A review of different approaches to the translation of research into practice in order to promote the sustainable management of natural resources and the allieviation of poverty.

The rationale for this project is the striking gap between knowledge of the important role of ecosystem services, on one hand, and the use of this knowledge in poverty reduction and inclusive growth strategies, on the other. The ESPA programme is actively seeking to promote mechanisms to enhance the use of research, and recognises that there is no blueprint formula for putting research into use. Previous experience, especially in different disciplines and sectors, can provide helpful guidance for current and future ESPA research. This project proposes to undertake a review of existing knowledge and experience in order to support ESPA’s evolving Research Into Use strategy.

Key findings and lessons

Based on the literature review and case studies, the project identified a number of key findings and lessons both for the research community as well as research funders:

  1. Building a body of evidence on research into use requires targeted incentives for researchers and research users.
  2. Impacts can take various forms; researchers and funders should consider a range of impacts when planning for and evaluating research outcomes.
  3. Unexpected (and unpredictable) trigger events can often provide opportunities to translate research into use.
  4. Dialogue and networking between researchers and research users is essential to identify knowledge gaps that are relevant to the work of practitioners, and to provide a focus for research into use activity. This often requires long time horizons, for both researchers and research funders.
  5. Research-use stakeholders may not prioritise peer-review as much as the academic community; inclusivity, ethics, credibility of the researchers and the relevance of the research may be equally important.
  6. Research impacts can often occur well beyond the time-frame of funded projects; researchers and funders need to find ways to remain engaged with projects over longer time horizons, usually beyond the period of initial funding for research. Expectations of immediate impact should be scaled appropriately.

More on the key findings and key lessons gained from the project may be accessed here.


  1. To review existing approaches for moving research into use in selected sectors relevant to the ESPA program;
  2. To identify best practice examples of research into use from these selected sectors;
  3. To identify key leverage points for the ESPA programme for maximizing the dissemination, uptake and use of research in different contexts.

Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Programme (ESPA) is funded by DFID, NERC and ESRC as part of the Living with Environmental Change Programme. ESPA is an international research programme, funded as a global public good and designed to produce world-class research and evidence to promote the sustainable management and use of ecosystem services to promote poverty alleviation.

Conceptual framework

The conceptual framework that underlay the study focused upon four interrelated dimensions that influence the ways in which research is put into use: the context within which the research-policy-practice interface is situated; the nature of research and knowledge generated, including diverse types and sources of information and data; the stakeholders and networks involved in putting research into use; and the communication strategies adopted by research stakeholders. Further details on the conceptual framework may be found here.

The project undertook a structured review of the published literature in order to address the question: What is the state of evidence regarding approaches for putting research into use for sustainably managing the environment and human wellbeing? Further details on the methodology undertaken by the project may be found here.

Three case studies were chosen to illustrate and draw out the main lessons for the process of putting research into use:

  1. Translating Knowledge to Policy on Food Security in India
  2. Flood Risk Management in the UK
  3. The PRogramme for Improving Mental hEalth (PRIME)


Rohini Chaturvedi

Research Associate

Dr Rob Doubleday


Professor Bhaskar Vira

Principal Investigator