Linking Knowledge to Action when Engagement is Out of Reach
29 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 2019
Sustainability scientists argue that in order to make better use of scientific knowledge in public problem solving and decision making, researchers need to engage directly with decision makers. The problem in many policy settings, especially in developing countries, is that directly engaging with researchers is time consuming, and researchers are often not readily available to work with policy makers. Thus, for the purpose of time-sensitive or short-run decision making, policy actors may have little choice but to rely on existing research findings to inform decision making. One existing theory for understanding knowledge uptake would suggest that policy actors in this context, who receive information about new research findings, will take published findings to heart when they perceive them to be salient, credible, and legitimate; we develop a quantitative test of this theoretical framework. We further develop the theory by suggesting that the ways in which salience, credibility, and legitimacy influence action will depend on several conditions, including the format and source of the message, as well as the socio-demographic characteristics of the receiver. To test our arguments, we designed and conducted a survey experiment with real-world policy makers and practitioners in the public-health sector of Honduras. Our results confirm that salience, credibility, and legitimacy operate as joint mediators between knowledge and action, and that individual characteristics, especially the gender of those receiving the information, also matter for understanding why some civil servants report taking-up and acting on the knowledge being communicated.
Keywords: Sustainability Science, Science Communication, Public Health, Latin America, Knowledge to Action
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