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Considering science needs to deliver actionable science

October 4, 2022

Conservation practitioners, natural resource managers, and environmental stewards often seek out scientific contributions to inform decision-making. This body of science only becomes actionable when motivated by decision makers considering alternative courses of action. Many in the science community equate addressing stakeholder science needs with delivering actionable science. However, not all efforts to address science needs deliver actionable science, suggesting that the synonymous use of these two constructs (delivering actionable science and addressing science needs) is not trivial. This can be the case when such needs are conveyed by people who neglect decision makers responsible for articulating a priority management concern and for specifying how the anticipated scientific information will aid the decision-making process. We argue that the actors responsible for articulating these science needs and the process used to identify them are decisive factors in the ability to deliver actionable science, stressing the importance of examining the provenance and the determination of science needs. Guided by a desire to enhance communication and cross-literacy between scientists and decision makers, we identified categories of actors who may inappropriately declare science needs (e.g., applied scientists with and without regulatory affiliation, external influencers, reluctant decision makers, agents in place of decision makers, and boundary organization representatives). We also emphasize the importance of, and general approach to, undertaking needs assessments or gap analyses as a means to identify priority science needs. We conclude that basic stipulations to legitimize actionable science, such as the declaration of decisions of interest that motivate science needs and using a robust process to identify priority information gaps, are not always satisfied and require verification. To alleviate these shortcomings, we formulated practical suggestions for consideration by applied scientists, decision makers, research funding entities, and boundary organizations to help foster conditions that lead to science output being truly actionable.

Publication Year 2023
Title Considering science needs to deliver actionable science
DOI 10.1111/cobi.14013
Authors Gustavo A. Bisbal, Mitchell Eaton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Biology
Index ID 70238640
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center; Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center