2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 2:20 PM


KARL, Herman A., U.S. Geological Survey and Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Ave., 9-330, Cambridge, MA 02139 and TURNER, Christine E., U.S. Geol Survey, M.S. 939, Federal Center, Box 25046, Denver, CO 80225, hkarl@mit.edu

More effective use of scientific information in policymaking can help avoid or mitigate the consequences of human-induced stressors on the environment. However, more often than not, scientists find themselves and their work ignored, marginalized, or misrepresented in contentious environmental policy debates. This happens because, more often than not, their science is being used within an institutional framework dominated by adversarial approaches to policymaking, which constrains the utility of science for informing decisions, and, worse, fosters its misuse. Inclusive processes that bring people together to solve problems collaboratively are increasingly being seen as critical for linking scientific information to decisions that shape environmental policy. Joint fact-finding (JFF) refers to a set of "best practices" that have evolved to ensure that science and politics are appropriately balanced in environmental decisionmaking at the federal, state and local levels. JFF is a procedure for involving those affected by policy decisions in a continual collaborative process of generating and analyzing the technical information needed to inform those decisions, while preserving the best practices of scientific inquiry and incorporating local knowledge. Because JFF promotes shared learning it can, and has in many cases, help create knowledge that is technically credible, publicly legitimate, and relevant to policy and management decisions. An essential premise of JFF is that when all stakeholders have a say in the design, analysis, and application of the scientific inquiry—a collaborative problem solving process—they are more likely to value and incorporate scientific inquiry in policy decisions. A necessary condition of this premise is that scientists need to engage in that process and not remain aloof from it. Without proper process considerations the substance of science will not be effectively communicated and utilized. Joint fact finding, by bringing scientists, citizens, and politicians together to talk with each other and share their knowledge in an open consensus-seeking process, is a better way than a confrontational, adversarial process to ensure that science will be used in value-laden environmental policy decisions.