Whoever asks for a definition of the phrase “knowledge transfer” will receive various answers. This is due to the fact that knowledge transfer is a comprehensive field. Hence, the individual concept of knowledge transfer can include varying components. However, scientific research has mainly focused on issues regarding exploitation; that is patents, university spin-offs, and collaborations between academia and industry or the economy. The investigation of other aspects of knowledge transfer, such as knowledge communication or cooperation with a focus on sociopolitical issues, is scarce.

Furthermore, researchers’ attitudes toward knowledge transfer have hardly been explored. To close this research gap, a study was designed at the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt. In cooperation with all the knowledge transfer centers (WTZ-Süd, WTZ-Ost and WTZ-West), the questionnaires were distributed at each Austrian university in 2016 and 2017. The study aimed at answering the following research questions:

  • Which components, activities, and achievements are associated with the field of academic knowledge transfer?
  • Which factors are motivating researchers to engage in knowledge transfer activities?
  • Which obstacles are hindering an engagement in knowledge transfer?
  • Which perceptions of and attitudes toward knowledge transfer can be identified?


Another aim was to identify differences between the social sciences and humanities (SSH) and other scientific disciplines.

The final sample consisted of 283 researchers from 18 different Austrian universities. About three quarters of the study participants were habilitated or possessed a PhD degree at the time the study was conducted. Most of the researchers described the SSH as their main field of investigation. About 25% were working in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The findings were published in two open-access articles:

    • The first article focuses on the qualitative research question. The participants were asked to give a definition of the phrase ‘(university) knowledge transfer’ or to name keywords that are associated with the issue. The results were clustered and analyzed using the Qualitative Content Analysis. Differences between the SSH and other scientific disciplines were analyzed using t-tests.
    • The second article zooms in on the quantitative results that were obtained. In the first step, different components, activities, achievements, and issues that were explicitly associated with knowledge transfer were examined. In a second step, motivators and obstacles for an engagement in knowledge transfer were investigated. The final part of the study dealt with researchers’ attitudes toward academic knowledge transfer. In particular, personal points of view as well as the significance of knowledge transfer within the scientific community and the society were explored. For the analysis of differences between the SSH and other scientific disciplines, chi-square tests of independence and t-tests were used.


Link to the first article

(Hayden, M. C., Petrova, M. K., & Wutti, D. (2018). Direct Associations of the Terminology of Knowledge Transfer – Differences Between the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and Other Scientific Disciplines. Trames: A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, 22(3), 239–256. https://doi.org/10.3176/tr.2018.3.02)

Link to the second article

(Hayden, M. C., Weiß, M., Pechriggl, A., & Wutti, D. (2018). Insights Into University Knowledge Transfer in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and Other Scientific Disciplines – More Similarities Than Differences. Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics, 3, 32. https://doi.org/10.3389/frma.2018.00032)

Picture: © freshidea – Fotolia

Written by: Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, MH
on: 23/10/2018