From Science To Impact: A Blueprint For Success

5/12/2011

New Guidebook Released at Conference Offers Step-by-Step Instructions for Scientists & Decision Makers; Guidance Informed by Studies in 23 Countries

Arlington, Virginia, U.S. — Observing critical gaps and missed opportunities for collaboration between scientists and decision makers in past, a new two-in-one guidebook released by Conservation International (CI) today offers eight prescriptive strategies that scientists should employ to spur informed support and policy action by decision makers. The guide, which is part road-map, and part case study, is being made available to scientists and leaders attending next week's International Marine Conservation Congress in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The Conference brings together scientists from around the world who share insights about "making marine science matter".

Noting that "scientists have knowledge, but typically limited authority to change behavior [and] decision-makers have power, but may lack in-depth knowledge of particular problems", the guidebook aims to link these two groups together to create the conditions that allow informed decisions to drive positive change, or science-to-action.

Produced by a team of leading scientists and conservationists which was led by CI's Marine Science Program, A Scientist's Guide to Influencing Decision-Making draws on a wealth of experiences worldwide and highlights the importance of knowledge as the foundation for successful decision making. That guidance is then flipped for decision makers, with seven more unique recommendations in A Decision Maker's Guide to Using Science.

Much of the research and subsequent guidance for the book was conducted in five focal areas which include Belize, Brazil, Fiji, Panama and Ecuador, but informed by more than 50 studies and 200 scientists in 23 countries around the world since 2005.

"In reviewing the breadth of case studies, we noted consistent patterns starting to emerge: a blueprint, if you will, for how scientists achieved the most tangible impacts with their science," said Dr. Leah Bunce Karrer, author of the guidebook and Director of Marine Science Program at CI. "So we thought it was important to synthesize these experiences into a quick cheat-sheet that I hope becomes a useful reference tool to help these two groups learn how to improve collaboration for common goals."

In the guidebook, eight sequential steps are highlighted for scientists:

  1. Partner with appropriate decision-makers to build mutual trust and respect over the long-term
  2. Identify information needs of decision-makers so that research is responsive and relevant
  3. Synthesize existing science needs by culling through existing research and pulling out relevant findings for decision-makers' interests
  4. Plan with decision-makers, early and often, to improve coordinated timing and share fundraising opportunities and
  5. Build capacity among decision-makers to increase their understanding of complex information, and inform their future advocacy
  6. Identify key messages from scientific data, focusing on fewer than three ideal action points
  7. Produce supportive communication materials, appropriate to each audience
  8. Discuss these key messages directly with decision-makers

"Generally speaking, scientists would prefer not to do science for the sake of science. We don't want our findings to sit on a shelf in some back office or electronic library. Rather, we want that science to inform and guide smart decision-making by governments, companies, and communities for the benefit of people and nature", added Karrer.

To illustrate the effectiveness of the strategies, the guidebook includes summaries of many remarkable case studies. Among them are Fiji and Brazil:

  • Case study: Fiji – when a doctoral student at Boston University had a hypothesis about the genetic connectivity of species throughout the Fijian archipelago, he reached out to in-country NGOs to determine how his research might build on existing work and how it might be tailored to management initiatives in Fiji. Over the next two years, the scientist worked with Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society to ensure active community engagement, discussing his plans with village leaders to ensure their initial approval for working in their communities and seeking their input on how his research might contribute to their existing management strategies. His results showed that Fiji is genetically distinct from her neighbors to the west and there is high connectivity within the islands — illustrating the importance of villages working together to sustainable manage Fiji's marine resources. The student returned to the remote Fijian villages to highlight these key messages using posters he developed to highlight his main points and spark discussion. These dialogues led to great village interest in Marine Managed Areas (MMAs), including ultimately, the establishment of new MMAs in Nagigi, Yadua & Beqa.

  • Case study: Brazil – a group of ecologists and economists who had long been studying marine ecosystem services of Brazil's Abrolhos region, teamed up with a coalition of 21 NGOs and community members who were concerned about proposed shrimp farming in the middle of one of the most biodiverse and fragile ecosystems in the South Atlantic, to communicate the unique ecology of the region and the key roles mangroves play in the surrounding communities. These mangroves, they demonstrated, are critical nursery groups of commercially valuable fish species that thousands of families in the area depend on for food security, and the data was incorporated into the coalition's public campaign. The new knowledge spurred discussion with the government agency responsible for protected areas. The result was a halt in the farming plans, and the Presidential declaration of the mangroves as part of the Cassuruba Extractive Reserve.

A Scientist's Guide to Influencing Decision-Making & A Decision Maker's Guide to Using Science was informed by a global network of seventy-five organizations known as the "Science-to-Action" (www.science2action.org) partnership, and produced with generous support from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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Access to the free guidebook, available for download as a PDF: Science-to-Action Guidebook
Science-to-Action website main page: www.science2action.org


For More Information:

Kim McCabe, Media Director, Conservation International
office: +1-703-341-2536; mobile: +1-202-203-9927
kmccabe@conservation.org  

Leah Bunce Karrer (*attending the International Marine Conservation Conference in Victoria May 14-18)
Marine Science Director, Conservation International
Mobile: +1 202-257-2906
l.karrer@conservation.org  


Notes for Editors:

Conservation International (CI) — Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity. Founded in 1987, CI has headquarters in the Washington DC area, and nearly 900 employees working in more than 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world. For more information, visit www.conservation.org or follow us on Twitter: @ConservationOrg or Facebook: www.facebook.com/conservation.intl

Science-to-Action (S2A) — Science-to-Action is a partnership of over 75 organizations led by Conservation International's Marine Management Area Science Program. This global network puts science into action at the global to local levels by translating and communicating scientific insights into decision making processes. Working in over 23 countries for the last six years, this network draws on the natural and social sciences to further conservation efforts. For more information, go to www.science2action.org