Is there a "trade-off" between ontology and epistemology?
Is there a level of discourse or abstraction where it is possible to evade ontological questions by pivoting on epistemological ones?
Or is it a false claim since both areas are distinct and non-overlapping?
If it is the case and a relevant relation exists what are some (or any) relevant approaches by one ore more schools of philosophy?
I'm editing the original question to address some issues raised in the comments. As a preamble I'd like to emphasize that I really have minimal exposure to philosophy proper so I feel the need to apologize for misusing the jargon.
A simple example of what I had in mind comes from systems thinking (science): they avoid defining what a system is but take as granted that there are systems that can be modeled in (specific) ways; so they don't bother with questions of "what is this" but instead tackle questions related to "how it works".
My question is related to the efficacy of such an approach; is it a successful strategy to sidestep questions about the "nature" of "things" in order to ascertain how they work?
And does knowing how things work reveal anything about their "nature" or are "function" and "essence" in a sense orthogonal?