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Expanding the Science-Policy Interface to Confront Global Change

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Session Description: 

In the U.S., the need for effective scientist-decision maker engagement is explicitly endorsed at the highest levels of national science policy-making, including the annual research and development priorities memo of the Executive Office for fiscal year 2017. The call from the Executive Office formalizes a long-standing recognition–among a minority of scientists and practitioners–that the public value of research activities may be enhanced through engagement between scientists and decision makers. Despite the growing recognition of the value of socially-engaged research, sound practice for engagement is not adequately considered in the design of new institutions, programs, and career development tracks. This gap illustrates a lack of formal learning in science policy and is critical because engagement and, specifically, co-production of knowledge are proving effective in adapting to global change.

Engagement between scientists and decision makers (science-policy interactions) occurs in different communities of research and practice. We identified three communities for this workshop: water; conservation; and urban planning. Across these cases, deliberate strategies have been employed to encourage decision maker-scientist engagement, including the formation of new organizations, innovative design of research projects, and training and education for professionals to participate in engagement efforts. Individual cases reveal several outcomes, including but not limited to: increased awareness of risk; information that enabled adaptation or resilience choices; exchange between decision makers from different sectors leading to more coordinated responses to natural resource impacts; and mediation for responsible use of science. These cases reinforce the imperative to support the science-policy interface, but also reinforce the need for institutional development. Specifically, we have initially defined the following goals based on recurrent themes in previous discussions:

• Building commitment to sustained and diverse institutional structures
• Identifying standards for organizational behaviors and practices at the interface
• Clarifying career paths for work at the interface

We assembled participants with understanding, expertise, and/or experience in engagement at the interface. In each of the case areas, we asked participants to examine these institutional demands or gaps.

Workshop Topic (s): 
  • Human Contributions & Responses