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Maximising the policy impact of scientific research


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Workshop slides from BES and CCI Symposium ‘Making a Difference in Conservation: Improving the Links Between Ecological Research, Policy and Practice’

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Maximising the policy impact of scientific research

  1. 1. Achieving and communicating policy relevant research Marc W. Cadotte University of Toronto
  2. 2. Differing attitudes: 1. The ‘policy pusher’ – Paper driven by policy implications. 2. The ‘passive policy implication’ – Research first, with potential policy implications. 3. The ‘not my cup of tea’ – Comfortable only reporting research. Should policy implications be important when publishing research? Adapted from
  3. 3. Should, when, and how scientists communicate policy? Who does it/should do it? When should it be done? What venues?
  4. 4. Who is responsible for communicating policy implications?
  5. 5. Scientists bear some of the responsibility Why? 1. They have unique insights into the topic. 2. It’s their research, they can best represent it. 3. They are funded by public money. When? 1. With the research (in the publication) 2. After –with other venues
  6. 6. Scientists bear some of the responsibility Why? 1. They have unique insights into the topic. 2. Its their research, they can best represent it. 3. They are funded by public money. When? 1. With the research (in the publication) 2. After –with other venues
  7. 7. • Find the right audience: who needs to read your paper? • Find the right reviewers: make sure that it is reviewed by the most suitable people • If you submit to the most appropriate journal, the process of review and publication will be as fast as possible with the best chance of success • The important question to ask yourself: Will the relevant policy people see this paper? Why is it important to choose the right journal?
  8. 8. British Ecological Society Vision: A world inspired, informed and influenced by ecology. To help us achieve this, our goals are to: • Communicate world-leading ecological science • Generate, synthesise and exchange ecological knowledge • Share the excitement and relevance of ecology • Inspire, engage and recognise talent • Build a sustainable, resilient and efficient society
  9. 9. BES Journals • Publishing ecological research for 100 years • Cover a wide range of ecological research • International publishing partner – Wiley-Blackwell • Effective peer review and fast turnaround times • Internationally renowned editorial boards • High Impact Factors > 4.5 • Offer open access options • International readership 1912 1987 201019641932
  10. 10. BES Journals Access • Millions full text downloads in 2015 • International readership • Access for >3,000 developing country institutions
  11. 11. BES Journals online • Articles hosted on Wiley Online Library • Dedicated journal home pages • Active social media channels – YouTube >45,000 views – Twitter >6,000 followers – Facebook > 4,300 like us – Google+ >6,000 followers – Podcasts played >20,000 times – Variety of popular RSS feeds
  12. 12. Journal of Applied Ecology publishes novel, high-impact papers on the interface between ecological science and the management of biological resources. The editors encourage contributions that use applied ecological problems to test and develop basic theory, although there must be clear potential for impact on the management of the environment. The journal accepts papers with a methodological focus where there is a very high potential to contribute to ecosystem management or applied science. The journal includes all major themes in applied ecology, such as conservation biology, global change, environmental pollution, wildlife and habitat management, land use and management, aquatic resources, restoration ecology, and the management of pests, weeds and disease. Articles that interact with related fields are welcomed providing that their relevance to applied ecology is clear.
  13. 13. How to measure the Journal’s impact? -Journal IF = 4.56 (4/5 BES journals) Journal Numberoftextdownloads 0e+002e+054e+056e+058e+05 ISIImpactFactor
  14. 14. Policy has become a more important component of our papers. 10 20 30 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 Year Percentpaperswith'policy'
  15. 15. What do we mean by ‘policy’ Any action taken by any level of government.
  16. 16. What do we mean by ‘policy’ Affecting policy means altering government action through: 1. Laws 2. Court rulings 3. Departmental directives 4. Agency rules 5. Enforcement strategy
  17. 17. Before doing the research? • You have a good idea and plan your research around the paper • Before writing you anticipate the results When doing the research? • The research yields unexpected results? After doing the research? • Project is finished and data are analysed When should researchers think about the policy implications/recommendations?
  18. 18. Creating policy relevant research 1. Planning and execution. 2. Writing clearly and effectively. 3. Post-publication communication.
  19. 19. 1) Planning and execution • First and foremost –make sure the science is sound. • Hypotheses need to be well-placed within the current literature. • Design needs to take into account of the most recent methodological norms.
  20. 20. 1) Planning and execution • Applied ecology research should be planned with direct policy or management relevance (i.e., not as an afterthought). • Talk to managers and policy groups, and include them in the design. Understand their science or information needs. • Talk to politicians!
