All knowledge is mobile – a KM poem

CCeXhwnWYAE-YLrThis month I wanted to share a poem written by the wonderful Tabitha McGowan at the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum back in April. The forum was held at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh and as part of the (mostly female) audience, I found myself being stared down at by portraits and statues of elderly eminent bewhiskered gentlemen (plus a few cherubs!) One of the questions we started to ask ourselves was what they would have made of the Forum. Not only the creative and unusual ideas about sharing knowledge, but also our ideas about the nature of knowledge itself. Who owns it, who can share it, who needs it and is it even an ‘it’!

Our emerging thoughts and deliberations were captured wonderfully in Tabitha’s poem which reflected our journey at the Forum and through the centuries as we expand and refine our understanding of knowledge and what it means to mobilise it.

I hope you enjoy it – we certainly all did!

All Knowledge is Mobile: Royal College of Physicians, 2015  

Tabitha McGowan


We know so much.

We know that miasma makes malaria,

That plagues are a punishment,

That an ill-humoured gentleman may be cured of his affliction by application of leeches and letting of blood,

And women should be watched for signs of Too Much Knowing as there is a fine line between learning and devilment.

So if in doubt, incinerate.

We know that we know as much as there is to know.



We know so much.

We know that pustulent matter can prevent the pox,

That all cures can be found between alcohol and opium,

That scurvy can be broadsided by ingestion of limes,

And that knowledge should be captured and kept safe from the grasping hands of The Wrong Sort.

So if in doubt, isolate.

We know that there are others who know things we know to be false.

But we know that we know as much as we can know.



We know so much.

We know that Knowledge is best owned and maintained by bewhiskered white men, for the good of the benighted masses,

That we can sanitise the human race,

That cocaine will cure your baby’s toothache,

And that hysteria can be fixed with good vibrations.

But if in doubt, incarcerate.

Now we know that we know more than we knew.



We know so much.

We know that the mind can be unwrapped and mapped and if antibiotics can fix the physical, lobotomies can fix the mental,

That as one disease is dealt with another will take its place,

That there is a need for breeding to weed out the weak,

And if in doubt, eliminate.

We know we should know better.



We know so little.

But we know that facts can act as traps for the mind,

That what we know today can be blown away with tomorrow’s news.

Today we sit under the gaze of the thinkers of their age, each convinced of the rightness of his universe,

Even as it shifted beneath his feet.

But if we know we know a little, each of us can throw our tiny fragments of imperfect wisdom into the crucible.

And if in doubt, collaborate.

We know the way.




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