Linking Knowledge to Action when Engagement is Out of Reach

29 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2020

See all articles by Roger Emmelhainz

Roger Emmelhainz

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Political Science

Alan Zarychta

University of Chicago

Tara Grillos

Purdue University

Krister Andersson

University of Colorado at Boulder

Date Written: December 2019

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Emmelhainz, Roger and Zarychta, Alan and Grillos, Tara and Andersson, Krister, Linking Knowledge to Action when Engagement is Out of Reach (December 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3512268 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3512268

Roger Emmelhainz (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Political Science ( email )

333 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0333
United States

Alan Zarychta

University of Chicago

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Tara Grillos

Purdue University

610 Purdue Mall
West Lafayette, IN 47907
United States

Krister Andersson

University of Colorado at Boulder

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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