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Achieving Conservation Science that Bridges the Knowledge–Action Boundary

Achieving Conservation Science that Bridges the Knowledge–Action Boundary Essay Achieving Conservation Science that Bridges the Knowledge–Action Boundary ∗ ∗ CARLY N. COOK, † MICHAEL B. MASCIA,‡ MARK W. SCHWARTZ,§ HUGH P. POSSINGHAM, AND RICHARD A. FULLER School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia †School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia ‡World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037, U.S.A. §Department of Environmental Science & Policy, 1 Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A. Abstract: There are many barriers to using science to inform conservation policy and practice. Conservation scientists wishing to produce management-relevant science must balance this goal with the imperative of demonstrating novelty and rigor in their science. Decision makers seeking to make evidence-based decisions must balance a desire for knowledge with the need to act despite uncertainty. Generating science that will effectively inform management decisions requires that the production of information (the components of knowledge) be salient (relevant and timely), credible (authoritative, believable, and trusted), and legitimate (developed via a process that considers the values and perspectives of all relevant actors) in the eyes of both researchers and decision makers. We perceive 3 key challenges for those hoping to generate conservation science that achieves all 3 of these information characteristics. First, scientific and management audiences can have contrasting perceptions about the salience of research. Second, the pursuit of scientific credibility can come at the cost of salience and legitimacy in the eyes of decision makers, and, third, different actors can have conflicting views about what constitutes legitimate information. We highlight 4 institutional frameworks that can facilitate science that will inform management: boundary organizations (environmental organiza- tions that span the boundary between science and management), research scientists embedded in resource management agencies, formal links between decision makers and scientists at research-focused institutions, and training programs for conservation professionals. Although these are not the only approaches to gener- ating boundary-spanning science, nor are they mutually exclusive, they provide mechanisms for promoting communication, translation, and mediation across the knowledge–action boundary. We believe that despite the challenges, conservation science should strive to be a boundary science, which both advances scientific understanding and contributes to decision making. Keywords: boundary organizations, boundary science, decision making, environmental management, imple- mentation gap, scientific uncertainty Logrando que la Ciencia de la Conservacion ´ Trasponga la Frontera Conocimiento-Accion ´ Resumen: Hay muchas barreras para utilizar ciencia para informar a la pol´ıtica y practica ´ de la con- servacion. ´ Los cient´ıficos de la conservacion ´ que desean producir ciencia relevante para el manejo deben equilibrar esta meta con el imperativo de demostrar novedad y rigor en su ciencia. Los tomadores de decisiones que buscan que sus decisiones se basen en evidencias deben equilibrar el deseo de conocimientos con la necesidad de actuar a pesar de la incertidumbre. La generacion ´ de ciencia que informe efectivamente a las decisiones de manejo requiere que la produccion ´ de informacion ´ (los componentes del conocimiento) sea sobresaliente (relevante y oportuna), cre´ıble (autoritativa, veros´ımil y confiable) y leg´ıtima (desarrollada mediante un proceso que considera los valores y perspectivas de todos los actores relevantes) a la vista tanto de investigadores como de tomadores de decisiones. Percibimos tres retos clave para quienes desean generar Paper submitted April 9, 2012; revised manuscript accepted January 8, 2013. Conservation Biology, Volume 27, No. 4, 669–678 2013 Society for Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12050 670 Achieving Effective Conservation Science ciencia de la conservacion ´ que logre estas tres caracter´ısticas de la informacion. ´ Primero, las audiencias cient´ıficas y de manejo pueden tener percepciones contrastantes sobre la relevancia de la investigacion. ´ Segundo, la credibilidad se puede lograr a costa de la relevancia y legitimidad a la vista de los tomadores de decisiones y tercero, los diferentes actores pueden tener percepciones conflictivas sobre los que constituye informacion ´ leg´ıtima. Resaltamos cuatro marcos institucionales que pueden facilitar que la ciencia informe al manejo: organizaciones de frontera (organizaciones ambientales que trasponen la frontera entre la ciencia y el manejo), investigadores cientıficos insertados en agencias de manejo de recursos, vınculos formales ´ ´ entre tomadores de decisiones y cientıficos en instituciones enfocadas a la investigacion, y programas de ´ ´ capacitacion para profesionales de la conservacion. Aunque estos no son los unicos metodos para generar ´ ´ ´ ´ ciencia que traspone fronteras, ni son mutuamente excluyentes, proporcionan mecanismos que promueven la comunicacion, ´ traslacion ´ y mediacion ´ para trasponer la frontera conocimiento-accion. ´ Consideramos que no obstante los retos, la ciencia de la conservacion ´ deber´ıa pugnar por ser una ciencia de frontera, que incrementa el entendimiento cient´ıfico y contribuye a la toma de decisiones. Palabras Clave: ciencia de frontera, incertidumbre cient´ıfica, manejo ambiental, organizaciones de frontera, toma de decisiones, vac´ıo de implementacion ´ Introduction plinary research necessary to develop realistic solutions to many problems (Ludwig et al. 2001; Knight et al. 2008). Underpinning conservation policy (regulatory decisions) Decision makers responsible for conservation policy and practice (on-the-ground decisions) with rigorous sci- and practice must balance a desire for knowledge (infor- mation that has been interpreted for their context) with entific evidence can be vital for efficiently solving envi- the need to act despite uncertainty (Soule ´ 1985). Imped- ronmental problems (Pullin & Knight 2001; Sutherland iments to the use of science cited by decision makers in- et al. 2004). However, producing science that informs clude a lack of financial resources and operational capac- policy and practice is an enduring challenge (Linklater ity to implement findings (Young & Van Aarde 2011); lack 2003; McNie 2007; Knight et al. 2008). The term bound- of alignment between the scientific research conducted ary organization is used to refer to an environmental or- and the information needed (Fazey et al. 2005; Young ganization that spans the boundary between science and & Van Aarde 2011); difficulty accessing and interpreting practice (Guston 2001). Following this definition, we use relevant scientific information (Pullin & Knight 2005; Ar- the term boundary science to describe research that both lettaz et al. 2010); a perception that scientists are driven advances scientific understanding and contributes to de- by personal agenda and that there is lack of consensus cision making. This knowledge transfer is bilateral, such that biophysical and social science inform management among scientists on the best course of action (Young actions (i.e., evidence-based policy) and management & Van Aarde 2011); organizational cultures that often needs inform scientific research (i.e., policy-relevant sci- do not promote the use of science when implement- ence). Ideally, conservation science should be a boundary ing management strategies (Young & Van Aarde 2011); science, and henceforth we refer to conservation science and bureaucratic restrictions within agencies. In some in this ideal form that crosses the boundaries between cases, it may be more appropriate for decision makers scholarship and application. not to incorporate science when innovative approaches There are obstacles to bridging the knowledge–action to solving environmental problems are impractical to im- boundary. Conservation scientists must balance provi- plement, too costly, or their outcomes are not sufficiently sion of management-relevant science with the imperative predictable (Pannell et al. 2006). of demonstrating novelty and rigor in their science (Meffe The pervasive challenge of developing science that et al. 2006) and are asked to provide science that informs contributes to both scientific understanding and pol- icy decisions has led to several disciplines coining sim- the development of solutions to inherently complex envi- ilar terms. For example, use-inspired science is used in ronmental problems (Miller 1993). Impediments to gen- medical sciences to describe science that contributes to erating boundary-spanning conservation science include scientific understanding and clinical practice (Chismar a reward structure in science that promotes publication et al. 2011), and translational science is used to describe and grant income rather than engaging with conservation the process of moving scientific discovery to practice. practitioners (Gibbons et al. 2008; Arlettaz et al. 2010), More recently, environmental scientists have adopted journal publication time frames that can be incompat- the term actionable science, which applies to genera- ible with solving urgent conservation problems (Meffe tion of management strategies for environmental prob- 2001), funding constraints preventing questions being ad- lems (Palmer 2012). Spanning the physical and social sci- dressed at ecologically relevant temporal or spatial scales (Kettenring & Reinhardt Adams 2011), and disincentives ences literatures, Gibbons et al. (1994) describe “mode 2” within research institutions to conducting the multidisci- knowledge production, which is an interactive process Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 Cook et al. 671 used to conduct scientific research in the context of its klater 2003). This tension has led to a well-documented application. Conservation science that crosses the bound- mismatch between the types of research appearing in the ary from scholarship to action can benefit from the ideas conservation-science literature and that most relevant to generated in other disciplines. policy and management (e.g., Whitten et al. 2001; Fazey Within the sustainable-development literature, Cash et al. 2005; Knight et al. 2008). Managers report that