Opening up the Ivory Tower
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There are multiple terms in use for describing the process of the transfer of knowledge from scientific research to society like valorization, knowledge utilization and impact. This knowledge can be economical, cultural or societal. To stimulate knowledge utilization in The Netherlands, the Dutch government created several mechanisms to enhance knowledge transfer. One of these mechanisms is the knowledge utilization paragraph in the ‘Vernieuwingsimpuls’ program of the NWO. In this paragraph, scientists have to explain the potential of their study and how they will transfer the knowledge to society (which activities they undertake). The aim of this study was to see how a policy focus on knowledge utilization (the paragraph) influences scientists (how they write the paragraph). To test this, the effectiveness of the focus on the writing of the paragraph, the unintended side-effects of the focus and the focus’ effect on different groups were measured. Additional information was acquired through interviews with laureates from the program. To study the effectiveness of the knowledge utilization paragraphs, the paragraphs were analyzed and scored on the knowledge transfer activities, readability, specificity, terminology and use of active voice. These parameters were also used to differentiate between the NWO disciplines and between the Veni- and Vidi candidates. Unintended side-effects of the focus on the paragraph were also speculated upon, and possible effects might be an increase in entrepreneurial activity and reduced time for academic work due to increase time spend on knowledge utilization. Results show an increase in knowledge utilization promises in 2015, compared to 2013 and 2014. Other parameters did not show any significant difference. No increase in entrepreneurial activity could be seen when looking at the proposals and it became clear from the interviews that time spend on research was not hindered by knowledge utilization. When comparing the disciplines: the applicants in the Societal- and Behavioral Sciences promised more activities compared to the applicants in Earth and Life Sciences, Exact Sciences and Physics. The applicants of technology foundation STW were more specific than the average of all groups. Applicants in Chemical Sciences and Physics used more scientific terminology compared to the average of all groups, whereas the applicants for Societal- and Behavior Sciences used less scientific terminology. Also, when looking at what was promised, differences can be seen. With some disciplines that promise more economic activities (Technology Foundation STW, ZonMw, Exact Sciences and Physics), whereas other disciplines promise more societal activities (Humanities, Societal- and Behavior Sciences). Also the difference between the Veni candidates and Vidi candidates was measured. And it appeared that Vidi scientists are more specific in their paragraphs than Veni scientists, which suggests a better understanding of the paragraph by senior scientists. This exploratory study provided a lot of insights in knowledge utilization in the knowledge utilization paragraphs, but further studies have to be conducted to get a complete overview of how knowledge utilization is perceived in The Netherlands, and in the world.