Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - English

Knowledge Exchange

Knowledge transfer or the need to generate "societal impact" is one of the most strongly pushed science policy goals. The products and findings of scientific work should demonstrate their added value for society.

However, the potential for knowledge transfer can vary greatly depending on the specific object of knowledge. The possible addressees of knowledge transfer processes also vary depending on the object of knowledge. This diversity in the sciences can be approached by looking at the differences between the disciplines. In the Berlin Science Survey, scientists were asked to assess the areas outside science for which the knowledge they produce is relevant. This reveals – in part expected – differences between the subject groups, but also findings on the topic of knowledge transfer across these boundaries (see Figure 13).


Figure 13 Relevance of own research for other areas, by subject groups


Humanities scholars emphasize the importance of their research for art and culture as well as for the media. In contrast, only a few humanities scholars believe their research is relevant for the economy. The knowledge products of social scientists are primarily considered significant for politics and civil society actors.

In the life sciences (including medicine), the relevance for the group of practitioners predominates. This includes medical professionals, technicians, and teachers. It should be noted that the term "practitioners" can focus on different groups of people depending on the subject group.

Natural scientists, like engineers, most frequently see opportunities for utilization in the economy, followed closely by the group of citizens in the natural sciences.

It remains to be noted that the relevance of one's own research for various non-scientific areas of society varies depending on the subject group, but is rated quite highly overall. Across all subject groups, only a few respondents state that their research is not relevant to any of the areas (12.7%, not shown). Only among natural scientists is the proportion somewhat higher, at 26%, which is probably due to a stronger orientation toward basic research.

Since the majority of respondents see the relevance of their own research for various areas of society, the question then arises as to the extent to which there is already an exchange with these groups.

Just under one-third of respondents said they were in contact with the art/culture and politics sectors and with citizens (see Figure 14). For the other social groups, the proportion of reported exchanges is even higher. Scientists are most frequently in contact with practitioners, with 61.6% of the researchers surveyed reporting such contacts.


Figure 14 Exchange with other groups / areas


In conclusion, it can be stated that, on the one hand, dialogue does not take place everywhere where research is considered relevant for certain areas. On the other hand, we also are far from "research in the ivory tower," as exchange with relevant interest groups is relatively widespread.