Researcher explores knowledge-action link

Researcher Delia Catacutan speaking at the seminar "Linking Knowledge with Action: Meeting NRM Challenges through SANREM."

Researcher Delia Catacutan speaking at the seminar “Linking Knowledge with Action: Meeting NRM Challenges through SANREM.”

Linking research findings to practices that help communities and the environment is a perennial challenge. Scholars may be viewed skeptically by policymakers and vice versa, says Researcher Delia Catacutan, a social scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre in the Philippines and Giorgio Ruffolo Fellow in Sustainability Science at Harvard University. Catacutan, also an adjunct associate professor at University of the Philippines-Los Baños, has been exploring effective ways of linking knowledge with action. She gave an overview of her findings Feb. 3 in a seminar, “Linking Knowledge with Action: Meeting NRM Challenges through SANREM.”

Her presentation was co-sponsored by Virginia Tech’s WID program.The seminar focused on Catacutan’s work in the Philippines and Vietnam investigating strategies used by researchers to link their results to policy changes and wise stewardship of resources. She pointed out three barriers between knowledge and action: Public policy decisions may not be informed by the best available science. Research is often driven by the scientist’s curiosity rather than the community’s needs. And scientists may not have useful answers at the right time for policymakers.

Before new knowledge can be applied, it must be trusted, Catacutan said. Trust has three criteria: Credibility — is it true? Salience — is it relevant? Legitimacy — is it unbiased, respectful, accountable? Based on her work with SANREM’s LTRA-5, which is studying agroforestry and sustainable vegetable production in Southeast Asia, she described several successful strategies. The first is to involve farmers in all phases of a project: choosing crops to be tested, planting those varieties in home gardens, evaluating their performance in field tests.

LTRA-5 also is training farmers in new technologies, offering workshops for local scientists, and developing an array of practical guides and manuals.Attitudes are important, she said. To win a community’s trust, make courtesy calls and be respectful – do not treat farmers as lowly people. And make the technology accessible by including information on how to apply it. Click to see Catacutan’s presentation on the Knowledge to Action (K2A) Link (Powerpoint (PPSX)).