An Inter-professional Learning Network for the Land-Based Professions

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Agriculture Food and Rural Development


Field advisors play a key role in enhancing the skills and development of tens of thousands of farming and land management businesses, now a key imperative for government and industry. However, advisors themselves face complex and ever changing calls on their expertise and must keep their knowledge up to date. At the same time, research funders are heavily investing in major research programmes into land use challenges, including food security and mitigation of and adaptation to environmental change, but they lack effective means and models for research delivery and processes of knowledge transfer and exchange.

Through a series of knowledge exchange activities the Follow-on project will build a learning network between researchers and land-based professionals. The project will draw upon research findings from the ESRC funded 'Science in the Field' research project. Science in the Field considered three groups of specialist advisors - veterinarians, applied ecologists and land agents/surveyors - and their role as knowledge brokers between scientific research and land management. The research has shown how advisory services are facing a number of key problems:

(i) The advisory landscape is now characterised by a fragmented system of field advisers which poses problems of coordination and interprofessional working;

(ii) There has been a move away from state sponsored agricultural extension, but there remains a lack of a coherent model of knowledge transfer, particularly to inform the professional training and renewal of field advisers;

(iii) Research agendas have become disconnected from technical dissemination capacities, and vice versa. There is a lack of institutional linkage between research and professional development.

The Follow-on Project will aim to address these problems by enhancing the knowledge development and inter-professional learning of field advisors. More specifically, it will:

1. Learn from experiences of inter-professional working to identify the implications for training and professional development and the demand and scope for long term networks for knowledge exchange;

2. Identify opportunities for enhancing the knowledge renewal of advisers and test the prospects for giving greater recognition to on-the-job learning within formal training provision;

3. Highlight ways to improve knowledge exchange between the professions and research community, including systems of professional training and research decision making.

The project will involve a range of knowledge exchange activities, including learning workshops, an e-learning forum, testing of CPD materials and extensive dissemination of the implications of the project through publication of a Policy and Practice Note. It will closely involve, and be advised throughout, by stakeholders and field advisers from across the professions who have expressed strong support for the project.

Outcomes of the work will be improved linkages between the land-based professions and academic research communities and identification of effective approaches and techniques for knowledge exchange. Through improvements to advisor learning and training the project will lead to enhanced advice to farming and land management businesses.

Planned Impact

Through improvements to systems of advisor learning and training the project will lead to enhanced advice to support the economic, environmental and social contributions of farming and land management businesses. There will be many beneficiaries, including professional bodies and associations (e.g. Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors, Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management), advisory and skills organisations (such as the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group, the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service, Lantra and the Royal Agricultural Society of England), training providers (colleges, vet schools, universities), Government Departments and agencies (such as Defra and Natural England), and individual field advisers from the public, private and third sectors.

In summary, there are four key groups who will benefit both directly and indirectly from the Follow-on project:

1) Project partners and user panel members
The user partners will provide advice and guidance on the direction of the project. Some will take part in a user panel which will meet up to three times over the course of the project and help to facilitate the learning workshops. Others will provide advice to the project and play a strategic role in helping to disseminate outputs. The user panel will include professional and advisory bodies as well as individual field advisers from the three professions. The partners and user panel members stand to benefit from the project through new perspectives on skills and knowledge renewal and enhanced knowledge exchange with different professional groups as well as the research community.

2) Professional bodies, advisory organisations and field advisers
Aside from those involved as user partners, a range of professional bodies, associations, advisory and skills organisations, and advisers will be invited to participate in the learning workshops and e-learning forum. In re-thinking processes of knowledge renewal and developing new perspectives on inter-professional and on-the-job learning, they will be able to take these insights and communicate the outcomes from the project to their professions and broader systems of professional learning and development. The project will also build new inter-professional networks and strengthen links between professional and research communities to facilitate better knowledge exchange. Given that the links are currently variable at best, this is a significant benefit to be generated from the project. It is intended that the connections forged at the learning workshops and the e-learning forum will be maintained beyond the life of the project and this will be a specific matter for the project user panel to consider.

3) Training providers
For educationalists, the project will promote new training materials and generate recommendations for advisor training reform. For training providers who make a business out of running continuing professional development courses, the project will provide an arena in which to consider existing and future approaches to knowledge renewal. If a demand for training in the fields of on-the-job learning and inter-professional working is established, these training providers stand to benefit economically from developing new courses.

