Negotiating the question: using science-manager communication to develop management-relevant science products

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:30 AM
Timothy J Beechie, NOAA Seattle, Seattle, WA, United States and Amy K Snover, University of Washington Seattle Campus, Seattle, WA, United States
Natural resource managers often ask scientists to answer questions that cannot be answered, and scientists commonly offer research that is not useful to managers. To produce management-relevant science, managers and scientists must communicate clearly to identify research that is scientifically doable and will produce results that managers find useful. Scientists might also consider that journals with high impact scores are rarely used by managers, while managers might consider that publishing in top tier journals is important to maintain scientific credentials. We offer examples from climate change and river restoration research, in which agency scientists and managers worked together to identify key management questions that scientists could answer and which could inform management. In our first example, we describe how climate scientists worked with agency staff to develop guidance for selecting appropriate climate change scenarios for use in ecological impacts assessments and Endangered Species Act decision making. Within NOAA Fisheries, agency researchers provide science to guide agency managers, and a key question has been how to adapt river restoration efforts for climate change. Based on discussions with restoration practitioners and agency staff, we developed adaptation guidance that summarizes current science to lead managers to develop climate-resilient restoration plans, as well as maps of population vulnerability for endangered steelhead. From these experiences we have learned that collaborative definition of relevant and producible knowledge requires (1) iterative discussions that go beyond simply asking managers what they need or scientists what they can produce, and (2) candid conversation about the intended applications and potential limitations of the knowledge.