Usable Science: Meeting the Needs of Decision Makers in a Changing World
Thursday, August 13, 2015: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
317, Baltimore Convention Center
Lori Hidinger, Arizona State University
Clifford Duke, Ecological Society of America; and
Mahmud Farooque, Arizona State University
Clifford Duke, Ecological Society of America
As funding and public support for science becomes more competitive, it is incumbent upon researchers, scientific institutions, government agencies and funding organizations to ensure that needs and interests of decision makers and the public are being met – that the information being produced is “usable” or “actionable.” Usable science is simply defined as science that meets the changing needs of decision makers. The USGS Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resources Science uses the term “actionable science,” to cover science that “provides data, analyses, projections, or tools that can support decisions regarding the management of the risks and impacts of climate change. It is ideally co-produced by scientists and decision makers and creates rigorous and accessible products to meet the needs of stakeholders.” Whether called usable or actionable, there is pressure on science funders and scientists to create science that can be used in decision making.
The usability of science is a function of the context of its potential use and of the process of how the scientific knowledge was produced. The process of identifying usable science should start with a decision that needs to be made, rather than a research question. Then, repeated conversations between the producers and users of scientific knowledge are critical to creating usable science. This iteration is the result of actions of the scientists and decision makers who ‘own’ the task of building relationships and mechanisms that foster co-production of knowledge.
Usable or actionable science is not new science, but rather a particular approach to science that informs decision-making and responds to societal capabilities and goals. Government programs like NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment programs and the Department of Interior’s Climate Science Centers use a variety of formal and informal techniques to reconcile their scientific research efforts with the information demands of their various users. Nongovernmental organizations like the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable are bringing together scientists, natural resource managers, science funders, policy makers, and practitioners to develop research agendas that start with the challenges faced by the knowledge users to build research questions.
The symposium will provide an introduction to the topic, followed by a series of speakers who will present case studies of usable science in government and non-governmental organizations highlighting the opportunities and challenges. We will then conclude with a wrap-up and panel discussion.