Background: The attention to and demand for stronger linkages between research, policy and practice are increasing, especially in fields concerned with sensitive and challenging issues such as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The study described in this article was conducted in the Netherlands among actors working in international development, especially the domain of SRHR. It explores the perceived flow of knowledge between research, policy and practice, the perceived impeding factors, and suggested strategies for improvement.
Methods: A narrative literature review was performed and 28 key informants were interviewed between May and August 2015. Most interviewees were either active or passive members of Share-Net Netherlands, an SRHR knowledge platform. All interviews, which lasted 70 minutes on average, were recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded in MAXQDA.
Results: Linkages between research, policy and practice are many and diffuse. The demands for and supplies of knowledge within and across the fields vary and do not always match, which is shown by participants' research purposes and approaches. Participants identified various barriers to strengthening knowledge flows, including a lack of familiarity with practices in other fields, power relations and the undervaluation of tacit knowledge. They suggested a more visible and concrete demand for and supply of knowledge, the development of a joint knowledge agenda, more opportunities for the interdisciplinary creation of knowledge, and the development of a system for learning and sharing knowledge.
Conclusion: This study shows the willingness to undertake, and the perceived advantages of, interdisciplinary dialogues and joint creation of knowledge to advance SRHR research, policies and practices. Whereas barriers to the flow of knowledge may maintain present understandings of knowledge and of whose knowledge is valid, enabling factors, such as interactions between research, policy and practice in knowledge-sharing activities, may challenge such perceptions and create an enabling environment for generating innovative knowledge and increasing knowledge use. Knowledge platforms are recommended to place more emphasis on sharing and documenting tacit knowledge through interdisciplinary dialogues, to address power relations and to set criteria for interdisciplinary funding.
Keywords: Knowledge flows; Knowledge platform; Sexual and reproductive health and rights; Tacit knowledge; The Netherlands.