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The need for translational scientists

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by Jennifer Dever on 7 October 2014

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Transcript of The need for translational scientists

Integration of Conservation Science & Conservation Policy
Challenge: making science an integral part of how we solve the biodiversity crisis

Environmental Law
Environmental Policy
Who makes environmental conservation policy?
Policy decisions usually made by elected officials or political appointees

Who's in charge?
Decisions based on their perceptions of the views of people who elect them!
Head of the EPA: Gina McCarthy
Obama praised McCarthy's work as assistant EPA administrator, saying she has "focused on practical, cost-effective ways to keep our air clean and our economy growing. She's earned a reputation as a straight shooter. She welcomes different points of views."
Energy Secretary: Ernest Moniz
Secretary of the Interior: Sally Jewell

Role of the Conservation Biologist
Asked to make judgments on how actions may jeopardize nature - conservation scientists can ensure that science influences the decision, and their information can help parties identify the range of acceptable decisions

Conservation scientists must walk a fine line without crossing it!

“emails sent between world's leading scientists apparently showed researchers discussing how to 'spin' climate data and how that information should be presented to the media.” Telegraph, 11/30/09

Frequently absent when actual decisions are made
Scientists tend to think that advocacy based on a "win for the client" mentality, which often means deliberately selecting "facts" out of context, is unethical.

“Advocacy Game” - courts of law, political forums, and much of the media are steeped in such practices.
Scientists need to know how to play!
Got to know how to communicate & what to communicate.

Wide communication gulf between scientists working in conservation research and the managers working at the level where most conservation planning takes place.
There is an urgent need for greater dialogue between the two communities and for institutional structure to promote it.
Managers need to know what science can deliver, and scientists need to deliver what managers need.

The Communication Gap:
Translational scientist
= Conservation scientist who can translate scientific language into a policy framework so that decision-makers can use the science appropriately & the general public can better understand the science
Scientific Gap = difference in levels of confidence for a given scientific finding expressed by the scientific community and by society

Scientific gap can create doubt and confusion
The media plays a BIG role!!!
uncertainty about the uncertainty,

CONSERVATION – A Legally empowered discipline
Law = represent current social values, but laws shape values for future generations thus provide a sense of permanence
tells you what you can and cannot do; Laws written by Congress provide the authority for agencies to write regulations http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations/laws-and-executive-orders
Policy = durable decision that guides peoples behavior – the policy is the necessary outcome of all laws that are actually enforced
Examples of Environmental Laws

The Wilderness Act 1964
National Environmental Policy Act 1969
Holds the federal gov’t accountable for minimizing environmental impacts and protecting resources
proactive
Clean Air Act 1970 - regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources
National Forest Management Act 1976
Clean Water Act 1977 - established the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters
Endangered Species Act 1973
“provides the means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species”

Conservation biologists have a responsibility to enter the policy arena and advocate both general principles and specific actions needed to conserve biodiversity
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