, Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 2413-2427
Date: 21 Aug 2013

Mind the gaps when using science to address conservation concerns


Conservation science and conservation action are assumed to have identical goals. However, in reality, there is a strong divide between research and practical conservation that has been mostly discussed with respect to the ‘knowing-doing gap’, i.e. the results from science are not being translated into practical management. In this commentary, we argue that there is not one but there are at least three different types of gaps impeding a positive impact of science on conservation: (1) the knowing-doing gap; (2) the thematic gap that exists between the topics addressed by conservation science and the problems faced in conservation; and (3) the disciplinary gap, i.e. the lack of communication and cooperation between different fields of science, e.g. between fundamental biodiversity research and conservation research. These different gaps have different origins and require different means to be overcome. In a survey, scientists from the field of conservation research (all contributing to this special issue on European grasslands) assessed the importance of these three gaps. They highlight that the disciplinary gap is just as relevant as the knowing-doing gap, while the importance of the thematic gap between practical conservation needs and theoretical conservation science is, in the view of the authors, of less importance. Also, the respondents identified the complexity of academic content in scientific publications as an additional cause for knowing-doing gaps. Based on our survey and various other studies analysing these gaps, we suggest two ways to overcome the gaps: if you consider yourself to be a conservation scientist make sure to address questions of relevance for conservation issues, if you are a scientist interested in fundamental issues, be open to mutual interaction and translation of scientific results with conservation scientists. The knowing-doing gap could be addressed by more readily translating the theoretical findings into practical advice. “Conservation Journals” could, for instance, require a second “Conservation Management Abstract”, which has to be published open-access, and back-to-back with the conventional abstract.