OOS 74-2
"Connecting the dots" between primary research and decision makers

Thursday, August 13, 2015: 1:50 PM
317, Baltimore Convention Center
Ann Bartuska, USDA Research, Education and Economics, Washington DC, DC
Background/Question/Methods:  Only three decades ago, it was a rare paper at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting that directly addressed an issue that was policy-relevant, although many authors did try to make a relevancy link.  Fast forward to 2015 and numerous papers are pointedly focused on contemporary issues of the environment and societal challenges.  Clearly, the ecological community has become policy-relevant, but is the information getting to the decision makers?  It is not solely the form in which science findings are presented, although that certainly helps, but also the methodology of the science itself.

Results/Conclusions:  The more the user of the scientific information can be part of the process of science, the greater buy-in the user will have to use the results.  Re-engineering how the science is done can more effectively lead to this outcome.  “Participatory research” has become an established practice especially in conflict settings.  A program like SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) at USDA is designed so that agricultural producers bring their question to scientists to study.  Another mechanism to meet the needs of decision makers is by building processes and procedures that require and guide this connection. The Forest Planning rule of the U.S. Forest Service is an excellent recent example where science is deliberately being connected to decisions about the National Forests through a structured process.  In a less formal process, the response of Federal agencies to the Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health published in 2014 provides clear linkages between the science being done by the research agencies with actions to be taken by the “mission agencies”. Significantly, these examples also provide for feedback linkages from the managers and policy-makers to the research organizations.  In summary, approaches to effectively link science to the users of that science include: the form of the communication, integrating the user into the science process, and creating processes and procedures that explicitly link science and practice.