Centre for Rural Economy


Science in the Field: Understanding the Changing Role of Expertise in the Rural Economy

The exchange of knowledge is at the heart of both the knowledge-based economy and evidence-based policy making.  These factors influence the rural economy and land management as much as any part of society. As the countryside is undergoing rapid change and upheaval, the pressures on land managers to adapt means that they require more and more types of specialist knowledge to carry out their jobs and run their businesses. Traditionally, rural research has focussed on the transfer of technical knowledge in a one-way flow from experts to land managers (especially farmers). Little attention has been given to the active role of the field-level specialists who facilitate the knowledge exchange between researchers, policy makers and land managers. This project considered how these specialist advisers act as knowledge brokers. We examined three different groups of knowledge brokers involved in rural land management: applied ecologists, rural vets and surveyors/land agents. The research aimed to:

  1. Understand the training and experience that underpin the specialist knowledge of the advisers and how they and their professions adapt to scientific advances on the one hand and the changing rural economy on the other;
  2. Compare the approaches to knowledge exchange used by different field-based specialists;
  3. Explore how land managers relate to the different types of specialists and gauge the appropriateness of advice received.

By increasing understanding of these issues, the research will improve the ways in which research is communicated to land managers and also improve the flow of evidence between field-level specialists and policy makers.