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How do knowledge brokers work? Implications for policy and practice in the case of WERS

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A resource-based view of organizations suggests that internal knowledge is amongst the most important sources of competitive advantage (Hendry and Pettigrew 1990; Leonard-Barton 1995). Regardless of whether these ideas are exaggerated, it is not necessary to buy into them all to accept the significance of knowledge as a resource. Nevertheless, the fact remains that knowledge is complex, multi-faceted, intangible, often tacit and specialised (Davenport and Prusak; Ahmed et al. 2002). Consequently, it is difficult to manage exchange. This has implications for narrowing the gap between academic research and policy impact and developing policy-relevant academic research and to improve a flow of information between academics and policy-makers. One way of improving the exchange and flow of knowledge is to use knowledge brokers (KBs), who bridge the gap between creators and users of knowledge (Lavis 2006). The function of a KB may vary according to context. In the case of specialised knowledge, Stuiver, et al (2013) have gone as far as to suggest that KBs are part of a creative process, where knowledge-broking may be a way of codifying, translating and, finally, sharing, difficult to disseminate knowledge. This idea has been expanded upon in the literature with KBs engaged in the process of the creation of new knowledge (Oldham and McLean 1997; Stuiver et al. 2013). This paper builds upon a study examining how the Work and Employment Relations Survey (WERS) data informs government policy, in order to establish the significant role which KBs play in bridging the gap between research, knowledge and policy-making. Our findings indicate that WERS is widely used and feeds into a wide range of non-academic policy outputs through the involvement of particular agents, who play the role of KBs at various points in the dissemination and use of WERS data.
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Keywords: WERS; academics; knowledge; knowledge-brokers; policy-makers; think tanks

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the West of England

Publication date: September 1, 2014

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