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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the California Symposium EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Scientific knowledge about coastal ecosystems, including the human component, is needed to enable the management of these systems in a way that will preserve their value indefinitely. In addition, a continuous interchange of information between scientists and managers who focus on coastal areas is necessary for existing scientific information to be put to good use and so that new information requirements will be addressed. The National Research Council’s Ocean Studies Board (OSB) began a study in 1991 to examine the existing interactions between coastal scientists and policymakers and to recommend means to improve these interactions and resultant coastal policies of the future. The OSB will convene three regional symposia, focused on California, the Gulf of Maine, and the Gulf of Mexico, examining different issues of importance in each region. Ultimately, a committee of the OSB will summarize and synthesize the findings of the three symposia in the form of a report that will make policy recommendations that can be applied nationally, as well as regionally. The California regional symposium, convened in November 1992, was the first symposium in the series. Participants from state and federal agencies, universities, and the state legislature focused on three issues that are important in California: coastal habitat mitigation strategies, coastal sediment and water quality, and cumulative impacts of development. Each topic was discussed in plenary session and in issue groups devoted to the topic. Participants were 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.
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the California Symposium Many suggestions for improving interactions between coastal science and policy were developed. It was clear that scientific information is more important in some stages of the policy process than in others. It is important to recognize that scientists and decisionmakers must be aware of the differences in their cultures and reward systems and create interactive mechanisms that account for these differences. As environmental problems are approached, they should be well defined, with the proper questions being asked in a language shared by both scientists and policymakers. Decisionmakers need scientists to provide timely and credible information that is responsive to the questions asked by the decisionmaker, with scientists making clear the significance of their findings, the limitations inherent in the information they provide, and identifying the additional questions that are raised by their research and the potential cost of addressing these questions. Scientists can help policymakers with both short-term and long-term questions, but in any case, should be given tasks that are important and achievable within the time allowed. Great care must be given to provide 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 of improving interactions between scientists and managers for the purpose of creating better environmental policy. Symposium participants who focused on strategies for mitigation of coastal habitat degradation concluded that enough scientific information exists to improve mitigation projects significantly. Strict performance measures, based on scientific evidence, must be developed to measure the extent to which the mitigation objectives are achieved. This will require long-term independent monitoring of the mitigation process. Mitigation of habitat damage is still an experimental process, however, and each project can yield information that could guide future mitigation activities. Mitigation should be considered within the context of the entire ecosystem of which a site is part, to optimize regional environmental objectives. Because environmental mitigation is relatively new, there is still much foundational science that needs to be conducted to develop appropriate measures of mitigation success and to develop mitigation procedures. Symposium participants who focused on coastal sediment and water quality suggested that management adopt an ecosystem approach, combining regional monitoring and research in a coordinated multi-institutional approach to improve coastal sediment and water quality. Scientists and managers should work together to evaluate and communicate the results of monitoring and research in a way that can be used in environmental decision- and policymaking. Adaptive management was also cited as an important means of improving science-policy interactions. Scientists can help policymakers by providing timely advice, either requested by policymakers or as proactive warnings. Scientists and policymakers should work
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the California Symposium together to involve the public in the environmental policy process, improving public understanding of the science and policy considerations on which environmental policies are based. Scientists and managers should be rewarded appropriately for their interactions. New means for encouraging the conduct of research useful to policymakers could include agency-academic joint institutes and nonprofit foundations that focus on coastal environmental research relevant to policy. Symposium participants who focused on cumulative impacts of development concluded that managing cumulative impacts may provide an opportunity for integration of science and policy. Like environmental mitigation, cumulative impact assessment and management is a new area of environmental endeavor. A barrier to cumulative impacts management is the fragmented governmental authority that exists in coastal regions and tends to hamper the ability of managers to manage coastal ecosystems on a regional scale. There is a great need for social science input regarding existing institutional capacities and possible strategies for changing institutions to enable better management of cumulative impacts. There are three critical elements of a rational scheme to manage cumulative impacts: (1) conceptual clarity of the management goal, (2) clear causal relationships to support the calculation of key thresholds, and (3) adequate capacity for governance. Achieving these elements will require the cooperation of scientists and policymakers, in laying a foundation that will enable likely future cumulative impact issues to be addressed. Because most coastal systems are already subject to a static project-by-project management approach, a transition to a dynamic adaptive approach will be necessary. Designing and managing this transition will require cooperation between scientists and policymakers. Four possible means to improve science-policy interactions were suggested: (1) improve conceptual development and the refinement of analytical tools for regional approaches, (2) increase the awareness of decisionmakers about cumulative impact issues, (3) implement incremental changes in decision systems, and (4) effect institutional redesign to deal with cumulative impacts. The suggestions for improving interactions between scientists and policymakers on the three issues discussed in California should provide a useful foundation for discussions of the OSB Committee on Coastal Science and Policy. These findings and conclusions will contribute to the final synthesis of the committee.
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