Many factors can influence practitioner knowledge uptake and utilisation. The first blog in the series dealt with the individual characteristics of practitioners. This second blog discusses the characteristics of the knowledge source and how it influences knowledge uptake. The two most important factors are the credibility of the knowledge provider and its distance from the practitioner.
Credibility, reputation and social capital
The credibility of a knowledge source is a crucial factor that affects practitioners’ willingness to adopt and utilise new knowledge. If a knowledge source is recognised as authoritative and reliable, practitioners are more likely to trust and accept the knowledge it provides. Conversely, if a source lacks credibility or has a history of disseminating unreliable information, practitioners may be sceptical and less inclined to incorporate the knowledge into their practice.
Reputation refers to a knowledge source’s overall standing, recognition and esteem within its respective field or community. A knowledge source with a strong reputation has demonstrated consistent quality, reliability and impact over time. The reputation may be built through factors such as a history of influential research, recognised expertise and positive practitioner feedback.
Social capital combines tie strength (frequency of communication and interaction) and the trust between two entities sharing knowledge. Trust increases with the frequency of communication and interaction.
A recent study among South African wine industry winemakers revealed interesting results. The study participants perceived Stellenbosch University oenology researchers as the wine industry’s most trustworthy source of scientific winemaking knowledge. This is despite a low frequency of interaction with the researchers. The result is most likely because most winemakers, especially younger winemakers, studied Oenology and Viticulture at Stellenbosch University and experienced the oenology researchers’ expertise during their degree years.
The opposite result was obtained for suppliers of oenological products and services. Winemakers indicated a high frequency of interaction with suppliers, but a lower level of trust in the accuracy of the information being shared. However, winemakers did indicate that they have certain suppliers whose knowledge they trust immensely. They just don’t trust the scientific accuracy of all suppliers.
The low level of interaction with academics and the high level of interaction with suppliers can be explained by the characteristics of the knowledge offered by the two knowledge providers. This will be discussed in a follow-up blog.
Distance of the knowledge source
The ‘distance’ can be divided into geographical, organisational and distance from the knowledge base.
Geographical distance influences the time, difficulty and cost of communication and, thus, knowledge transfer and uptake. Face-to-face interactive knowledge exchange is usually preferred by practitioners and more effective for learning new things than unidirectional, more indirect communication. If a knowledge source is situated far from its intended audience, it can hinder effective knowledge exchange. Information communication technologies (ICTs), such as the internet, emails, social media and mobile phone applications can, to some extent, overcome geographical distance, but can never replace face-to-face interactions through human social networks. Fortunately, the South African wine industry knowledge network is predominantly situated in the Western Cape, with most producers and wineries within a three-hour drive from Cape Town.
Organisational distance, also known as cultural differences between knowledge producers (e.g., academia) and knowledge users (e.g., producers, viticulturists and winemakers), can significantly impact the process of knowledge transfer and uptake.
- Academics often use specialised jargon and technical language that may not be familiar or easily understood by practitioners. This language barrier can hinder effective knowledge transfer, as practitioners may struggle to grasp and apply the concepts in their practice. Academics also mainly communicate their research through scientific publications, conferences and proceedings, which differ from the preferred ways for practitioners to obtain new knowledge. Effective communication requires bridging this gap by translating complex academic concepts into practical, accessible language that practitioners can easily comprehend and relate to.
- Academia and practitioners often have different goals and priorities. Academia focuses on generating new knowledge, conducting research and advancing theoretical frameworks. In contrast, practitioners are primarily concerned with applying knowledge to solve practical problems and achieve tangible outcomes. This disparity in goals can result in a mismatch between the knowledge generated by academia and the needs of practitioners, making it challenging for practitioners to find relevant and applicable knowledge that directly addresses their concerns.
- Academia operates within a longer time frame, often characterised by rigorous research processes, peer review and publication cycles. On the other hand, practitioners often work within tight timelines and require immediate solutions to real-time problems.
- Academia often encourages exploration, experimentation and pushing boundaries to advance knowledge, even if it involves taking risks or challenging established practices. In contrast, practitioners are often more risk-averse, as their decisions and actions directly impact the well-being of individuals or organisations. This difference in risk tolerance can make practitioners cautious about adopting new knowledge that deviates from established practices, particularly if there is uncertainty about its potential outcomes or if the risks involved are perceived to outweigh the potential benefits.
- Academia strongly emphasises rigorous research methodologies, evidence-based practices and peer-reviewed publications. This validation process is essential for maintaining academic standards and credibility. However, practitioners often rely on diverse sources of knowledge, including their own experiences, practical wisdom and tacit knowledge gained through years of practice. This reliance on their own experiential knowledge may lead to scepticism or reluctance to accept academic knowledge that needs more practical validation or does not align with their values and beliefs.
Distance of the knowledge base refers to the degree to which knowledge exchange participants have similar knowledge. As a result of the formal training of viticulturists and winemakers, there is a smaller knowledge base distance between them and academia than, for instance, the general public who lacks the foundational knowledge gained through a four-year degree. Viticulturists and winemakers are therefore inclined to be interested in viticulture and oenology research, because of professional curiosity or the expectation that the results can be helpful to them. The knowledge base difference between suppliers/service providers/consultants and wine industry practitioners may be smaller since the former also possess ample practical knowledge from regular interaction with practitioners.
By understanding and catering to these factors, knowledge providers can enhance the impact and effectiveness of their knowledge dissemination efforts. Establishing mechanisms that bridge the gap between knowledge providers and practitioners is essential. Building relationships and fostering mutual understanding through dialogue and shared learning opportunities can contribute to more effective knowledge exchange and utilisation.
O’Kennedy, K., 2022. Wine scientists and winemakers as two communities: Bridging the gap through boundary-spanning activities. PhD thesis, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch. http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/125902.
For more information, contact Karien O’Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.