Bridging the Knowledge Gap
By Mojtaba Yegani PhD Candidate Poultry Research Centre University of AlbertaFeatures Genetics Research Poultry Research
In the December 2010 issue of Canadian Poultry magazine, there was a discussion on the subject of funding research projects by the Ontario poultry sector. According to the sources consulted for the article, there are some concerns about the future as it seems that industry support has remained stagnant or “waning,” while the need for poultry research, people, and infrastructure continues to grow.
There is no doubt that the efforts made by poultry research centres at both national and international levels should be recognized and appreciated by the poultry industry. It is of paramount importance to not only continue encouraging this support, but to strengthen the relationship between research centres and the industry. The present article is intended to re-emphasize the importance of this issue and also briefly discuss some approaches that can play a positive role in this regard.
Industry has reached high standards in many aspects of poultry production, but there are still many challenges in different areas, including: nutrition, diseases, food safety, welfare, and the environment. The industry cannot deal with these issues by itself and research centres can provide the industry with unique and effective solutions that can be applied to a variety of regions and types of operations.
Supporting research centres
There is a constant necessity to support poultry research centres because they not only conduct research projects, but they also train the next generation of professionals who will join the industry, government organizations, or academic institutes. One of the main reasons for the expansion of the poultry industry is that the industry has been very efficient in using the scientific information generated at research centres. Although the industry is now able to achieve its objectives in many fields, it should continue to support universities, as universities provide credible research in many different areas. Although the industry feels that its investments in research have been beneficial, such important factors as global economic volatility, consolidation of the industry and increasing competitiveness may limit research funding provided by the industry in the future.
Nature of research projects
Projects at poultry research centres can be generally divided into basic or applied research. Both types are required for further advancement of the poultry industry. Applied projects are usually accompanied with more applicable results (mainly in the short term), and because of this, there has been a strong tendency in the industry to support this category of projects. On the other hand, basic research may not always result in findings with immediate applications, and as a result, there may be a less industry investment in this type of research. However, basic research, in addition to its own benefits, can often support the applied projects in order to make them more understandable for the industry.Although the industry supports basic research, it seems that these projects will continue to receive financial support mainly from government or government-associated organizations at both provincial and national levels.
Focusing heavily on research projects with long-term implications can result in disconnection with the industry. On the other hand, the needs of the industry constantly change and it is unrealistic to expect research centres to find solutions for all these problems in a short period of time. Thus, a balanced combination of research projects with short- or long-term applications would be of great benefit for sustainability of the poultry industry.
Regardless of the nature of research projects, it would also be of great help if some researchers could gain a sufficient understanding of the practical aspects of poultry production by getting in touch more frequently with the “real world.” Research projects should, as much as possible, be helpful to industry and help it find answers for the challenges that exist in the field.
Researchers need to show that their research is of value and relevance to the industry. The industry also needs to be clear on its expectations from research centres. These objectives can be achieved through continuous and constructive communications between these sectors. Good communication will allow collaborative mechanisms to be put in place to establish a direction research should take to find solutions for current and future problems.
Transfer of research findings
Knowledge gaps exist between poultry research centres and different sectors of the industry. Research centres are expected to provide answers to the industry issues of the day. In some cases, answers to these questions are already known, but the problem is that this knowledge has not been efficiently transferred to the industry. Enhancing transfer of knowledge is one of the most important factors that can play a significant role in bridging the gaps between research centres and the industry. Research findings, regardless of how complicated they might be, should always be transferred in a form that can be understood in the real world.
In order to achieve this important goal, it is of absolute necessity to maintain and enhance an efficient relationship between research centres and the industry to encourage a strong combination of scientific knowledge and real world experiences which will ultimately benefit both sectors.
Holding regular technology transfer meetings is probably still the best way for interactions. However, there are also other approaches that can be taken. Sending out technical newsletters by poultry research centres on a regular basis can be of great help to boost the relationship with both national and international poultry industries.
It seems that trade magazines have a stronger presence in different sectors of the industry compared to peer-reviewed journals. As a result, having researchers write articles in poultry trade magazines can be another effective way of delivering information to the industry.
More recently, the use of social media has become very popular, and this can be another excellent communication channel with the industry. According to results of a survey conducted among farmers in the Netherlands in 2010, 40 per cent of the participants stated that they use social media every week. YouTube was ranked as the most commonly used among the farmers who responded to this survey. Respondents also stated that they will increase their use of these media in the future, particularly for informational purposes.
As stated in the editorial of the December 2010 issue of Canadian Poultry magazine, “Sometimes researchers and farmers don’t know how to talk to one another in the same language, and this is a significant issue for the sector.” Reaching a realistic mutual understanding through efficient communication between research centres and the industry is becoming much more important, and this understanding can be of great help in bridging the gaps and coping with the challenges that both sectors will encounter in the short and long term.
Comments and suggestions provided by my contacts at both research centres and the industry are greatly appreciated. I also thank Emmy Koeleman of Vetsweb for translating (from Dutch to English) results of a survey conducted by AgriDirect among farmers in the Netherlands.
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