Summary In a recent piece in EMR, Burbidge et al. discussed some major impediments to linking research and practice in ecological restoration and management. They identified a lack of collaboration between research and practice, poor communication, inappropriate funding and political timelines, change inertia and a lack of capacity as major barriers to improving restoration praxis. They suggest capacity building, communication, collaboration and involving key stakeholders through an iterative cycle of research to management will improve the translation of research into practice (Ecological Management and Restoration 12, 2011, 54). While we agree with the barriers and recommendations identified, they did not consider how the multifaceted motivations embodied in the practice and social context of restoration shape the research–practice nexus. Given the diversity of actors involved in conservation activities, and the focus on conservation on private land and landscape-scale connectivity in government policy, this is a significant oversight. We suggest it is vital to draw attention to these multifaceted motivations when discussing implementation challenges. This piece draws on our collective insights from three doctoral research projects examining the science, practice and social dimensions of ecological restoration and management in Australia. Our intention is to outline some of the social and contextual influences shaping restoration practice to demonstrate the importance of dialogue between researchers, practitioners and landholders around the goals and expectations of restoration and management interventions. We suggest this is an important aspect of improving the conversation between the actors involved in restoration research, policy and practice.