This article addresses an important, overlooked regulatory challenge during global health emergencies (GHEs). It provides novel insights into how, and why, best practice can support decision makers in interpreting and implementing key guidance on conducting research during GHEs. The ability to conduct research before, during and after such events is crucial. The recent West-African Ebola outbreaks and the Zika virus have highlighted considerable room for improvement in meeting the imperative to research and rapidly develop effective therapies. A means of effectively capturing these experiences and folding them into future decision-making is lacking; the need for effective practical translational measures remains. The challenge for the research community lies in extracting meaningful action-guiding content from pre-existing guidelines—which draw upon practical examples of guidelines ‘in action’—that assist in determining how to act in a particular (future) situation. Insights are provided into the role of best practice as a means to do so; such examples can provide invaluable support to decision makers in interpreting high-level guidance; overarching guidelines retain their necessary level of generality and flexibility, whilst corresponding best practice examples—which incorporate important lessons learned—illustrate how such guidelines can be interpreted at a practical level.