Environmental Management

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 836–846 | Cite as

The User, not the Tool: Perceptions of Credibility and Relevance Affect the Uptake of Prioritisation

  • Milena Kiatkoski Kim
  • Louisa Evans
  • Lea M. Scherl
  • Helene Marsh


Prioritisation methods have been used in conservation planning for over 20 years. The scientific literature focuses on the technical aspects of prioritisation, providing limited information on factors affecting the uptake of priorities. We focused on the Back on Track species prioritisation program in Queensland, Australia, used to prioritise species conservation efforts across Queensland from 2005. The program had low uptake by intended users. Our study aimed to identify the perceived limitations in the technical-scientific quality of this species-based prioritisation process and its outcomes in terms of credibility (scientific adequacy of the technical evidence) and relevance (of information to the needs of decision-makers). These criteria have been used to understand the uptake of scientific information in policy. We interviewed 73 key informants. Perceptions of credibility were affected by concerns related to the use of expert judgement (rather than empirical evidence) to assess species, impressions that key experts were not included in the planning process, and the lack of confidence in the information supporting prioritisation. We identified several trade-offs and synergies between the credibility and relevance of priorities to potential users. The relevance of the output plans was negatively affected by the lack of clarity about who were potential users and implementers of the priorities identified. We conclude with recommendations to enhance the credibility and relevance of such initiatives.


Prioritisation Credibility Relevance Conservation planning Users Uptake 



This research was funded by Graduate Research School, the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Professor Helene Marsh’s Services Fund (James Cook University) and the Skyrail Foundation. M.K.K. was supported by a JCU Postgraduate Research Scholarship and a stipend scholarship from Professor Helene Marsh’s Services Fund. The authors acknowledge the time and knowledge shared by interviewees and the support from the Threatened Species Unit from the Queensland Government. We also appreciate the comments and suggestions from three anonymous reviewers.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 280 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Milena Kiatkoski Kim
    • 1
  • Louisa Evans
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lea M. Scherl
    • 1
  • Helene Marsh
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesJames Cook UniversityDouglasAustralia
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityDouglasAustralia
  3. 3.College of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ExeterExeterUK

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