a lack et al. (2003) provide a compelling concept for under- of research relevant to their needs is a major impediment standing why some science is translated into action to the use of science to inform decisions and that ir- whereas other science is not. They propose that for relevant or unrealistic recommendations can undermine research to cross the knowledge boundary it must be the credibility of scientists (Young & Van Aarde 2011). salient (relevant to decision-making bodies and provided Salience also involves information being provided in a when it is needed), credible (authoritative, believable, timely fashion when it is needed for a decision (Cash and trusted) and legitimate (developed via a process that et al. 2003). However, the urgent and dynamic nature considers the values and perspectives of all actors) to of many conservation problems means that research can both scientists and decision makers (Cash et al. 2003). be perpetually out of sync with management (Linklater Without all 3 elements, research is likely to be ignored 2003). This issue is exacerbated by the long time frames by decision makers. However, not only the nature of the often required to publish research (Meffe 2001). science, but also the perspective from which the science is conducted can affect its relevance for management. Scientific Credibility Versus Salience and Legitimacy We examined the roles of salience, credibility, and le- gitimacy in generating science that both advances knowl- Scientific credibility is important in management-relevant edge and informs policy and practice. Although there science, but the pursuit of credibility can compromise is an emerging literature on the need for conservation the salience and legitimacy of information in the eyes of science to bridge barriers (e.g., Arlettaz et al. 2010), decision makers. The traditional scientific model seeks there has been little consideration of the partnerships, credibility through objectivity, hypothesis testing, repli- institutions, and processes that foster such progress. cation, and repetition (Nowotny et al. 2001). Rigorous scientific methods include the use of experimental con- trols to establish causation and high levels of replication Impediments to Achieving Effective at multiple spatial and temporal scales, all of which can Conservation Science be difficult to achieve in conservation research (Ferraro & Pattanayak 2006). Methods such as before-after-control- We perceive at least 3 key challenges for those hoping to impact (BACI) designs (Bried & Ervin 2011) and cred- achieve boundary-spanning conservation science. First, ible landscape-level approaches that address conserva- scientific and management audiences can have contrast- tion problems (e.g., Thompson et al. 2009) can assist ing perceptions about the salience of research. Second, in some cases. However, a tendency to simplify research the pursuit of scientific credibility can come at the cost of questions to suit rigorous scientific methods can compro- salience and legitimacy of science in the eyes of decision mise the salience of those questions for decision makers, makers, and third, different actors can have conflicting who must confront the real complexity of environmen- views about what constitutes legitimate information. tal problems. Conversely, credible research can lead to highly technical outputs that practitioners find unintelli- gible (Pullin & Knight 2005), which further impedes the Salience for Scientists Versus Managers application of research findings even if they are salient. There is a substantial role for science driven solely by the Achieving credibility by reducing the uncertainty as- desire for discovery. Curiosity-driven science provides vi- sociated with the outcomes of a conservation action tal building blocks for the application of science and can has many advantages, such as simplifying decisions have unexpected practical relevance (Sutherland et al. and increasing the probability of achieving the stated 2011). Yet addressing fundamental and novel questions goal (Sutherland et al. 2004). However, legitimate ap- is not always compatible with resolving well-established proaches must account for restrictions to implementa- conservation problems. What is interesting is not always tion. If achieving high levels of certainty requires long lag important, and what is important is not always interest- times, then the salience of the science for decision makers ing. Boundary scientists seek relevance on both sides of is reduced. Likewise, management approaches that are the knowledge–action boundary, a goal that conservation too costly to implement lack legitimacy for decision mak- science should strive for (Meffe et al. 2006). To attract ers. Replication and repetition may incrementally reduce funding and facilitate publication in reputable journals, scientific uncertainty, although background environmen- research questions must be novel, but if the research is tal variation can make detection of clear environmental not relevant to the current problems faced by decision trends elusive despite decades of data collection (Magur- makers it will not influence conservation practice (Lin- ran et al. 2010). Managers do not always require high Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 672 Achieving Effective Conservation Science levels of confidence to act because delaying action until they are certain they need to act can lead to more expen- sive management actions (Maguire 1991; Field et al. 2004) or even undesirable outcomes (e.g., the extinction of the Hawaiian Po’ouli [Melamprosops phaeosoma] [Black & Groombridge 2010]). Likewise, data collection that di- verts funds from on-the-ground management may not always be a good use of resources (Grantham et al. 2009; McDonald-Madden et al. 2010). Therefore, the time and resources required to achieve high levels of certainty can lead to unrealistic recommendations that are not viewed as legitimate by decision makers (Young & Van Aarde 2011), despite their scientific credibility. The focus on reducing uncertainty can distract from the fact that the acquisition of new knowledge may not materially change what is considered the best course of action. Conservation professionals rarely calculate the value of new information to management, and more re- Figure 1. A general relation between monetary search may not always lead to more effective decisions investment in a conservation intervention and the (Runge et al. 2011b). The application of existing knowl- desired conservation benefit, which masks substantial edge can allow the likely outcomes of management to heterogeneity in the outcomes at different sites (circled be predicted with reasonable certainty without expen- points indicate the degree to which different outcomes sive data collection. For example, Bayesian methods can can be generated despite the same level of investment quickly reduce uncertainty by combining expert opinion in an intervention). with data (Smith et al. 2007) and have provided timely scientific advice for management decisions (e.g., Punt & bate about the meaning of research outcomes. Although Hilborn 1997; Smith et al. 2007). Expert elicitation can debate is fundamental to science, a lack of consensus also be used to evaluate competing models for how to among scientists can lead to confusion among those out- conduct management. By calculating the expected value side the debate and mistrust of researchers among deci- of new information, managers can identify when infor- sion makers. These outcomes compromise the perceived mation will be valuable enough to decision makers to credibility of the research findings and the legitimacy of warrant additional data collection (Runge et al. 2011b). the process of scientific inquiry (Cash et al. 2003; Young Attempting to develop a single model that predicts & Van Aarde 2011). When action is politically sensitive, management outcomes in all contexts (environmental, such as removing animals from the wild for a captive- social, and political factors relevant to a management de- breeding program (Clark et al. 1994), decision makers cision) can increase scientific credibility (Pullin & Stewart can become paralyzed by uncertainty in research findings 2006). Unfortunately, such generalizations are rarely ad- and delay necessary action (Ludwig et al. 1993). equate (Weiner 1995) because they mask much of the variation in the underlying data that arise from differ- Views of Legitimate Information ences among taxonomic groups, geographic locations, and temporal fluctuations (e.g., Bayard & Elphick 2010). Achieving legitimacy for different audiences requires that When there is heterogeneity in the outcomes of a manage- the values and perspectives of multiple stakeholders and ment intervention, an individual conservation manager scientific disciplines are represented when developing may gain little from a general model (Fig. 1). Instead, and implementing research (Cash et al. 2003). However, theory can provide useful heuristics for decisions, such actors on different sides of the knowledge–action bound- as using existing knowledge about life-history strategies ary, and across different scientific disciplines, can have to manage habitat patches for the conservation of birds different perspectives on what constitutes a legitimate (Shanahan & Possingham 2009). Although using exist- process to produce credible research findings. These ing knowledge to develop heuristics requires accepting views can be deeply held and not easily reconciled (Klein- lower scientific certainty than if specific data were col- ing & Witt 2001). Research findings derived from the lected on individual species or habitats, and accepting use of qualitative research methods, which are often the that in some cases the wrong decision may be made, it most rigorous way to study social aspects of conservation provides managers with a rational basis on which to act (e.g., local ecological knowledge and social effects of immediately. conservation interventions), can have low credibility An impediment to the production of credible informa- among quantitative researchers but high legitimacy for tion is that scientific enquiry is a process that fosters de- decision makers. Differing perspectives on legitimate Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 Cook et al. 673 information can impede efforts to include the perspec- ple, the Ecosystem-Based Management Tools Network tives and knowledge of some stakeholders in solutions (www.ebmtools.org), which provides