Working Paper

Science and Federal Environmental Decisions: A Survey of Interactions, Successes, and Difficulties

Feb 14, 2017 | James W. Boyd, Jonathan Kramer

Summary

Based on interviews with federal employees, this study assesses interactions between government decisionmakers and science programs. We identify a range of practices that contribute to the success or failure of decision-oriented scientific input.

Key Findings

  • Successful science–decisionmaking interactions require deliberate managerial attention to the challenges associated with communication and coordination between scientists and decisionmakers.
  • Effective science–decision collaborations are associated with support from high-level policy leaders who lend their authority to the budget and personnel allocations necessary to deliberate mechanisms for interaction.
  • Administrative reforms designed to improve science–decisionmaking interactions should focus on identifying, training, and rewarding science–decision “stewards” assigned the responsibility of managing collaboration between scientists and decisionmakers.
  • Quick turnaround of scientific input on national-scale decisions poses a significant challenge to federal policymaking.

Abstract

Successful interactions between science and federal decisionmaking are important because of the public interest in informed, rational action on the part of our environmental institutions. Based on interviews with federal employees, the study gives a broad overview of interactions and coordination between US government decisionmakers and science programs. We identify a range of features and practices that contribute to the success or failure of decision-oriented scientific input. The study also holds lessons for science-oriented federal partners (e.g., NGOs, philanthropies, academic institutions, and businesses) and identifies ways they can most usefully contribute to federal decisionmaking.

A collaboration between Resources for the Future and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)

 

Successful interactions between science and federal decisionmaking are important because of the public interest in informed, rational action on the part of our environmental institutions. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Headquarters | Flickr; jareed | Flickr)