Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 12, pp 4065–4075 | Cite as

How wide is the “knowing-doing” gap in invasion biology?

  • Karen J. Esler
  • Heidi Prozesky
  • Gyan P. Sharma
  • Melodie McGeoch
Original Paper


Invasion biology is a growing discipline with clear ecological, social and economic implications. A wide range of research effort is thus required to address the invasion problem, and literature on the topic is extensive. However, the extent to which the invasion biology research is addressing the challenges associated with management and mitigation of the impacts of invasions has been questioned. Using bibliometric analysis, we investigated the extent to which the literature on the subject contributes to implementation of knowledge generated, by addressing aspects of management, policy, and/or implementation; the impact of these papers as indicated by the number of citations they attract; and the geopolitical scale of focus of invasion ecology papers, particularly those that attempt to bridge the knowing-doing gap. We then compared these findings with the information needs of conservation practitioners. We first looked globally at popular search engines and then narrowed our focus to South Africa—one of three regions outside USA where researchers producing highly cited papers in invasion ecology are well represented. At this level, we conducted a content analysis of invasion ecology-related papers, of which at least one author was affiliated to a South African institution. The knowledge base in the field of invasion biology is comprised largely of research oriented towards “knowing”, while research aimed at strategically applying or implementing that knowledge is poorly represented in the scientific literature, and the scale of its emphasis is not local. Conservation practitioners clearly indicate a need for basic knowledge. However, invasion science must develop channels for effective engagement to ensure that the research is contextualised, and will deal with the complex ecological, social and economic challenges posed by invasions.


Bibliometric analysis Biological invasion Conservation practitioners Management Implementation Policy 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the funding and support given by the DST-NRF Centre for Invasion Biology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. We thank the management staff of SANParks that participated in the interview exercise and CREST for access to SA Knowledgebase, from which the South African-level data were extracted.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen J. Esler
    • 1
  • Heidi Prozesky
    • 2
  • Gyan P. Sharma
    • 1
    • 3
  • Melodie McGeoch
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology & DST-NRF Centre for Invasion BiologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology & DST-NRF Centre for Invasion BiologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  3. 3.Environmental BiologyUniversity of DelhiDelhiIndia
  4. 4.DST-NRF Centre for Invasion Biology & Cape Research CentreSouth African National ParksSteenbergSouth Africa

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