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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium
asked to document examples of successes and failures in the interactions of science and policy for coastal management and to make suggestions for improving these interactions.
Many suggestions for improving the use of coastal science in policy making were developed. It was clear that scientific information is more important in some stages of the policy process than in others. Scientists and decisionmakers must be aware of the differences in their cultures and reward systems and create interactive mechanisms that account for these differences. To solve environmental problems, they should be well defined, with the proper questions being asked in a language shared by scientists and policymakers. Scientists must provide timely and credible information that is responsive to the questions asked by decisionmakers. Scientists should explicitly state the significance of their findings and the limitations inherent in the information they provide. They should also identify additional questions that are raised by their research and the potential cost of addressing these questions. Great care must be given to providing a structure for interactions that yields advice that is objective and balanced. Adaptive management systems, in which scientists are substantially involved in planning, evaluating, and modifying management strategies, are gaining favor as a means to improve interactions between scientists and managers for the purpose of creating better environmental policy.
The following three issues were discussed in break-out groups and ideas were developed for improving science-policy interactions related to each issue.
Cumulative Impacts of Land and Water Activities
Estuarine systems are characterized by complex, often nonlinear, relationships among biological, chemical, geological, and physical variables and are extremely dynamic. The accumulation of natural and human-induced impacts in the face of constant natural variability can result in sudden ecosystem collapses of the sort observed in fisheries ecosystems from time to time. Symposium participants who focused on this issue concluded that more information is needed to understand estuarine complexity and variability and that such information could be gathered by a long-term (2 to 3 decades) monitoring program for key variables in the Gulf of Maine region. Observations of ecosystem function, resource availability, and human actions and reactions are needed to understand cumulative impacts and to develop policies to reduce them. A process for developing and using scientific data and information, that addresses the complexity of ecosystems, should also be incorporated. Politics, culture, economics, and social factors must be considered in responding to cumulative impacts. Cumulative impact problems require policy solutions developed at levels ranging from interstate and interprovince to county and local. Mechanisms for coordinating actions among all levels should be developed. Information communicated to policymakers should demonstrate the relevance of scientific issues and should clearly identify the consequences of decisions. Social scientists need to contribute ideas about new mechanisms for motivating desired changes.