a wide range of to conservation problems and to develop the multidisci- training and outreach activities to connect practitioners plinary research necessary to provide realistic manage- with tools that incorporate natural and social science into ment approaches (Cash et al. 2003). It is vital to include decision making. Nongovernmental organizations that fa- the perspectives and knowledge of stakeholders, espe- cilitate working groups of scientists, decision makers, cially decision makers, to ensure that social and ecolog- and other stakeholder groups to develop management ical research is salient to the management context and strategies that can be applied across landscapes could legitimate in the eyes of these stakeholders. also be considered boundary organizations. Establishing separate organizations devoted to promot- ing the development and use of conservation science is Bridging the Knowledge–Action Boundary an advantage because these organizations can operate on both sides of the boundary while maintaining their cred- Successful balancing of salience, credibility, and legiti- ibility and independence. This independence can bring macy benefits from processes such as joint fact-finding together groups that may have had poor relationships (Karl et al. 2007), which exist to engage stakeholders in the past and can enable boundary organizations to in the process of knowledge production. Approaches attract funding from a wide range of sources (Guston to generating boundary science include mechanisms to 2001). However, boundary organizations tend to work ensure a collaborative process that represents all best when focused on specific issues in specific places stakeholders, facilitates communication across the (Osmond et al. 2010). The number of conservation prob- knowledge–action boundary throughout the research lems and the cost of administering boundary organiza- process, translates jargon, and includes mediation be- tions mean that specialized or local organizations will not tween knowledge producers and users (Cash et al. 2003; always be feasible, especially in developing countries. McNie 2007). Production of effective conservation sci- ence can be achieved in a variety of ways, provided there are mechanisms to facilitate communication, translation, Research Scientists in Resource Management Agencies and mediation across the boundary. There are multiple benefits to creating permanent po- Institutions and processes that span boundaries are sitions that embed research scientists within organiza- ideally suited to address conservation problems because tions dominated by decision makers (Jenkins et al. 2012) of the complexity of environmental problems, the need (Tables 2 & 3). Resource management agencies (gov- for solutions relevant to multiple stakeholders, con- ernment and nongovernmental) can ensure that high- texts, and scientific disciplines, and the diverse users priority knowledge gaps are filled by these researchers, of science that is relevant to both policy and practice. who could provide data about effective interventions and We highlight 4 institutional frameworks that facilitate advice relevant to the management context (Young & the science that informs environmental management Van Aarde 2011). Due to their exposure to the man- (Tables 2 & 3): boundary organizations (defined below), agement of conservation problems, embedded scientists research scientists embedded in resource management also have the potential to identify and study conservation agencies, formal links between research-focused institu- problems that have not received scientific attention (e.g., tions and resource management agencies, and training protected area downgrading, downsizing and degazett- programs for conservation professionals. We also discuss ment [Mascia & Pailler 2011]). Furthermore, scientists how these different approaches to facilitating conser- can provide in-house expertise for the design and im- vation science can be mixed to harness their different plementation of research and monitoring programs and strengths under different circumstances. analysis of data collected by agency staff to ensure deci- sion makers can make informed decisions about compro- Boundary Organizations mises between certainty and urgency. Allowing managers The role of facilitating communication between scien- to work directly with scientists offers greater potential tists and decision makers can be assumed by dedicated to apply adaptive-management approaches (e.g., Glen boundary organizations that operate in both scientific and Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program [Susskind practical spheres but retain distinct lines of accountability et al. 2012]) that gather salient, credible, and legitimate to both groups (Guston 2001). Boundary organizations information from management activities and use that in- have been used to address complex environmental prob- formation to guide future decisions. lems (Cash et al. 2003) and the interdisciplinary nature An additional benefit of embedding researchers in re- of issues such as adapting to climate change (Brooke source management agencies is that a close working rela- 2008). There are many boundary organizations that work tionship between on-the-ground managers and scientists at the nexus of science, policy, and practice and facil- can help overcome the resistance managers sometimes itate communication among them (Table 1), for exam- have to using scientific information (Young & Van Aarde Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 674 Achieving Effective Conservation Science Table 1. Examples of institutional frameworks that facilitate science that crosses the knowledge to action boundary. Scientists embedded in resource management Formal links between Training conservation Boundary organizations agencies research and practice professionals Fiji Locally Managed Marine World Wildlife Fund Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape University of Exeter Master of Area Network Conservation Science Program (Philippines) is a collaboration Science–Conservation and facilitates a partnership (International) between nongovernmental Biodiversity program is designed between government conducts multidisciplinary resource management agencies with external resource authorities, research to inform and local research-focused management agencies to nongovernmental on-the-ground programs and institutions to deliver provide research and practical organizations, community communicates findings to conservation science to inform skills, with opportunities for leaders, research-focused other conservation local government planning further training with resource institutions, and organizations, government management agencies private-sector organizations agencies and academics to protect marine resources Healthy Reefs for Healthy U.S. Department of Agriculture Australian Research Council Environmental Leadership People (Central America) Forest Service Research Stations Linkage Grants Program Fellowships facilitates partnerships conduct long-term, often provides competitive (International) provide training between research-focused spatially extensive research research funding for projects opportunities for midcareer institutions, government, to improve understanding of developed as collaborations conservation professionals from and nongovernmental ecosystems and to provide between resource all sectors to increase their agencies, and the tools to transfer knowledge management agencies and capacity and develop networks community to improve reef into management research-focused institutions and leadership skills health in the Caribbean recommendations Center for International New South Wales Office of Grants from philanthropic Duke Environmental Leadership Forestry Research Environment and Heritage trusts for conservation Master of Environmental (International) (Australia) Science Division research, such as the David Management program provides conducts and communicates conducts research at local and Lucile Packard Foundation, midcareer conservation multidisciplinary research to and landscape levels and Gordon and Betty Moore professionals with manage forest environments provides advice to Foundation, Walton interdisciplinary scientific and alleviate poverty on-the-ground managers Foundation training in strategic environmental-management, communication, and leadership skills Resources for the Future Royal Society for the Protection World Wildlife Fund’s Fuller Leopold Leadership Program (International) of Birds (United Kingdom and Science for Nature Fund advances environmental conducts and communicates international) provides funding for decision making by providing the results of independent, conducts research and conservation research and tenure-track scientists with multidisciplinary research to monitors threatened birds hosts an annual science leadership and inform environmental policy within reserves in the United symposium for decision communications skills Kingdom and internationally, makers which informs policy and management 2011). When managers can advise scientists about re- questioned by the wider scientific community. Likewise, search priorities and the real-world constraints on man- achieving salience and legitimacy for policy and practice agement, research is more likely to result in salient and may lead to compromises in scientific rigor that challenge legitimate solutions. Moreover, scientists within resource traditional notions of scientific credibility. For example, management agencies could filter, synthesize, and trans- decision makers may be willing to accept lower levels of late the peer-reviewed literature into management ap- confidence to reduce costs and facilitate timely informa- proaches. This would overcome the impediments of ac- tion for urgent action, or they may favor avoiding type cess and interpretation of literature that can prevent the II error (i.e., accepting a false null hypothesis [failing use of science in practice (Fazey et al. 2005; Pullin & to recognize a genuine problem]) rather than the tradi- Knight 2005; Arlettaz et al. 2010) and mimic the pref- tional emphasis on reducing type I error (i.e., rejecting erence of managers to seek advice from scientists they a true null hypothesis [false alarms]) (Shrader-Frechette consider credible (Seavy & Howell 2010). & McCoy 1992; Field et al. 2004). In these cases it may There are several challenges associated with em- be necessary for embedded scientists to assume the role bedding researchers