Scientific research and expertise play a critical role in informing legislative decisions and guiding effective policy. However, significant communication gaps persist between scientists and policymakers. While interest in science policy among researchers has substantially increased in recent decades, traditional academic and research careers rarely provide formal training or exposure to the inner workings of government, public policy, or communicating scientific findings to broad audiences. Here, we offer 10 practical steps for scientists who want to engage in science policy efforts, with a focus on state and federal policy in the United States. We first include a primer to government structure and tailoring science communication for a policymaker audience. We then provide action-oriented steps that focus on arranging and successfully navigating meetings with government officials. Finally, we suggest structural steps in academia that would provide resources and support for students, researchers, and faculty who are interested in policy. We offer our perspective, as early-career marine scientists who have participated in policy discussions at state and federal levels and through the American Geophysical Union’s “Voices for Science” program. This guide offers potential pathways for engagement in science policy, and provides researchers with tangible actions to effectively reach stakeholders. Lastly, we hope to activate further conversations on best practices for policy engagement, particularly for researchers interested in careers at the science policy interface.
The Firth of Clyde, on the west coast of Scotland, was once one of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe. However, successive decades of poor management and overfishing led to a dramatic loss of biodiversity and the collapse of finfish fisheries. In response, concerned local residents on the Isle of Arran, which lies in the middle of the Clyde, formed the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) in 1995. After 13 years of campaigning, a small (2.67 km2) area in Lamlash Bay became Scotland’s first no-take zone (NTZ) in 2008, and only the second in the UK. Since protection, biodiversity has increased substantially, along with the size, age and density of commercially important species such as the king scallop, Pecten maximus, and the European lobster, Homarus gammarus. Arguably more important, however, is the influence the Lamlash Bay NTZ and COAST have had on UK marine protection in general. Most notably, detailed research has created a case study that clearly demonstrates the benefits of protection in an area where little such evidence is available. This case has been used repeatedly to support efforts for increased protection of UK waters to help rebuild marine ecosystems and enhance their resilience in an uncertain future. In Scotland specifically, lobbying by COAST led to the designation of a much larger marine protected area (MPA, >250 km2) around the south of Arran, one of 30 new MPAs in the country. Evidence from Lamlash Bay has supported development of strong protection for these MPAs, seeing off lobbyist efforts to weaken management. Arran’s conservation success has been recognized internationally and is inspiring greater involvement of local communities around the UK, and further afield, to take the destiny of their coastal waters into their own hands. Successful marine conservation begins at home.
It is widely accepted that public policy decisions that account for scientific and technical advice are likely to improve outcomes for all. With more data and information available though, it is becoming increasingly difficult to even agree on the baseline facts. This research explores the question: How do cross-sectoral engagement opportunities influence science intensive disputes over the management of coastal and ocean resources? To address this question, I studied two cases in New England: 1) marine fisheries management (Northeast Multispecies Complex aka groundfish) and 2) estuarine water quality management (Great Bay, New Hampshire). Informed by participant observation and semi-structured interviews with researchers, managers, and the regulated community within each case, findings from this research are presented in three analyses: 1) examining the potential role negotiation theory can play in better understanding these dispute cases; 2) understanding how science is used within the existing processes as well as whether there is interest in and potential for more collaborative approaches; and 3) understanding the impacts of engaging across different groups of perspectives. Taken together, the findings from these analyses show that when done well, cross sectoral engagement activities help to develop relationships, open lines of communication, and expand individual and collective understanding of the issues at hand (not driven by just one group view). These types of engagement activities also create space for creative solutions. While decisions will ultimately still need to be made and “value claimed,” processes that enable a more complete picture and an expansion of the ideas at the table will ultimately be more resilient and adaptive in the face of change. These approaches can be hampered by poor process design, power imbalances, lack of resources, use of legal tools in adversarial as opposed to collaborative approaches, limited familiarity with potentially beneficial approaches from negotiation (mutual gains and/or principled), and lack of training and/or exposure to other perspectives or ways of thinking. Taken together, efforts to think differently about systems approaches, changes to research processes, new perspectives on stakeholder engagement, and multi-partner collaborative efforts might help make the jump towards progress in social-ecological systems.
