This blog, coauthored by Natalie Dubois and Rebecca Jarvis, originally appeared on The Journal of Applied Ecology’s The Applied Ecologist Blog.
For too long, conservation research was viewed as a one-directional path from researchers to practitioners. The field has since moved towards a better understanding of the interdependent nature of knowledge generation and use, but mismatches in the spaces between research and practice persist. These spaces remain underutilized as junctures to cultivate and strengthen connections between conservation knowledge and action.
In 2014, Rebecca and her colleague Stephanie Borrelle convened a workshop to identify the mismatches between conservation research and implementation that limit the delivery of evidence-informed action. Five years later, they convened a second workshop for researchers and practitioners (including Natalie) to reflect on the field’s progress.
Our article, co-authored by the workshop leads and participants, expands on the workshop findings and outlines recommendations for strengthening the alignment of conservation research and practice.
Taking stock of the mismatches
During the second workshop, participants reviewed five common mismatches: priority, spatial, temporal, communication, and institutional.
Priority mismatch occurs when research topics are not relevant to practitioners’ needs. Other times, the misalignment is not one of topical relevance but rather of scale – spatial mismatch occurs when research is conducted at broad scales that are difficult to apply to localized conservation contexts. Attempts to address priority and spatial mismatches by generating new evidence can be compounded by temporal mismatch, a misalignment between decision-making timelines and research processes.
In other situations, useful research exists but remains hidden from practitioners who do not know about or cannot access it (communication mismatch). Contributing to these four mismatches is institutional mismatch, which plays out in the form of rules, norms, and priorities of research- and practice-focused organizations that have the side effect of limiting meaningful interaction between researchers and practitioners.