge transfer is becoming more important, especially for developing countries and their economic development.

Essential channels for transfer to industry are cooperation in research and development contracts and joint projects, lectures, publications and databases, industrial property rights and licensing, company spin-offs by employees of research organisations, and personnel transfer.

By getting involved in teaching and supervision, non-university research organisations can create new opportunities by giving students access to current research questions and improving the supervision ratio. In addition, research organisations can offer educational programmes along the entire educational chain – from day care centres to schools and universities – as a way to spread enthusiasm for research throughout society.

How could a research organisation implement this?

  • Create institutionalised cooperation platforms, for example joint research training groups, doctoral committees, and junior research groups
  • Provide various communication formats such as websites, newsletters, videos, audio podcasts, exhibition formats, or research blogs to promote targeted communication to various groups
  • Introduce appropriate dialogue and participation formats for integrating and sharing knowledge with various social groups
  • Promote knowledge and technology transfer through the development of incentive systems and new business models, for example in spin-offs
  • Cooperate with educational institutions along the entire educational chain

1  First publication in recognised, reviewed open access journals.
2  Free simultaneous or delayed secondary publication in an institutional or specialist repository after a first publication that is not freely accessible.

Practical examples

Fraunhofer Open Access Strategy 2020

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft fully adheres to the principle of open access in the publication of research results, and has made a very specific commitment to this in its Open Access Strategy 2020.

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Open Science Strategy of the Helmholtz Association

The term Open Science refers to a cultural shift in scientific working methods and communication. Computer-supported work and digital communication enable a more effective and open exchange of information within science, and promote the transfer of results to society. Open access to scientific papers, research data, and scientific software – as unhindered by financial, technical, and legal barriers as possible – expands the transparency and opportunities for quality assurance of scientific work, increases the performance of science by improving the supply of information, and increases innovation based on scientific findings by facilitating the transfer of knowledge to business and society.

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Knowledge transfer as part of the Helmholtz Mission

It is a part of the Helmholtz Association's self-image to contribute to solving today's pressing questions and problems through top-class research. It is therefore essential that the scientific findings produced at the Helmholtz Centres reach the right target groups in society and enable them to make scientifically sound decisions. This creates a close dialogue with a wide range of social actors in politics, administration, business, civil society, education, and the media.

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Research Museums of the Leibniz Association

Research-based knowledge and technology transfer to politics, business, and society – as well as dialogue with them – plays an important conceptual role in many institutions, especially in the eight Leibniz Research Museums and the six Leibniz Economic Research Institutes.

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Further information

Hightech Strategy of the German Government
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European Union (2012): "Responsible Research and Innovation. Europe's ability to respond to societal challenges"
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Pact for Research and Innovation III
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Sustainability reporting

GRI indicators

  • G4-SO1