Universities are obliged to contribute to finding solutions for social challenges. Knowledge and technology transfer have become keywords in both the policy „Europe 2020“ and the Austrian federal government’s policy for research, technology and innovation. These keywords render the benefits of science for society visible. The social sciences and humanities (SSH) particularly contribute to the goal of finding solutions for social problems, because they consider the actuality and relevance of social issues and then pass the research results on to society. Therefore, the SSH enable social innovations and support the region, in which the research takes place. In order to strengthen the awareness for the benefits of cooperation between science and society, the research project „Wissenstransfer in den Geistes-, Sozial- und Kulturwissenschaften stärken“ aims at finding out how the transfer of knowledge between the SSH and society can be improved.
In the beginning of the project, different types of knowledge transfer that are already being practiced were assessed. For that purpose, qualitative expert-interviews were conducted and evaluated. The interviews focused on knowledge transfer from different departments and individual scientists to society outside the university (e.g. to associations and the civil society within the region, but also on a transregional level) and to practitioners in the field. Thereby, the extent to which the bilateral exchange increases synergies has been taken into account. Furthermore, the question of how far the region, professional practice or civil society prompt the SSH to ask new questions and find new solutions has been researched. Best-practice examples have been collected and will be presented in a manual alongside strategies for the promotion of social innovations.
During the further course of the project, a mixed-methods study was conceptualized and was realized at all WTZ-locations. Alongside motivators and obstacles of knowledge transfer, the attitude of scientists towards knowledge transfer was explored and implicit and explicit sub-components were investigated.
The project teams of the two involved universities, the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt and the University of Graz, initiated a bottom-up process, by which specific suggestions for an efficient and preferably non-bureaucratic inquiry of knowledge transfer in the SSH were created. A proposition for possible indicators that can depict different aspects of knowledge transfer in the SSH and therefore, would also raise the awareness for the topic, was created.
A special research focus is the group of themes around the buzzwords gender and empowerment. In this field of study and action, the mutual exchange between universities and the civil society goes back to the founding of feminist sciences itself. One of the major concerns back then was the orientation of scientific research towards the realities of life, particularly of women’s* lives. This matter of interest still plays an important part in today’s gender studies. In the context of the project, different points of view on knowledge transfer in the field of ‘gender & empowerment’ are being collected. While doing so, the effects of discriminating structures are being taken into consideration. Collecting and developing various possibilities of encouraging knowledge transfer in this filed is one particular research interest.
The entire research process is aligned to current international discourses in the field. Each step of the project is realized in close cooperation with the University of Graz and other projects of the WTZ. An interdisciplinary working team supervises and discusses the procedure. Furthermore, the scientific findings are regularly presented, discussed and reflected in research updates and presentations.
Foto: © freshidea – Fotolia
Written by: Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, MH