  21. 21. 2) Writing clearly and effectively • Papers need to be technical and precise. • They need to be clear and concise –simple is good. • Title should be short and informative. Often, it is not necessary to include location name. • Abstract –what most people read. Need to communicate key message (hypotheses and results). Applied relevance is important.
  22. 22. 3) Post publication communication • Publication of paper should not be the end of the process. • What is the purpose of applied research –to influence policy and management actions, and these people do not regularly read the literature. • Need to reach those who will benefit from the research.
  23. 23. 3) Post publication communication • Send paper to groups (NGOs, Government scientists). • Give talks to groups or public. • Do media interviews. • Organize meetings or working groups on the topic and invite practitioners. • Use Journals’ social media networks.
  24. 24. Creating globally relevant research in ecology, conservation and applied ecology 1. Planning and execution. 2. Writing clearly and effectively. 3. Post-publication communication.
  25. 25. Acknowledgements
  26. 26. Maximizing policy impact of scientific research: Achieving policy impact when working overseas
  27. 27. Know your problem: What are the policy implications of your evidence? E.g. Hunting offtakes are unsustainable, fencing cuts wildlife migratory pathways Think carefully about what your evidence shows and what aspects of policy may need to change
  28. 28. What is the scale? Local-National-Regional-International • Local/National – more likely to be binding but restricted reach • International – wider reach – but may have less impact if policy is not legally binding – e.g. CBD, CITES, CMS etc. • Regional – somewhere between the two – depending on policy – e.g. EU can have very strong regional impact, whereas in agreements like SADC, only agreed protocols are binding • Or a combination?
  29. 29. Which policy? • What are the potentially relevant policy instruments? • What are the ones likely to have the strongest impact? • Which are most practical for what you want to achieve?
  30. 30. Seek advice: • Policy is complex, and there may be a network of competing interests that you need to be aware of • Where you lack experience, talk to someone who has experience • Guard your scientific reputation to avoid perceptions of bias
  31. 31. What is the route to impact policy? • Who advises and who makes decisions under your chosen policy instrument? • Who focuses on the area relating to your research? • Who will you work with and how will you engage with them? Directly? Organisationally?
  32. 32. Policy impacts overseas • Be aware of different perspectives • Decision makers are time-stretched - distil evidence into accessible and policy relevant formats • Seek a scientific consensus on the evidence • Build relationships of trust with governments • Identify and work with individuals you can trust • Work as a facilitator rather than an actor e.g. provide evidence-based training, use workshops to build consensus etc. • Be patient!
  33. 33. Illegal trade in cheetah • Problem: known trade in live cheetah - but scale? Impact? Hard data? • Scale: international • Policy: CITES • Advice: IUCN & WCS • Route to policy: CITES authorities in cheetah range states
  34. 34. Illegal trade in cheetah: Progress • Preliminary report on extent of trade and Parties engaged – Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya • Submission of document for CITES agenda by Parties • CITES commissioned in-depth study of trade - concluded likely to impact wild cheetahs • CITES working group on illegal cheetah trade established and developed recommendations • Recommendations on agenda for 2016 CITES COP
  35. 35. Illegal trade in cheetah: Progress • Started in 2011 • 5 years to get recommendations tabled and accepted (hopefully) Meanwhile there have been impacts: • UAE and Kuwait have introduced legislation making it illegal to own wildlife • Auction websites in Gulf have banned sale of wildlife
  36. 36. A range-wide evidence-based strategy for conservation of cheetah and African wild dog • Problem: Cheetahs and wild dogs are wide ranging and rare – they require concerted conservation action across a massive scale • Scale: International, regional and national • Policy: develop evidence-based IUCN/SSC strategic planning frameworks • Advice: IUCN/SSC • Route to policy: Range state government wildlife authorities and relevant ministries, CMS
  37. 37. • 3 Regional Strategies • 16 National Action Plans supported or endorsed by government Completed Not yet Outside current range Outside historical range
  38. 38. Large-scale fencing • Problem: Large-scale fencing interventions are a threat for migratory wildlife Fencing use increasing around infrastructure, protected areas, and national boundaries Limited evidence on impacts and how best to mitigate them • Scale: International • Policy: CMS • Advice & route to policy: CMS Scientific Council
  39. 39. Large-scale fencing: Approach • Article laying out a research agenda to provide an evidence-base for fencing • CMS engaged in article and in finding solution (discussed under Scientific Council) • CMS establishing Working Group on Fencing to push agenda forward
  40. 40. Don’t be daunted: • Decision makers need to know about important and relevant evidence • You know your evidence better than anyone else • If you don’t engage – then who will?