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Bridging the gap
How can information access and exchange between conservation biologists and field practitioners be improved for better conservation outcomes?
Topic:research, communication, conservation, It is widely accepted that there is a considerable gap between the science of conservation biology and the design and execution of biodiversity conservation projects in the field and science is failing to inform the practice of conservation. There are many reasons why this implementation gap exists. A high proportion of papers published in scientific journals by conservation biologists are seldom read outside of the academic world and there are few incentives for academics to convert their science into practice. In turn, field practitioners rarely document their field experiences and experiments in a manner that can meaningfully inform conservation scientists. Issues related to access to scientific literature, scientific relevance in multidisciplinary environments, donor expectations and a lack of critical analysis at all levels of conservation theory and practice are factors that exacerbate the divide. The contexts in which conservation biologists and field practitioners operate are also often highly dissimilar, and each has differing professional responsibilities and expectations that compromise the ability to learn from each other's expertise. Building on recent debate in the literature, and using case studies to illustrate the issues that characterize the divide, this paper draws on the authors' experiences of project management as well as academic research. We identify five key issues related to information exchange: access to scientific literature, levels of scientific literacy, lack of interdisciplinarity, questions of relevance and lack of sharing of conservation-related experiences and suggest new ways of working that could assist in bridging the gap between conservation scientists and field practitioners.