A knowledge gap is not enough

I take issue with the term ‘knowledge gap’.

A hole in our understanding– it’s a common term in academia.

So what is the problem?

A knowledge gap is the reason for doing research. There is a gap, and we need to fill that gap…

But is it that simple?

There are, after all, thousands of knowledge gaps. So we will need to decide which gaps are worth the effort of filling them.

Also: not every gap is a problem.

There is probably much we don’t know about the effect of smartphones on recreational fishers’ catches.

Is that a bad thing?

To emphasize the urgency of a study, you need to explain why this particular knowledge gap deserves our attention. You do that by answering the So what? question.

The molecular function of Treg proteins in T cells is unknown.

So what?

Because of that, we don’t know what role they play in the onset of autoimmune diseases, such as MS.

So what?

This keeps us from developing early interventions for autoimmune diseases.

Urgency + knowledge gap = an effective scientific storyline.