Managing the Science-Policy Interface in a Complex and Contentious World



Most of the significant problems planners, resource managers, and public sector decision makers have to deal with are emergent from dynamic interactions among component elements of complex adaptive systems. Such problems are known as ‘wicked’ problems because inherent uncertainty is high, so that it is not possible to precisely predict the outcomes of any action or event, and addressing the problems involve trade-offs between competing and often incompatible objectives and thus require balancing among differing value judgments. This complexity has profound implications for the role of science in policy making. Adaptive co-management has been suggested as an appropriate approach for addressing science-intensive ‘wicked’ problems, but has proven difficult to implement. Successful cultivation of an effective collaborative adaptive management process requires careful attention to process design to ensure that the necessary diversity of viewpoints and expertise - scientific, technical, and experiential - are fully included and that substantive and constructive dialogue is supported. Scientists seeking to more effectively integrate their science into such a process face the challenge of how to participate effectively without compromising the quality of their science. In this paper, we present concepts and recommendations that should be considered when designing an adaptive co-management process, and explore ideas for management of the science-policy interface.


Coupled human-natural systems Engagement Natural resource ­management Adaptive co-management 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forestry and Environmental ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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