WSU CE 543 - Meeting the Challenges of Policy Relevant Science (14 pages)

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Meeting the Challenges of Policy Relevant Science



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Meeting the Challenges of Policy Relevant Science

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Pages:
14
School:
Washington State University
Course:
Ce 543 - Advanced Topics in Environmental Engineering Practice
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Elisabeth A Graffy U S Geological Survey Meeting the Challenges of Policy Relevant Science Bridging Theory and Practice Pressure is particularly great in the environmental and Ongoing public debate about the role of science in policy natural resources arena where decisions about land making signi es the importance of advancing theory use competition for water energy development and practice in the eld Indeed assumptions about the climate natural hazards public science policy nexus hold direct health and species protection implications for how this interare widespread and may have face is managed A useful lens on There is a critical need to multibillion dollar implications contemporary themes is o ered develop better theoretical as well as consequences for human by the experience of a federal understandings of the health safety and quality of life environmental science program science policy nexus and There is a critical need to develop that launched an ambitious e ort practical management strategies better theoretical understandings to enhance capacity for policy relof the science policy nexus and evance while protecting a committhat are capable of enhancing practical management strategies ment to sound impartial scienti c the accountability and policy inquiry This was achieved by relevance of scienti c research that are capable of enhancing the accountability and policy reldeveloping an explicit conceptual while preserving its core of evance of scienti c research while model and implementing correindependent inquiry preserving its core of indepensponding strategies that addressed dent inquiry critical gaps in capacity for policyrelevant research analysis and communication while supporting existing capacities This This article makes a contribution on both fronts by article describes and evaluates the capacity building e ort presenting a heuristic model of science policy interaction and examining its practical value in the experifrom the dual perspectives of deepening an understandence of a federal environmental science program that ing of successful practice in the eld and advancing a responding to contemporary challenges sought to conceptual understanding of the science policy nexus It illustrates the challenges facing practitioners and the need enhance its capacity for policy relevance while protecting its commitment to sound impartial science for greater interaction between theory and practice When that e ort began in the mid 1990s it was experimental and innovative with no known comparequent calls to craft science based policy enrable precedents The science policy model that hance the societal relevance and accountability guided the e ort was not previously available in the of science and more clearly delineate the literature and demonstrated its value as a strategic threshold between the use and misuse of science in management and diagnostic tool Clearly how the policy making highlight the importance of the relationship between science and policy is conceptualscience policy nexus However responses to these calls tend to be ad hoc and circumstantial The relationship ized holds important implications for practice and the critical importance of building stronger bridges between science and policy is commonly assumed to be a linear one in which scienti c truths are dissemi between theory and practice to meet the challenges associated with meaningful pursuit of policy relevant nated to policy makers who may or may not accept science and science based policy cannot be overstated them or as an incomprehensibly complex highly charged interface where scienti c and political culBackground and Impetus for Change tures inevitably clash on epistemological or valueThe National Water Quality Assessment NAWQA laden grounds For practitioners neither set of Program of the U S Geological Survey USGS has assumptions is a satisfactory guide for creating e ective linkages between science and policy development the unique responsibility of undertaking comprehensive Thinking About Public Administration in New Ways Elisabeth A Graffy focuses on policy development and its interaction with organizational and societal change particularly as related to agriculture environment and the sustainability of natural resources and of the human communities that depend on them She has given public presentations nationwide on the relationship between science and policy She has served in state city international and federal positions most recently with the U S Congress and the Department of the Interior Her writings appear in many reports and in articles that have appeared in Society and Natural Resources the International Journal of Global Environmental Issues and other publications E mail egraffy usgs gov F Meeting the Challenges of Policy Relevant Science 1087 monitoring of rivers streams aquatic ecology and groundwater in about 50 major river basins nationwide Initiated in 1991 in response to congressional inquiries as to whether water conditions were improving as a result of the Clean Water Act and related initiatives the provision of useful information to resource managers and policy makers was considered an implicit but somewhat unarticulated part of the program s mission The primary mission of the USGS as a whole includes earth science investigations that emphasize data collection and environmental monitoring with historically little direct involvement in national policy processes Indeed scientists are legally prohibited from making policy recommendations and adherence to these constraints had resulted in a culture that discouraged scientists from responding to the information needs of policy makers except by providing technical documents and data sets A perception took hold among the senior USGS management during the mid 1990s that Congress was unwilling or unable to use scienti c information as traditionally provided and that public concerns about the agency s relevance were growing These perceptions were based partly on cautionary anecdotes and partly on a string of tight budgets that were seen as evidence of a decline in the status of public support for science Closer to home the so called Contract with America adopted by the Republican majority in Congress during 1994 U S House 1995 involved a goal of shrinking the size of the federal government and the USGS was one of several agencies suggested for elimination Gauvin 1995 Miller 1995 An additional factor in the overall impetus for change was the


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