I’ll never forget reading the story of ulcers when I started the first knowledge mobilization course a few years back and was introduced to the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Heath & Heath, 2008). In Chapter 4, the story of ulcers is introduced and their cure examined. Ulcers are an extremely painful and debilitating condition that are somewhat common, with one in ten people experiencing an ulcer over their lifetime. Until about 25 years ago, it was suspected that causes of ulcers included stress, spicy food, and or/ alcohol – many of us still believe this to be the case! However, in the early 1980s Barry Marshall and Robin Warren (medical researchers in Australia) made an unexpected discovery. They found that ulcers were actually caused by a specific bacteria. This finding had huge implications for anyone living with ulcers as it meant that they could be cured with a standard regimen of antibiotics. You would probably think that this finding would spread quickly, but in fact no one cared or believed both of these researchers. They were actually laughed out when they presented their findings at a medical conference. The medical community held on to conventional wisdom that ulcers were caused by stress and argued that acid in the stomach was too potent for any bacteria to survive. Marshall actually went as far as deciding to drink a glass filled with the specific bacteria that causes ulcers and after doing this he went on to develop an ulcer, which he cured by using antibiotics. It was only after this real-life experiment that other scientists and the medical community began to take notice and in 1994 (10 years after their initial discovery) the National Institutes of Health finally endorsed antibiotics as a treatment for ulcers. In 2005, Marshall and Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery.
Knowledge mobilization connects evidence to those on the ground (practitioners, policy makers, etc.) in order to assist in evidence-based decision making.