Bridging the Knowing to Doing Gap to Support One Health Action

Craig Stephen

If you only rely on your knowledge, your options are already limited.

Tremendous volumes of important new knowledge that could improve the quality of our and animals’ lives and reduce our impacts on the planet are regularly being produced. But little will come of it without the capacity to effectively get this new knowledge to the people who can act to make the necessary changes. The gaps between knowing and doing are well known and long-standing. This has been called the knowing-to-doing gap or the implementation gap. These gaps are created when there is a difference between the evidence for the most effective actions and their actual implementation in practice. Despite the considerable amount of money spent on research to understand how and why a problem occurs, comparatively little effort is dedicated to ensuring that research findings can be and are implemented in policy or practice.

There are many examples of ineffective or inefficient policies and practices that are widely used, thus wasting resources and placing additional burdens on overstretched services. Why this happens is not always obvious. In some cases, differences in organizational or individual practices come from differences in the

nature, quality, and depth of what they know. In other cases, it may be affected by the ability to translate the knowledge into action. Never in human history have we been able to produce and share so much information, making the knowing versus not knowing gap less pressing than the gap between knowing but not doing.

One Health professionals are challenged by the scope and scale of the problems presented to them and by the number and variety of actors with whom they need to interact to facilitate change. Closing the knowing-to-doing gap requires processes that create and support conditions and relationships to effectively enable access, exchange, use, and evaluation of knowledge to support decisions and actions. Chapter 9 explored factors that affect how individuals make decisions to act. This chapter is concerned with ways to put knowledge into action for the purpose of changing policies and practices.


“If we keep on doing what we have been doing, we are going to keep on getting what we have been getting.” (Wandersman et al., 2008)

New evidence will not change outcomes unless people apply it in practice and in policy. Unfortunately, the transfer of evidence into practice is often unpredictable, slow, or haphazard. The gap between knowledge and action has been highlighted in a range of One Health relevant fields such as conservation, ecosystem management, and public health. The literature on how to close the knowing-to-doing gap is growing and can at times be confusing. Many disciplines are producing their own bodies of literature on knowledge management and mobilization. Table 12.1 defines some key terms as they are used in this chapter.

Simply telling people about evidence and urging them to change what they do is ineffective (Levin, 2008). Practices are socially determined by many elements such as norms, cultures, and habits. Knowledge takes shape and has effect in a wide variety of ways but is always mediated through social and political processes (Levin, 2008). One Health knowledge-to-action strategies need to meet the various requirements of different, heterogeneous knowledge users.

Interdisciplinary knowledge-to-action work is difficult because different fields of study have different ways of approaching problems and because knowledgesharing networks often exist within rather than across disciplines because people tend to form ties to those who are like themselves in terms of socially significant behaviour and attitudes (Perry et al., 2018).

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