Transition agent

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A transition agent (in open assessment) (muutosagentti[1] in Finnish) is a person who actively promotes open assessment among new groups of potential users. The work is based on acknowledgement of the diffusion of innovations (a theory by Everett Rogers), which is a process where a new technology or innovation gradually starts to be used in a society. The speed of the diffusion process is affected by how potential users perceive its

  • relative usefulness compared with the current practices,
  • compliance with previous experience, values, and needs,
  • complexity,
  • testability, and
  • visibility.[2]

In addition, important factors include social norms, communication channels, transition agents, and opinion leaders.

A transition agent attempts to remove barriers of open assessment, and facilitate its use among policy-makers, stakeholders, assessors, and researchers. The work of an agent can include e.g.

  • contacting potential stakeholders related to a specific assessment case and collect their views on issues at hand,
  • giving practical guidance about Opasnet to new users,
  • working together with research projects so that they would produce scientific information in a form usable for assessments in Opasnet (as an example of a research data in Opasnet, see KTL Sarcoma study),
  • communicating results and conclusions of open assessments to the decision-makers, or society at large.

Examples of transition agents

There is a classical example of a transition agent work from the field of agriculture. The Research Institute of Agriculture (Maatalouden tutkimuskeskus, MTT) took the role of a transition agent in the 1950's. After the World War II, there was a scarcity of food in Finland, and there was a great need to increase agricultural productivity. However, artificial fertilizers were expensive. MTT developed an idea that the fertility of agricultural lands should be systematically and extensively measured across the country. Based on these measurements, detailed and evidence-based guidance on optimal fertilization chemicals, patterns, and amounts could be given. This approach could greatly improve the effectiveness of the expensive fertilizer, when they were used where most needed.

The director Jouko Vuorinen wanted to quickly diffuse the idea of fertility measurements into the Finnish agriculture. Therefore he and his colleagues went to meet such members of the Parliament that were farmers themselves. They were careful about that there was at least one farmer from each of the political party. MTT offered to do free fertility measurements for each of the Parliament members' farms. When the members saw the practical utility of the measurements with their own eyes on their own farm next summer, the Parliament quickly made important decisions to promote a large fertility measurement campaign in Finland. Because of his role as a transition agent, it was said about Jouko Vuorinen: "Even if he didn't do anything else in his life except starting the fertility measurement campaign, he would have earned his lifetime salary."[3]

See also


  1. Alvesalo, Ilpo (1996). Ihminen on tärkein muutosagentti. Futura 15: 1. Tulevaisuuden tutkimuksen seura, Turku. [1]
  2. Rogers, Everett M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations, 5th ed.. New York, NY: Free Press. ISBN 0743222091 according to Wikipedia
  3. Citation needed