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Tuesday, November 8 • 15:30 - 17:00
Improving ocean management: Critical insights about information pathways to strengthen evidence-based decision-making

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Organized by the Environmental Information: Use and Influence (EIUI) research program (www.eiui.ca), School of Information Management, Dalhousie University.

Numerous advisory groups in Canada have historically discussed mechanisms by which information can be provided to support public policy and decision-making. Yet, the scientific community continues to raise concerns about an apparent disregard for scientific information by decision-makers. Although many environmental problems have been identified, they are not currently being adequately addressed. In particular, problems facing the oceans are serious and often present unforeseen complications. Given these environmental concerns, the growing volume of scientific information, and the complexity of decision-making, including the influence of politics, the need to understand information pathways – production, communication, and use of information – cannot be overstated. It is also useful to consider the case of public science organizations, i.e., research units of government, given the current federal government’s expressed commitment to science-based decisions. Public science organizations can provide the broader scientific community with a key interface for connecting science to government decisions.

This panel, comprised of members of the Environmental Information: Use and Influence (EIUI) research program at Dalhousie University and a staff member of Natural Resources Canada, will discuss the complex processes that characterize how information moves from scientists to decision-makers at the science-policy interface. Funded by SSHRC and governmental bodies, EIUI has conducted empirical studies of information use in marine environmental decision-making in national, regional, and international governmental organizations. These studies have revealed that access to and use of information are dependent on multiple, context-specific factors. For example, the movement of information between scientific and policy groups can follow numerous formal and informal pathways linking a variety of actors in networks of policy- and decision-making at all levels of government. Furthermore, decision-making involves diverse audiences, including stakeholders and individuals outside of government and established networks, with unique information management behaviours. Understanding the structure and objectives of known decision-making processes that are based on a scientific understanding of natural and human environments, is a precondition for new, hypothesis-driven research (typical of discovery research) to encourage decisions that align with policy objectives.

Drawing on approaches in information management, marine science, marine policy, and public administration, the panelists will discuss the intricacies of the science-policy interface(s). The panel will address the following questions:

  • What critical enablers and barriers affect the use of marine environmental information?
  • Given the growing volume of scientific (natural and social) knowledge, how do decision makers identify and select relevant information?
  • Given the growing number of communication methods, what role(s) do particular information pathways, such as social networks, play in marine environmental decision making?
  • Given the federal government’s expressed commitment to science, how can federal science organizations best advance the inclusion of science in decision-making?

These questions are especially relevant given continuing austerity measures, the growing demand for transparency in decision-making, and global attention on addressing communication challenges at the science-policy interface. The results of these empirical studies have been received with considerable interest by governmental scientists and managers as they seek solutions that will ensure that the information is used appropriately by decision-makers.

avatar for Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart

University of King's College, Halifax
Dr. Ian Stewart is Assistant Professor in the History of Science and Technology Program, University of King's College, Halifax. As an intellectual historian of science his research and publications have until recently concentrated on the early modern period. In the field of contemporary... Read More →

avatar for Christopher Jennings

Christopher Jennings

Chief of Policy, Strategic Planning and Operations Branch, Earth Sciences Sector at Natural Resources Canada
Christopher Jennings is Chief of Policy, Strategic Planning and Operations Branch, in the Earth Sciences Sector at Natural Resources Canada. He has worked for NRCan since 2007 when he joined the Geological Survey of Canada. For the last 5 years, Chris has led a small science policy... Read More →
avatar for Kevin Quigley

Kevin Quigley

Scholarly Director / Associate Professor, MacEachen Institute of Public Policy and Governance / Dalhousie University
Kevin Quigley is the Scholarly Director of the MacEachen Institute of Public Policy and Governance, and an Associate Professor in the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University. Dr. Quigley has worked on research and innovation projects with public sector organizations... Read More →
avatar for Suzuette S. Soomai

Suzuette S. Soomai

Postdoctoral Fellow, Dalhousie University
Suzuette S. Soomai is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Environmental Information: Use and Influence research program (EIUI) at Dalhousie University. Her dissertation examined fisheries information use in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries... Read More →
avatar for Peter G. Wells

Peter G. Wells

Adjunct Professor / Senior Research Fellow, Dalhousie University
Peter G. Wells is an Adjunct Professor in the Marine Affairs Program and a Senior Research Fellow of the International Ocean Institute at Dalhousie University. He was previously a Senior Research Scientist with Environment Canada. Author or co-author of over 250 scientific publications... Read More →
avatar for Lee Wilson

Lee Wilson

Research Associate, Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response (MEOPAR)
Lee Wilson is a Research Associate with the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response (MEOPAR) Network’s Data Management Project where he works closely with natural, social, and computer scientists to solve issues related to the storage, discovery, and accessibility... Read More →

Tuesday November 8, 2016 15:30 - 17:00 EST
Room 211