in resource management agencies. of mediators across the boundary and communicate the These include the potential for scientists to become needs of decision makers to other scientists and provide isolated from and have the credibility of their research the information necessary for decision makers to seek Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 Cook et al. 675 Table 2. The potential benefits and weaknesses of the different approaches to facilitating conservation science for decision makers. Models for facilitating conservation science Benefits to decision makers Weaknesses for decision makers Traditional academic model rigorous scientific information generated research may not be relevant or timely can identify emerging issues and provide unexpected benefits Boundary organizations increases management-relevant science, requires additional resources, and is not provides greater access to existing feasible for all conservation problems management-relevant research, and promotes bilateral, active knowledge transfer Scientists embedded in increases management-relevant science, requires additional resources, and may conservation agencies provides greater access to existing compromise the quality of research if management-relevant research, provides researchers become isolated from the opportunities to learn from management broader scientific community action (e.g., adaptive management), provides access to tools to aid decisions (e.g., decision theory), and promotes bilateral, active knowledge transfer provides access to expert advice Formal links between researchers increases management-relevant science, requires additional resources, and success and decision makers provides greater access to existing depends on the commitment of both management-relevant research, promotes scientists and decision makers bilateral, active knowledge transfer, and provides access to expert advice Training conservation improves scientific knowledge and skills, requires additional resources to train professionals provides more scientists with an existing staff, and benefits may take time understanding of management contexts, to become widespread and promotes bilateral, active knowledge transfer compromise between scientific credibility and realistic (Schwartz et al. 2008) and by participating in peer-review solutions. To ensure that researchers genuinely operate and editorial processes. Other measures to strengthen in both spheres, it is important that they engage with the the benefits from embedding scientists in resource wider scientific community, for example through profes- management agencies include full access to the primary sional bodies such as the Society for Conservation Biology literature and participation in the training of conservation Table 3. The potential benefits and weaknesses of the different approaches to facilitating conservation science for scientists. Models for facilitating conservation science Benefits to scientists Weaknesses for scientists Traditional academic model rigorous scientific information generated, research finding may not be implemented and fits within existing training and current reward structures Boundary organizations promotes bilateral, active knowledge requires additional resources, and is not transfer, identifies important research feasible for all conservation problems questions, and provides access to additional source of funding Scientists embedded in identifies important research questions, can lead to scientists becoming isolated conservation agencies increases likelihood that research from the academic community, may limit findings are implemented, and promotes access to the primary literature and bilateral, active knowledge transfer research students, and may compromise objectivity and independence Formal links between researchers identifies important research questions, requires time be spent on bureaucratic and decision makers increases likelihood that research processes, and success depends on the findings are implemented, provides commitment of both scientists and access to additional source of funding, decision makers and promotes bilateral, active knowledge transfer Training conservation provides a better understanding of requires some content from the traditional professionals management context, and promotes syllabus be sacrificed, and curriculum bilateral, active knowledge transfer development may divert time from research activities Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 676 Achieving Effective Conservation Science professionals (e.g., graduate students who conduct re- managers throughout the project and to share research search through formal links with academic institutions). findings. Embedding scientists in resource management agen- cies has been a valuable practice for decades, and we Training Conservation Professionals are aware of a multitude of conservation organizations in which high-quality research is conducted and scientists The growth in formal training courses in conservation are respected globally (Table 1). However, many agencies (Noss 1997) provides an opportunity to train future gen- are downsizing their science divisions and outsourcing erations of conservation professionals to facilitate conser- research. Reversing this trend would require clear articu- vation science. The skills required of conservation practi- lation and illustration of the value of science in decision tioners differ from those required of conservation scien- making. In countries where internal conservation bud- tists, and existing academic training programs generally gets fall well short of what is needed for management fail to provide training in both skill sets (Muir & Schwartz and science, additional support may be necessary in the 2009). Training individuals who can effectively operate in form of funding or exchange programs aimed at building both spheres of the knowledge–action boundary, regard- scientific capacity. less of where they are employed, requires that students be provided with skills relevant to both scientists and decision makers so they can communicate, facilitate, and Links between Researchers and Decision Makers mediate across the knowledge–action boundary. Several Where it is currently impossible to embed scientists in re- organizations, not just academic institutions, offer such source management agencies (Jenkins et al. 2012), agen- programs (e.g., National Conservation Training Center cies can still benefit from closer links with scientists. Such [Runge et al. 2011a]) (Table 1), although it may be some links have been developed through formal arrangements time before these programs have widespread effects. between resource management agencies and scientists at Identifying skills required by conservation scientists research-focused institutions, whereby agencies supply and decision makers can help develop training programs priority research questions and a small financial incen- that teach a combination of these skills (Muir & Schwartz tive, such as a research stipend or contribution toward 2009). The balance between the knowledge required project costs. Ideally, these arrangements are actively by both groups of conservation professionals can be managed by individuals who assume the responsibility achieved by involving both scientists and decision makers for communication, translation, and mediation across the in training programs that teach students about tools that boundary. This approach benefits the agency because can assist decision makers to act under uncertainty (e.g., it provides expertise of scientists from a wide range of decision theory, which is used to identify the optimal disciplines and the enthusiasm and energy of staff or stu- decision given limited data or high uncertainty [Possing- dents. The research-focused institutions benefit from the ham 2001; Polasky et al. 2011] and adaptive management, additional source of research funds, and their staff or the systematic acquisition and application of information students are provided with an opportunity to conduct to improve management over time [Holling 1978]). Al- management-relevant research. though it is vital that the scientific training of conser- Many successful models exist for developing for- vation professionals not be compromised by sacrificing mal links between decision makers and conservation good experimental design and analysis, it is important scientists (Table 1). The Research Partners Program to ensure training programs also deliver skills, such as operated by an Australian management agency (Parks Vic- the ability to communicate science to decision makers, toria) maintains formal agreements with several research- and an understanding of how policy is generated and focused institutions whose scientists or graduate students implemented (Muir & Schwartz 2009). conduct management-relevant research in exchange for a financial contribution to this research. Likewise, the Combined Approaches to Achieving Effective U.S. Department of the Interior has cooperative research Conservation Science units located at land-grant universities. These units link research funds and stipends to management-relevant The 4 approaches for spanning the knowledge–action projects. Alternatively, employees of resource manage- boundary that we highlight can each be effective at fa- ment agencies can work within research-focused institu- cilitating effective conservation science but are by no tions to develop and facilitate conservation science. For means the only methods, nor are they mutually exclu- example, many nongovernmental organizations, such as sive. For example, using formal links such as internship Wildlife Conservation Society and The Nature Conser- programs to place researchers in resource management vancy, have funds for their staff to spend time within agencies for discrete periods of time does not incur a long- academic institutions. Although there are many benefits term cost. Internships also educate researchers about to these models, the success of these systems relies on the operational constraints and organizational cultures and good will of researchers to actively communicate with can provide decision makers with opportunities to learn Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 Cook et al. 677 new skills. These arrangements can increase the par- Chismar, W.,T.A.Horan,B.W.Hesse,S.S.Feldman, andA.R.Shaikh. 2011. Health cyberinfrastructure for collaborative use-inspired re- ticipation of scientists in advisory committees and lead search and practice. American Journal of Preventative Medicine them to adapt their research programs to fill specific 40:S108–S114. knowledge gaps (Jenkins et al. 2012). Likewise, knowl- Clark, T. W., R. P. Reading, and A. L. Clarke, editors. 1994. Endangered edge brokers, who establish and maintain links between species recovery: finding the lessons, improving the process. 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Achieving Conservation Science that Bridges the Knowledge–Action Boundary