4) Farmers and land managers
The project has the potential to generate significant economic benefits for thousands of farmers and land managers by improving the quality of advice delivered to them. The learning workshops will connect the professional and research communities and facilitate improved knowledge exchange between the groups. This will help to ensure advice is grounded in the latest research and research is informed by what is happening in practice.
Description Building on the recommendations of the ESRC-funded Science in the Field project (2008-11), landbridge was set up as an experimental knowledge exchange network with an award from the ESRC's Knowledge Exchange Follow-on Fund in 2012. The network was designed to facilitate links between researchers and advisers to farming and land based businesses. A report detailing the Key Findings from this project was submitted in August 2014. Since this date, landbridge has continued to achieve impact in a number of key areas: 1. Raising the profile and status of the advisory professions in national policy and research initiatives: Landbridge has played a key role in raising the profile of the advisory professions in national policy, specifically the implementation of the UK Government's Agri-Tech Strategy. Following an invitation from the Agri-Tech Leadership Council, landbridge developed a series of recommendations on how the Strategy should engage with the advisory professions. These recommendations were developed into a policy and practice note, produced as part of a national series coordinated by the landbridge team for the Living with Environmental Change Partnership. Published in October 2014, 'Strengthening the links between Agri-Tech Strategy research and the farm advisory professions' was disseminated widely to key stakeholders including Defra and BIS, professional bodies and research councils and the consortia developing bids for future Centres for Agricultural Innovation. Landbridge has also received national recognition as a key dissemination platform for engagement with the advisory professions by a number of key research initiatives: • Landbridge will play a key role in Defra's Sustainable Intensification Platform (2014-17) and will promote wider debate and understanding of the platform's concepts and evidence to the advisory professions through a KE and communications strategy and two workshops. • Landbridge has also been incorporated into two consortia bids for Centres for Agricultural Innovation. As critical channels, the farm advisory professions are potentially important research and knowledge exchange partners in these Centres and landbridge offers a key role in facilitating knowledge exchange activity. • Landbridge was invited to sit on the stakeholder group of the BBSRC-HGCA funded black-grass resistance initiative to facilitate engagement and exchange between the advisory professions and researchers and other stakeholders involved in this 4-year programme. • Landbridge will also act in an advisory capacity on the ESRC Knowledge Exchange-funded Rufopoly Resource Kit project (awarded December 2014) helping to promote the project across the network and provide guidance on engagement with the advisory professions • Landbridge continues to act as a dissemination platform for promoting the activities and research of the Living with Environmental Change partners. 2. Improving knowledge exchange between research and industry: An industry-funded follow-on project, 'Linking Research and the Professions' (2014-2016) emerged from the relationships built up through the landbridge advisory group. Funded by the Agricultural Industries Confederation and the Home Grown Cereals Authority levy board, landbridge has been commissioned to help develop a workshop series in conjunction with these industrial partners exploring knowledge exchange in different agricultural sectors. This has enabled the application of the key lessons learned under the original landbridge project on knowledge exchange processes and allowed for further exploration of this in particular sectoral contexts. An interactive workshop was held in September 2014 'Building on a solid foundation: Improving knowledge exchange in arable farming'. This featured contributions from leading industry representatives and researchers and involved delegates mapping the knowledge exchange landscape in the arable sector, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the current system and developing priorities for how knowledge exchange mechanisms and strategies could be improved in the future. Feedback from the workshop highlights its impact across policy and research spheres. This ongoing project has enabled landbridge to further develop strategic links with key professional associations and industry bodies and work to improve knowledge exchange processes at a strategic level within the professions. This is exemplified by an invitation to participate as guest host (alongside key stakeholders from Syngenta, the NFU and Rothamsted) in the Agri-chat twitter discussion on 'Bridging the gap between farming research and practice' on 6th November 2014, featuring 539 tweets from 80 contributors, who had a reach of 193K followers. Landbridge is also providing planning and evaluation expertise to a Newcastle University-funded project 'Developing knowledge transfer strategies on nitrogen efficiency in agricultural systems' (2014-15). Designed to maximise the impact of existing research, landbridge has provided guidance on different KE approaches and strategies and is helping to test these in a workshop series targeting farmers and advisers. This project ultimately aims to enhance the competiveness and efficiency of agriculture by improving the effectiveness of knowledge exchange at a farm-level. A guidance note on pathways to impact for agronomic research is to be produced as a final output of this work which will make a significant contribution to the conversion of knowledge on nitrogen efficiency into real impact in the agricultural sector. 3. Maintaining impact beyond the life of a grant Landbridge was set up as a pilot initiative to test whether there was an appetite or need for a mechanism which helped to promote knowledge exchange between researchers and the advisory professions. Over the short period of the award, landbridge built up a core network of members and developed strong relationships with professional bodies, key research initiatives and policy makers such that it built up a reputation and strong national profile which have enabled the team to sustain the network beyond the life of the award. Landbridge has been incorporated into a number of high profile research initiatives and an industry-funded project. These have enabled the team to run the network, keep the website up-to-date and maintain its profile. Landbridge has also been promoted as an example of best practice for engagement at the Global Sustainability Conference (January 2015). Finally, the wider lessons and insights we have gained from exploring knowledge exchange processes and mechanisms through landbridge have enabled us to contribute to a multi-centre proposal submitted to the ESRC in 2014 'Knowledge Exchange Processes for Impact and their Evaluation in Environmental Research'.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services