- A holistic approach to stakeholder participation is emerging where youth are increasingly being recognized as core stakeholders in community‐based conservation efforts.
- A growing number of youth‐focused marine conservation initiatives and representation at international marine conservation conventions demonstrate that youth are taking an active role in marine conservation worldwide.
- This paper surveys current best practices in youth engagement in marine protected areas (MPAs) in Canada, across 10 different engagement strategies. These are: facilitate learning through experiential education; include studies of MPAs in academic and community programmes; utilize multimedia opportunities, including social media, film, website, and apps; provide meaningful volunteer opportunities; deliver professional development sessions for youth initiative building; create youth councils to assist organizations in an advisory role; hire youth for employment in internships, co‐ops and junior positions within organizations; showcase young people as Youth Ambassadors of MPAs; share opportunities through effective outreach and promotion; and, integrate under‐represented perspectives in MPAs.
- Recommendations are drawn from the case studies within each engagement strategy. Collectively, they offer insight into the variety of ways the international community can support, highlight and advance youth participation in MPAs.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are vital to marine conservation, but their coverage and distribution is insufficient to address declines in global biodiversity and fisheries. In response, many countries have committed through the Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity to conserve 10% of the marine environment through ‘ecologically representative’ and ‘equitably managed’ MPAs by 2020. The rush to fulfill this commitment has raised concerns on how efforts to increase MPA coverage will affect other elements of Target 11, including representation and equity. We used a Philippines case study to assess and compare three alternative MPA planning approaches for biodiversity representation and equitable distribution of costs to small‐scale fishers. MPAs in an ‘opportunistic approach’ were identified and supported by coastal communities. A ‘donor‐assisted approach’ utilised local knowledge to select MPAs through a national‐scale and donor‐assisted conservation project. A ‘systematic conservation planning approach’ identified MPA locations through the spatial prioritization software ‘Marxan with Zones’ to achieve biodiversity objectives with minimal and equitable costs to fishers. The opportunistic approach was ineffective at representing biodiversity and resulted in inequitable costs to fishers. MPAs selected through the donor‐assisted approach affected fishers disproportionately but provided near‐optimal representation of a study region extent. With approximately the same MPA coverage, the systematic approach was the only approach that achieved all representation targets with minimal and equitable costs to fishers. Our results demonstrate the utility of systematic conservation planning to address key elements of Target 11 and highlight opportunities and pitfalls for planning MPAs in similar contexts.
Marine stakeholder groups have diverse relationships with the ocean and life within it, which can create conflict and distrust between them. Citizen science and social licence present promising means to develop dialogue between these diverse marine stakeholders and improve outcomes for marine management. Citizen science can be defined as public engagement in scientific research and activities and amongst other benefits, has been demonstrated to improve communication and relationships amongst resource management and stakeholder groups. Social licence is a concept that reflects unwritten permission from the public for others to use and manage natural resources, and has become an important theme for development in the marine realm. We explore a case-study of the marine citizen science programme Redmap Australia, utilising a mixed-methods approach to understand community perceptions of other marine user groups. We explore how marine users legitimise one another, and how this relates to building relationships and developing social licence. Our results show that participation in citizen science can allow users to display their marine citizenship and shared concern about the marine environment, and that this can allow them to earn trust from other user groups. We conclude that participation in citizen science improves perceptions of trustworthiness and can enhance social licence for marine user groups, with positive implications for marine and coastal management. These outcomes provide fruitful insights on marine resource user groups' perceptions that can help to advise future developments in the growing fields of citizen science practice and citizen science research.