Conservation Biology , Volume 27 (4) – Apr 10, 2013

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0888-8892
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1523-1739
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10.1111/cobi.12050
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Abstract

Essay Achieving Conservation Science that Bridges the Knowledge–Action Boundary ∗ ∗ CARLY N. COOK, † MICHAEL B. MASCIA,‡ MARK W. SCHWARTZ,§ HUGH P. POSSINGHAM, AND RICHARD A. FULLER School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia †School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia ‡World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037, U.S.A. §Department of Environmental Science & Policy, 1 Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A. Abstract: There are many barriers to using science to inform conservation policy and practice. Conservation scientists wishing to produce management-relevant science must balance this goal with the imperative of demonstrating novelty and rigor in their science. Decision makers seeking to make evidence-based decisions must balance a desire for knowledge with the need to act despite uncertainty. Generating science that will effectively inform management decisions requires that the production of information (the components of knowledge) be salient (relevant and timely), credible (authoritative, believable, and trusted), and legitimate (developed via a process that considers the values and perspectives of all relevant actors) in the eyes of both researchers and decision makers. We perceive 3 key challenges for those hoping to generate conservation science that achieves all 3 of these information characteristics. First, scientific and management audiences can have contrasting perceptions about the salience of research. Second, the pursuit of scientific credibility can come at the cost of salience and legitimacy in the eyes of decision makers, and, third, different actors can have conflicting views about what constitutes legitimate information. We highlight 4 institutional frameworks that can facilitate science that will inform management: boundary organizations (environmental organiza- tions that span the boundary between science and management), research scientists embedded in resource management agencies, formal links between decision makers and scientists at research-focused institutions, and training programs for conservation professionals. Although these are not the only approaches to gener- ating boundary-spanning science, nor are they mutually exclusive, they provide mechanisms for promoting communication, translation, and mediation across the knowledge–action boundary. We believe that despite the challenges, conservation science should strive to be a boundary science, which both advances scientific understanding and contributes to decision making. Keywords: boundary organizations, boundary science, decision making, environmental management, imple- mentation gap, scientific uncertainty Logrando que la Ciencia de la Conservacion ´ Trasponga la Frontera Conocimiento-Accion ´ Resumen: Hay muchas barreras para utilizar ciencia para informar a la pol´ıtica y practica ´ de la con- servacion. ´ Los cient´ıficos de la conservacion ´ que desean producir ciencia relevante para el manejo deben equilibrar esta meta con el imperativo de demostrar novedad y rigor en su ciencia. Los tomadores de decisiones que buscan que sus decisiones se basen en evidencias deben equilibrar el deseo de conocimientos con la necesidad de actuar a pesar de la incertidumbre. La generacion ´ de ciencia que informe efectivamente a las decisiones de manejo requiere que la produccion ´ de informacion ´ (los componentes del conocimiento) sea sobresaliente (relevante y oportuna), cre´ıble (autoritativa, veros´ımil y confiable) y leg´ıtima (desarrollada mediante un proceso que considera los valores y perspectivas de todos los actores relevantes) a la vista tanto de investigadores como de tomadores de decisiones. Percibimos tres retos clave para quienes desean generar Paper submitted April 9, 2012; revised manuscript accepted January 8, 2013. Conservation Biology, Volume 27, No. 4, 669–678 2013 Society for Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12050 670 Achieving Effective Conservation Science ciencia de la conservacion ´ que logre estas tres caracter´ısticas de la informacion. ´ Primero, las audiencias cient´ıficas y de manejo pueden tener percepciones contrastantes sobre la relevancia de la investigacion. ´ Segundo, la credibilidad se puede lograr a costa de la relevancia y legitimidad a la vista de los tomadores de decisiones y tercero, los diferentes actores pueden tener percepciones conflictivas sobre los que constituye informacion ´ leg´ıtima. Resaltamos cuatro marcos institucionales que pueden facilitar que la ciencia informe al manejo: organizaciones de frontera (organizaciones ambientales que trasponen la frontera entre la ciencia y el manejo), investigadores cientıficos insertados en agencias de manejo de recursos, vınculos formales ´ ´ entre tomadores de decisiones y cientıficos en instituciones enfocadas a la investigacion, y programas de ´ ´ capacitacion para profesionales de la conservacion. Aunque estos no son los unicos metodos para generar ´ ´ ´ ´ ciencia que traspone fronteras, ni son mutuamente excluyentes, proporcionan mecanismos que promueven la comunicacion, ´ traslacion ´ y mediacion ´ para trasponer la frontera conocimiento-accion. ´ Consideramos que no obstante los retos, la ciencia de la conservacion ´ deber´ıa pugnar por ser una ciencia de frontera, que incrementa el entendimiento cient´ıfico y contribuye a la toma de decisiones. Palabras Clave: ciencia de frontera, incertidumbre cient´ıfica, manejo ambiental, organizaciones de frontera, toma de decisiones, vac´ıo de implementacion ´ Introduction plinary research necessary to develop realistic solutions to many problems (Ludwig et al. 2001; Knight et al. 2008). Underpinning conservation policy (regulatory decisions) Decision makers responsible for conservation policy and practice (on-the-ground decisions) with rigorous sci- and practice must balance a desire for knowledge (infor- mation that has been interpreted for their context) with entific evidence can be vital for efficiently solving envi- the need to act despite uncertainty (Soule ´ 1985). Imped- ronmental problems (Pullin & Knight 2001; Sutherland iments to the use of science cited by decision makers in- et al. 2004). However, producing science that informs clude a lack of financial resources and operational capac- policy and practice is an enduring challenge (Linklater ity to implement findings (Young & Van Aarde 2011); lack 2003; McNie 2007; Knight et al. 2008). The term bound- of alignment between the scientific research conducted ary organization is used to refer to an environmental or- and the information needed (Fazey et al. 2005; Young ganization that spans the boundary between science and & Van Aarde 2011); difficulty accessing and interpreting practice (Guston 2001). Following this definition, we use relevant scientific information (Pullin & Knight 2005; Ar- the term boundary science to describe research that both lettaz et al. 2010); a perception that scientists are driven advances scientific understanding and contributes to de- by personal agenda and that there is lack of consensus cision making. This knowledge transfer is bilateral, such that biophysical and social science inform management among scientists on the best course of action (Young actions (i.e., evidence-based policy) and management & Van Aarde 2011); organizational cultures that often needs inform scientific research (i.e., policy-relevant sci- do not promote the use of science when implement- ence). Ideally, conservation science should be a boundary ing management strategies (Young & Van Aarde 2011); science, and henceforth we refer to conservation science and bureaucratic restrictions within agencies. In some in this ideal form that crosses the boundaries between cases, it may be more appropriate for decision makers scholarship and application. not to incorporate science when innovative approaches There are obstacles to bridging the knowledge–action to solving environmental problems are impractical to im- boundary. Conservation scientists must balance provi- plement, too costly, or their outcomes are not sufficiently sion of management-relevant science with the imperative predictable (Pannell et al. 2006). of demonstrating novelty and rigor in their science (Meffe The pervasive challenge of developing science that et al. 2006) and are asked to provide science that informs contributes to both scientific understanding and pol- icy decisions has led to several disciplines coining sim- the development of solutions to inherently complex envi- ilar terms. For example, use-inspired science is used in ronmental problems (Miller 1993). Impediments to gen- medical sciences to describe science that contributes to erating boundary-spanning conservation science include scientific understanding and clinical practice (Chismar a reward structure in science that promotes publication et al. 2011), and translational science is used to describe and grant income rather than engaging with conservation the process of moving scientific discovery to practice. practitioners (Gibbons et al. 2008; Arlettaz et al. 2010), More recently, environmental scientists have adopted journal publication time frames that can be incompat- the term actionable science, which applies to genera- ible with solving urgent conservation problems (Meffe tion of management strategies for environmental prob- 2001), funding constraints preventing questions being ad- lems (Palmer 2012). Spanning the physical and social sci- dressed at ecologically relevant temporal or spatial scales (Kettenring & Reinhardt Adams 2011), and disincentives ences literatures, Gibbons et al. (1994) describe “mode 2” within research institutions to conducting the multidisci- knowledge production, which is an interactive process Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 Cook et al. 671 used to conduct scientific research in the context of its klater 2003). This tension has led to a well-documented application. Conservation science that crosses the bound- mismatch between the types of research appearing in the ary from scholarship to action can benefit from the ideas conservation-science literature and that most relevant to generated in other disciplines. policy and management (e.g., Whitten et al. 2001; Fazey Within the sustainable-development literature, Cash et al. 2005; Knight et al. 2008). Managers report that a lack et al. (2003) provide a compelling concept for under- of research relevant to their needs is a major impediment standing why some science is translated into action to the use of science to inform decisions and that ir- whereas other science is not. They propose that for relevant or unrealistic recommendations can undermine research to cross the knowledge boundary it must be the credibility of scientists (Young & Van Aarde 2011). salient (relevant to decision-making bodies and provided Salience also involves information being provided in a when it is needed), credible (authoritative, believable, timely fashion when it is needed for a decision (Cash and trusted) and legitimate (developed via a process that et al. 2003). However, the urgent and dynamic nature considers the values and perspectives of all actors) to of many conservation problems means that research can both scientists and decision makers (Cash et al. 2003). be perpetually out of sync with management (Linklater Without all 3 elements, research is likely to be ignored 2003). This issue is exacerbated by the long time frames by decision makers. However, not only the nature of the often required to publish research (Meffe 2001). science, but also the perspective from which the science is conducted can affect its relevance for management. Scientific Credibility Versus Salience and Legitimacy We examined the roles of salience, credibility, and le- gitimacy in generating science that both advances knowl- Scientific credibility is important in management-relevant edge and informs policy and practice. Although there science, but the pursuit of credibility can compromise is an emerging literature on the need for conservation the salience and legitimacy of information in the eyes of science to bridge barriers (e.g., Arlettaz et al. 2010), decision makers. The traditional scientific model seeks there has been little consideration of the partnerships, credibility through objectivity, hypothesis testing, repli- institutions, and processes that foster such progress. cation, and repetition (Nowotny et al. 2001). Rigorous scientific methods include the use of experimental con- trols to establish causation and high levels of replication Impediments to Achieving Effective at multiple spatial and temporal scales, all of which can Conservation Science be difficult to achieve in conservation research (Ferraro & Pattanayak 2006). Methods such as before-after-control- We perceive at least 3 key challenges for those hoping to impact (BACI) designs (Bried & Ervin 2011) and cred- achieve boundary-spanning conservation science. First, ible landscape-level approaches that address conserva- scientific and management audiences can have contrast- tion problems (e.g., Thompson et al. 2009) can assist ing perceptions about the salience of research. Second, in some cases. However, a tendency to simplify research the pursuit of scientific credibility can come at the cost of questions to suit rigorous scientific methods can compro- salience and legitimacy of science in the eyes of decision mise the salience of those questions for decision makers, makers, and third, different actors can have conflicting who must confront the real complexity of environmen- views about what constitutes legitimate information. tal problems. Conversely, credible research can lead to highly technical outputs that practitioners find unintelli- gible (Pullin & Knight 2005), which further impedes the Salience for Scientists Versus Managers application of research findings even if they are salient. There is a substantial role for science driven solely by the Achieving credibility by reducing the uncertainty as- desire for discovery. Curiosity-driven science provides vi- sociated with the outcomes of a conservation action tal building blocks for the application of science and can has many advantages, such as simplifying decisions have unexpected practical relevance (Sutherland et al. and increasing the probability of achieving the stated 2011). Yet addressing fundamental and novel questions goal (Sutherland et al. 2004). However, legitimate ap- is not always compatible with resolving well-established proaches must account for restrictions to implementa- conservation problems. What is interesting is not always tion. If achieving high levels of certainty requires long lag important, and what is important is not always interest- times, then the salience of the science for decision makers ing. Boundary scientists seek relevance on both sides of is reduced. Likewise, management approaches that are the knowledge–action boundary, a goal that conservation too costly to implement lack legitimacy for decision mak- science should strive for (Meffe et al. 2006). To attract ers. Replication and repetition may incrementally reduce funding and facilitate publication in reputable journals, scientific uncertainty, although background environmen- research questions must be novel, but if the research is tal variation can make detection of clear environmental not relevant to the current problems faced by decision trends elusive despite decades of data collection (Magur- makers it will not influence conservation practice (Lin- ran et al. 2010). Managers do not always require high Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 672 Achieving Effective Conservation Science levels of confidence to act because delaying action until they are certain they need to act can lead to more expen- sive management actions (Maguire 1991; Field et al. 2004) or even undesirable outcomes (e.g., the extinction of the Hawaiian Po’ouli [Melamprosops phaeosoma] [Black & Groombridge 2010]). Likewise, data collection that di- verts funds from on-the-ground management may not always be a good use of resources (Grantham et al. 2009; McDonald-Madden et al. 2010). Therefore, the time and resources required to achieve high levels of certainty can lead to unrealistic recommendations that are not viewed as legitimate by decision makers (Young & Van Aarde 2011), despite their scientific credibility. The focus on reducing uncertainty can distract from the fact that the acquisition of new knowledge may not materially change what is considered the best course of action. Conservation professionals rarely calculate the value of new information to management, and more re- Figure 1. A general relation between monetary search may not always lead to more effective decisions investment in a conservation intervention and the (Runge et al. 2011b). The application of existing knowl- desired conservation benefit, which masks substantial edge can allow the likely outcomes of management to heterogeneity in the outcomes at different sites (circled be predicted with reasonable certainty without expen- points indicate the degree to which different outcomes sive data collection. For example, Bayesian methods can can be generated despite the same level of investment quickly reduce uncertainty by combining expert opinion in an intervention). with data (Smith et al. 2007) and have provided timely scientific advice for management decisions (e.g., Punt & bate about the meaning of research outcomes. Although Hilborn 1997; Smith et al. 2007). Expert elicitation can debate is fundamental to science, a lack of consensus also be used to evaluate competing models for how to among scientists can lead to confusion among those out- conduct management. By calculating the expected value side the debate and mistrust of researchers among deci- of new information, managers can identify when infor- sion makers. These outcomes compromise the perceived mation will be valuable enough to decision makers to credibility of the research findings and the legitimacy of warrant additional data collection (Runge et al. 2011b). the process of scientific inquiry (Cash et al. 2003; Young Attempting to develop a single model that predicts & Van Aarde 2011). When action is politically sensitive, management outcomes in all contexts (environmental, such as removing animals from the wild for a captive- social, and political factors relevant to a management de- breeding program (Clark et al. 1994), decision makers cision) can increase scientific credibility (Pullin & Stewart can become paralyzed by uncertainty in research findings 2006). Unfortunately, such generalizations are rarely ad- and delay necessary action (Ludwig et al. 1993). equate (Weiner 1995) because they mask much of the variation in the underlying data that arise from differ- Views of Legitimate Information ences among taxonomic groups, geographic locations, and temporal fluctuations (e.g., Bayard & Elphick 2010). Achieving legitimacy for different audiences requires that When there is heterogeneity in the outcomes of a manage- the values and perspectives of multiple stakeholders and ment intervention, an individual conservation manager scientific disciplines are represented when developing may gain little from a general model (Fig. 1). Instead, and implementing research (Cash et al. 2003). However, theory can provide useful heuristics for decisions, such actors on different sides of the knowledge–action bound- as using existing knowledge about life-history strategies ary, and across different scientific disciplines, can have to manage habitat patches for the conservation of birds different perspectives on what constitutes a legitimate (Shanahan & Possingham 2009). Although using exist- process to produce credible research findings. These ing knowledge to develop heuristics requires accepting views can be deeply held and not easily reconciled (Klein- lower scientific certainty than if specific data were col- ing & Witt 2001). Research findings derived from the lected on individual species or habitats, and accepting use of qualitative research methods, which are often the that in some cases the wrong decision may be made, it most rigorous way to study social aspects of conservation provides managers with a rational basis on which to act (e.g., local ecological knowledge and social effects of immediately. conservation interventions), can have low credibility An impediment to the production of credible informa- among quantitative researchers but high legitimacy for tion is that scientific enquiry is a process that fosters de- decision makers. Differing perspectives on legitimate Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 Cook et al. 673 information can impede efforts to include the perspec- ple, the Ecosystem-Based Management Tools Network tives and knowledge of some stakeholders in solutions (www.ebmtools.org), which provides a wide range of to conservation problems and to develop the multidisci- training and outreach activities to connect practitioners plinary research necessary to provide realistic manage- with tools that incorporate natural and social science into ment approaches (Cash et al. 2003). It is vital to include decision making. Nongovernmental organizations that fa- the perspectives and knowledge of stakeholders, espe- cilitate working groups of scientists, decision makers, cially decision makers, to ensure that social and ecolog- and other stakeholder groups to develop management ical research is salient to the management context and strategies that can be applied across landscapes could legitimate in the eyes of these stakeholders. also be considered boundary organizations. Establishing separate organizations devoted to promot- ing the development and use of conservation science is Bridging the Knowledge–Action Boundary an advantage because these organizations can operate on both sides of the boundary while maintaining their cred- Successful balancing of salience, credibility, and legiti- ibility and independence. This independence can bring macy benefits from processes such as joint fact-finding together groups that may have had poor relationships (Karl et al. 2007), which exist to engage stakeholders in the past and can enable boundary organizations to in the process of knowledge production. Approaches attract funding from a wide range of sources (Guston to generating boundary science include mechanisms to 2001). However, boundary organizations tend to work ensure a collaborative process that represents all best when focused on specific issues in specific places stakeholders, facilitates communication across the (Osmond et al. 2010). The number of conservation prob- knowledge–action boundary throughout the research lems and the cost of administering boundary organiza- process, translates jargon, and includes mediation be- tions mean that specialized or local organizations will not tween knowledge producers and users (Cash et al. 2003; always be feasible, especially in developing countries. McNie 2007). Production of effective conservation sci- ence can be achieved in a variety of ways, provided there are mechanisms to facilitate communication, translation, Research Scientists in Resource Management Agencies and mediation across the boundary. There are multiple benefits to creating permanent po- Institutions and processes that span boundaries are sitions that embed research scientists within organiza- ideally suited to address conservation problems because tions dominated by decision makers (Jenkins et al. 2012) of the complexity of environmental problems, the need (Tables 2 & 3). Resource management agencies (gov- for solutions relevant to multiple stakeholders, con- ernment and nongovernmental) can ensure that high- texts, and scientific disciplines, and the diverse users priority knowledge gaps are filled by these researchers, of science that is relevant to both policy and practice. who could provide data about effective interventions and We highlight 4 institutional frameworks that facilitate advice relevant to the management context (Young & the science that informs environmental management Van Aarde 2011). Due to their exposure to the man- (Tables 2 & 3): boundary organizations (defined below), agement of conservation problems, embedded scientists research scientists embedded in resource management also have the potential to identify and study conservation agencies, formal links between research-focused institu- problems that have not received scientific attention (e.g., tions and resource management agencies, and training protected area downgrading, downsizing and degazett- programs for conservation professionals. We also discuss ment [Mascia & Pailler 2011]). Furthermore, scientists how these different approaches to facilitating conser- can provide in-house expertise for the design and im- vation science can be mixed to harness their different plementation of research and monitoring programs and strengths under different circumstances. analysis of data collected by agency staff to ensure deci- sion makers can make informed decisions about compro- Boundary Organizations mises between certainty and urgency. Allowing managers The role of facilitating communication between scien- to work directly with scientists offers greater potential tists and decision makers can be assumed by dedicated to apply adaptive-management approaches (e.g., Glen boundary organizations that operate in both scientific and Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program [Susskind practical spheres but retain distinct lines of accountability et al. 2012]) that gather salient, credible, and legitimate to both groups (Guston 2001). Boundary organizations information from management activities and use that in- have been used to address complex environmental prob- formation to guide future decisions. lems (Cash et al. 2003) and the interdisciplinary nature An additional benefit of embedding researchers in re- of issues such as adapting to climate change (Brooke source management agencies is that a close working rela- 2008). There are many boundary organizations that work tionship between on-the-ground managers and scientists at the nexus of science, policy, and practice and facil- can help overcome the resistance managers sometimes itate communication among them (Table 1), for exam- have to using scientific information (Young & Van Aarde Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 674 Achieving Effective Conservation Science Table 1. Examples of institutional frameworks that facilitate science that crosses the knowledge to action boundary. Scientists embedded in resource management Formal links between Training conservation Boundary organizations agencies research and practice professionals Fiji Locally Managed Marine World Wildlife Fund Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape University of Exeter Master of Area Network Conservation Science Program (Philippines) is a collaboration Science–Conservation and facilitates a partnership (International) between nongovernmental Biodiversity program is designed between government conducts multidisciplinary resource management agencies with external resource authorities, research to inform and local research-focused management agencies to nongovernmental on-the-ground programs and institutions to deliver provide research and practical organizations, community communicates findings to conservation science to inform skills, with opportunities for leaders, research-focused other conservation local government planning further training with resource institutions, and organizations, government management agencies private-sector organizations agencies and academics to protect marine resources Healthy Reefs for Healthy U.S. Department of Agriculture Australian Research Council Environmental Leadership People (Central America) Forest Service Research Stations Linkage Grants Program Fellowships facilitates partnerships conduct long-term, often provides competitive (International) provide training between research-focused spatially extensive research research funding for projects opportunities for midcareer institutions, government, to improve understanding of developed as collaborations conservation professionals from and nongovernmental ecosystems and to provide between resource all sectors to increase their agencies, and the tools to transfer knowledge management agencies and capacity and develop networks community to improve reef into management research-focused institutions and leadership skills health in the Caribbean recommendations Center for International New South Wales Office of Grants from philanthropic Duke Environmental Leadership Forestry Research Environment and Heritage trusts for conservation Master of Environmental (International) (Australia) Science Division research, such as the David Management program provides conducts and communicates conducts research at local and Lucile Packard Foundation, midcareer conservation multidisciplinary research to and landscape levels and Gordon and Betty Moore professionals with manage forest environments provides advice to Foundation, Walton interdisciplinary scientific and alleviate poverty on-the-ground managers Foundation training in strategic environmental-management, communication, and leadership skills Resources for the Future Royal Society for the Protection World Wildlife Fund’s Fuller Leopold Leadership Program (International) of Birds (United Kingdom and Science for Nature Fund advances environmental conducts and communicates international) provides funding for decision making by providing the results of independent, conducts research and conservation research and tenure-track scientists with multidisciplinary research to monitors threatened birds hosts an annual science leadership and inform environmental policy within reserves in the United symposium for decision communications skills Kingdom and internationally, makers which informs policy and management 2011). When managers can advise scientists about re- questioned by the wider scientific community. Likewise, search priorities and the real-world constraints on man- achieving salience and legitimacy for policy and practice agement, research is more likely to result in salient and may lead to compromises in scientific rigor that challenge legitimate solutions. Moreover, scientists within resource traditional notions of scientific credibility. For example, management agencies could filter, synthesize, and trans- decision makers may be willing to accept lower levels of late the peer-reviewed literature into management ap- confidence to reduce costs and facilitate timely informa- proaches. This would overcome the impediments of ac- tion for urgent action, or they may favor avoiding type cess and interpretation of literature that can prevent the II error (i.e., accepting