Environmental Management

, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 1232–1245 | Cite as

The Role and Value of Conservation Agency Research

  • Dirk J. RouxEmail author
  • Richard T. Kingsford
  • Stephen F. McCool
  • Melodie A. McGeoch
  • Llewellyn C. Foxcroft


Governments charge their conservation agencies to safeguard biodiversity through protected areas and threat mitigation. Increasingly, conservation management and policy need to be supported by rigorous evidence provided by science. As such, institutional arrangements should consider and enable effective scientific research and information dissemination. What role can in-house agency research play in responding to this challenge? We examined the research capabilities of three conservation agencies from Australia, South Africa, and United States. Seven indicators were used to characterize the reliability and relevance of agency research. We found similarities among agencies in their patterns of peer-reviewed publication, cultures of research collaboration, and tendencies to align research with organizational objectives. Among the many and diverse activities that constitute the role of a contemporary agency researcher, we emphasize two key research dimensions: reliability, achieved through peer-reviewed research output, and relevance, achieved through active stakeholder engagement. Amid increasingly challenging realities for conservation of ecosystems, agency science functions are vital to providing the evidence base required for effective management and policy development.


Scientific publication Research reliability Research relevance Collaboration Engagement 



We particularly thank Chloe Vandervord for assisting with the compilation of bibliographic information for NSW OEH, and Jacques de Vries for assisting with the analysis of bibliographic information from ALWRI. We also thank Susan Fox, Alan Watson, Peter Novellie, Tony Auld, David Eldridge, and David Keith for their thoughtful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. The comments of two anonymous reviewers helped us to rethink and improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk J. Roux
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Richard T. Kingsford
    • 3
  • Stephen F. McCool
    • 4
  • Melodie A. McGeoch
    • 5
    • 6
  • Llewellyn C. Foxcroft
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Scientific ServicesSouth African National ParksGeorgeSouth Africa
  2. 2.Sustainability Research UnitNelson Mandela Metropolitan UniversityGeorgeSouth Africa
  3. 3.Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUNSWSydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Society and ConservationUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  5. 5.Scientific ServicesSouth African National ParksSteenbergSouth Africa
  6. 6.School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  7. 7.Scientific ServicesSouth African National ParksSkukuzaSouth Africa
  8. 8.Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and ZoologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa

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