Shoreline litter is one of the most widespread pollution problems today. Since shorelines represent very sensitive and large geographical areas, any organized cleanup event requires considerable manpower in order to be successful. This case study illustrates how Vancouver Aquarium and World Wildlife Foundation recruited, organized, and retained tens of thousands of volunteers in order to build a shoreline cleanup movement across Canada.
The importance of stakeholder engagement in ocean observation and in particular the realization of economic and societal benefits is discussed, introducing a number of overarching principles such as the convergence on common goals, effective communication, co-production of information and knowledge and the need for innovation. A series of case studies examine the role of coordinating frameworks such as the United States’ Interagency Ocean Observing System (IOOS®), and the European Ocean Observing System (EOOS), public–private partnerships such as Project Azul and the Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP) and finally the role of the “third” or voluntary sector. The paper explores the value that stakeholder engagement can bring as well as making recommendations for the future.
In Southeast Asia, mangrove forest cover and biodiversity has shown a rapid decline in recent decades, despite extensive conservation efforts. Identifying and analysing discourses on biodiversity conservation improves our knowledge and understanding of stakeholder perspectives (including normative values and socially constructed viewpoints) on biodiversity conservation within a specific social-ecological context. Considering these perspectives in a decision-making context contributes to the long-term sustainability of resulting conservation approaches, thus contributing to continued biodiversity conservation efforts in the far future. We consider the urban City State of Singapore to identify and interpret stakeholder discourses -including values and socially constructed viewpoints-on (effective) mangrove biodiversity conservation and management in an urban context. Using the Q methodology, we: (i) delineate and describe mangrove conservation and management discourses in Singapore and (ii) extract consensual perspectives common to discourses as a basis for management recommendations. Areas of agreement and disagreement on motivation, prioritization and responsibilities related to mangrove conservation and management are described based on numerical (i.e. sorting of statements along an ordinal scale) and qualitative data (i.e. structured interviews). There was a large overlap between discourses, suggesting that disagreement between various stakeholders may not be a prominent inhibitor of future decision making regarding mangrove conservation and management. It seems stakeholders realise the urban context strongly limits the range of realistic conservation and management approaches of mangrove forests, resulting in the larger overlap between discourses. Generally, all participants agree no further loss of existing Singapore mangroves should be allowed. The most important recommendations to reach this ultimate objective include indefinite legal protection and increase of mangrove areas under national park and nature reserve status, as well as continued promotion of mangrove's cultural ecosystem services. The identified discourses can inform decision-making by deducing shared stakeholder objectives based on the consensus values and perspectives. These shared objectives can readily be incorporated in decision-making processes on mangrove conservation and management in an urban context.
There is a growing impetus to increase marine protected areas coverage globally from 6% to 30% in 2030. Successfully establishing and maintaining marine protected areas require incorporating public preferences into their establishment and management. We investigate the role of alternate management regimes (top-down and bottom-up) on preferences for marine protected areas and the marginal rate of substitution between natural and man-made capital using a case study in the Asia-Pacific region of Okinawa, Japan. We implemented a choice experiment survey to infer which attributes of marine protected areas are most important for the respondents. We use our survey results to calculate respondents’ willingness to support marine protected areas in Okinawa. This study contributes to the policy debate on management of marine protected areas with empirical data that characterizes the perception of Okinawan residents with respect to the role of local coastal communities (bottom-up) compared to central government based agencies (top-down) management. We extend the analysis and estimate the trade-offs to residents in Okinawa between natural capital (i.e. coral coverage and marine biodiversity attribute) and man-made capital (i.e. restrictions on coastal development). We find that the underlying management regime affects the local residents’ valuation of the marine protected area with residents showing a higher willingness to support bottom-up management regimes. There is also substantial differences in the willingness to support different characteristics of marine protected areas by management type. Finally, we find that the marginal rate of substitution between natural capital and man-made capital varies by management type such that residents would need to be compensated relatively less in terms of man-made capital in the presence of a policy scenario that proposes an increase in natural capital under a bottom-up management regime.