a false null hypothesis [failing use of science in practice (Fazey et al. 2005; Pullin & to recognize a genuine problem]) rather than the tradi- Knight 2005; Arlettaz et al. 2010) and mimic the pref- tional emphasis on reducing type I error (i.e., rejecting erence of managers to seek advice from scientists they a true null hypothesis [false alarms]) (Shrader-Frechette consider credible (Seavy & Howell 2010). & McCoy 1992; Field et al. 2004). In these cases it may There are several challenges associated with em- be necessary for embedded scientists to assume the role bedding researchers in resource management agencies. of mediators across the boundary and communicate the These include the potential for scientists to become needs of decision makers to other scientists and provide isolated from and have the credibility of their research the information necessary for decision makers to seek Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 Cook et al. 675 Table 2. The potential benefits and weaknesses of the different approaches to facilitating conservation science for decision makers. Models for facilitating conservation science Benefits to decision makers Weaknesses for decision makers Traditional academic model rigorous scientific information generated research may not be relevant or timely can identify emerging issues and provide unexpected benefits Boundary organizations increases management-relevant science, requires additional resources, and is not provides greater access to existing feasible for all conservation problems management-relevant research, and promotes bilateral, active knowledge transfer Scientists embedded in increases management-relevant science, requires additional resources, and may conservation agencies provides greater access to existing compromise the quality of research if management-relevant research, provides researchers become isolated from the opportunities to learn from management broader scientific community action (e.g., adaptive management), provides access to tools to aid decisions (e.g., decision theory), and promotes bilateral, active knowledge transfer provides access to expert advice Formal links between researchers increases management-relevant science, requires additional resources, and success and decision makers provides greater access to existing depends on the commitment of both management-relevant research, promotes scientists and decision makers bilateral, active knowledge transfer, and provides access to expert advice Training conservation improves scientific knowledge and skills, requires additional resources to train professionals provides more scientists with an existing staff, and benefits may take time understanding of management contexts, to become widespread and promotes bilateral, active knowledge transfer compromise between scientific credibility and realistic (Schwartz et al. 2008) and by participating in peer-review solutions. To ensure that researchers genuinely operate and editorial processes. Other measures to strengthen in both spheres, it is important that they engage with the the benefits from embedding scientists in resource wider scientific community, for example through profes- management agencies include full access to the primary sional bodies such as the Society for Conservation Biology literature and participation in the training of conservation Table 3. The potential benefits and weaknesses of the different approaches to facilitating conservation science for scientists. Models for facilitating conservation science Benefits to scientists Weaknesses for scientists Traditional academic model rigorous scientific information generated, research finding may not be implemented and fits within existing training and current reward structures Boundary organizations promotes bilateral, active knowledge requires additional resources, and is not transfer, identifies important research feasible for all conservation problems questions, and provides access to additional source of funding Scientists embedded in identifies important research questions, can lead to scientists becoming isolated conservation agencies increases likelihood that research from the academic community, may limit findings are implemented, and promotes access to the primary literature and bilateral, active knowledge transfer research students, and may compromise objectivity and independence Formal links between researchers identifies important research questions, requires time be spent on bureaucratic and decision makers increases likelihood that research processes, and success depends on the findings are implemented, provides commitment of both scientists and access to additional source of funding, decision makers and promotes bilateral, active knowledge transfer Training conservation provides a better understanding of requires some content from the traditional professionals management context, and promotes syllabus be sacrificed, and curriculum bilateral, active knowledge transfer development may divert time from research activities Conservation Biology Volume 27, No. 4, 2013 676 Achieving Effective Conservation Science professionals (e.g., graduate students who conduct re- managers throughout the project and to share research search through formal links with academic institutions). findings. Embedding scientists in resource management agen- cies has been a valuable practice for decades, and we Training Conservation Professionals are aware of a multitude of conservation organizations in which high-quality research is conducted and scientists The growth in formal training courses in conservation are respected globally (Table 1). However, many agencies (Noss 1997) provides an opportunity to train future gen- are downsizing their science divisions and outsourcing erations of conservation professionals to facilitate conser- research. Reversing this trend would require clear articu- vation science. The skills required of conservation practi- lation and illustration of the value of science in decision tioners differ from those required of conservation scien- making. In countries where internal conservation bud- tists, and existing academic training programs generally gets fall well short of what is needed for management fail to provide training in both skill sets (Muir & Schwartz and science, additional support may be necessary in the 2009). Training individuals who can effectively operate in form of funding or exchange programs aimed at building both spheres of the knowledge–action boundary, regard- scientific capacity. less of where they are employed, requires that students be provided with skills relevant to both scientists and decision makers so they can communicate, facilitate, and Links between Researchers and Decision Makers mediate across the knowledge–action boundary. Several Where it is currently impossible to embed scientists in re- organizations, not just academic institutions, offer such source management agencies (Jenkins et al. 2012), agen- programs (e.g., National Conservation Training Center cies can still benefit from closer links with scientists. Such [Runge et al. 2011a]) (Table 1), although it may be some links have been developed through formal arrangements time before these programs have widespread effects. between resource management agencies and scientists at Identifying skills required by conservation scientists research-focused institutions, whereby agencies supply and decision makers can help develop training programs priority research questions and a small financial incen- that teach a combination of these skills (Muir & Schwartz tive, such as a research stipend or contribution toward 2009). The balance between the knowledge required project costs. Ideally, these arrangements are actively by both groups of conservation professionals can be managed by individuals who assume the responsibility achieved by involving both scientists and decision makers for communication, translation, and mediation across the in training programs that teach students about tools that boundary. This approach benefits the agency because can assist decision makers to act under uncertainty (e.g., it provides expertise of scientists from a wide range of decision theory, which is used to identify the optimal disciplines and the enthusiasm and energy of staff or stu- decision given limited data or high uncertainty [Possing- dents. The research-focused institutions benefit from the ham 2001; Polasky et al. 2011] and adaptive management, additional source of research funds, and their staff or the systematic acquisition and application of information students are provided with an opportunity to conduct to improve management over time [Holling 1978]). Al- management-relevant research. though it is vital that the scientific training of conser- Many successful models exist for developing for- vation professionals not be compromised by sacrificing mal links between decision makers and conservation good experimental design and analysis, it is important scientists (Table 1). The Research Partners Program to ensure training programs also deliver skills, such as operated by an Australian management agency (Parks Vic- the ability to communicate science to decision makers, toria) maintains formal agreements with several research- and an understanding of how policy is generated and focused institutions whose scientists or graduate students implemented (Muir & Schwartz 2009). conduct management-relevant research in exchange for a financial contribution to this research. Likewise, the Combined Approaches to Achieving Effective U.S. Department of the Interior has cooperative research Conservation Science units located at land-grant universities. These units link research funds and stipends to management-relevant The 4 approaches for spanning the knowledge–action projects. Alternatively, employees of resource manage- boundary that we highlight can each be effective at fa- ment agencies can work within research-focused institu- cilitating effective conservation science but are by no tions to develop and facilitate conservation science. For means the only methods, nor are they mutually exclu- example, many nongovernmental organizations, such as sive. For example, using formal links such as internship Wildlife Conservation Society and The Nature Conser- programs to place researchers in resource management vancy, have funds for their staff to spend time within agencies for discrete periods of time does not incur a long- academic institutions. 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