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Becoming an actionable scientist: Challenges, competency, and the development of expertise

August 11, 2023

Demand has grown for actionable science to support real-world decision-making around climate change and related environmental management challenges. Producing actionable science requires scientists to hold a distinct set of competencies, yet relatively little is known about what these competencies are or how to train scientists to develop them. We conducted interviews with mid- and late-career scientists to empirically identify competencies they used when producing actionable science and to understand how they developed those competencies. We describe expertise in terms of 18 competencies—categorised as cognitive, interpersonal, or intrapersonal—that scientists integrated and applied to address the challenges associated with actionable science. We argue that scientists must engage in the social process of producing actionable science (i.e., learning by doing) to become an expert. Expert actionable scientists discussed the importance of learning through different contexts, processes, interactions, and relationships. By naming the competencies that constitute expertise, as well as methods for expertise development, our findings facilitate greater conscious awareness of the process of becoming an actionable scientist, a gradual process that starts during graduate training and continues as a career proceeds. Our results can inform the development of formal learning opportunities as well as the informal learning process that occurs whereby scientists take charge of their own learning.

Publication Year 2023
Title Becoming an actionable scientist: Challenges, competency, and the development of expertise
DOI 10.1007/s00267-023-01863-4
Authors Julia B. Goolsby, Amanda E. Cravens, Mary Ann Rozance
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Management
Index ID 70247752
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center; Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center