Cover Image

Not for Sale



View/Hide Left Panel

Social science is the study of humankind in all of its cognitive and behavioral dimensions. If we presume policymaking to be a rational deliberative process, making explicit both the bases upon which policy decisions are made and the potential impacts of those decisions on the “human environment,” then it necessarily follows that the social sciences must be an integral part of all policymaking, including that involving policy with respect to coastal environments.

Having thus addressed the question of WHY social scientists must contribute to coastal policymaking, we may now turn to HOW such contributions can be made. First, we will establish the principle of a “cultural ecology” to enable us to view the human and non-human components of the coastal environment as a unified system. Second, we will briefly characterize the principal social science disciplines, with a note on the role of the humanities in coastal policymaking as well. Third, we will summarize the different ways in which social science and social scientists can enter the public policy process, and some of the structures and organizations through which they do so. Finally, we will comment briefly on some of the impediments to the use of science in public policy that are particular, if not unique, to the social sciences.

The Cultural Ecology of Coastal Public Policymaking Systems

Just as a salt marsh ecologist views all of the physical, chemical, and biological components of a salt marsh as inter-related, so we must view the human and non-human components of coastal policymaking environments as inter-related. We have already noted the relationship between policymaking and human behavior (direct) as opposed to the relationship between policymaking and the non-human components of the environment (indirect). We will focus here on the former of those relationships (the human component), presuming for now that the human system we trace for our public policy purposes encompasses those beliefs and behaviors relevant to the coastal environment and its resources.

The cultural ecology of coastal environments has two broad sub-components: (1) The human constituencies of the coastal environment itself, for example the people who live on, use, or otherwise are concerned in their beliefs or behaviors with the coastal environment; and (2) the humans who constitute the policy and management structures whose decisions and actions affect the behavior of the coastal constituencies defined in (1). The cultural ecology of coastal environments, then, for public policy purposes, is represented in skeletal form in Figure 1.

It is important to note that this cultural ecology includes people who may be very remote from the coast physically. Even though it is the behavior of people in



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement