Perspective: Communicating our science to influence public policy

M.T. Barbour, LeRoy POFF, R.H. Norris, J.D. Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


We ask 3 questions that bear on the ability of aquatic scientists to influence public perceptions and public policy related to important environmental issues: 1) Why should scientists become better communicators? 2) What can we do to promote effective communication? 3) How can scientific societies help scientists meet this communication challenge? Shareholders in the environment include watershed groups, environmental interest groups, water-quality agencies, the general public, and the scientific community. These shareholders often are not professional scientists, but they influence the formation of natural resource policies. Individual aquatic scientists should be able to explain their science to other shareholders in a way that disabuses misconceptions of scientific principles, fosters informed dialogue concerning actions that affect aquatic ecosystems, and prevents poor decisions that can result from inaccurate information or short-sightedness. Scientific societies can effectively communicate the concerns of individual scientists by: 1) articulating the links between basic research and ecological principles to applied science, thereby building the foundation of science needed to support informed decision-making; 2) translating and disseminating results of scientific research to nonscientists to minimize inaccuracies, thereby fostering scientific literacy; and 3) taking proactive positions that promote infusion of sound science into policy debates on pressing environmental issues, especially those that bear on freshwater ecosystems
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)562-569
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the North American Benthological Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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