AbstractGovernments, researchers and stakeholder groups often call for science to inform
environmental policy and management. Despite these calls, researchers continue to observe a
gap between the production of scientific knowledge and its use in environmental decision-making.
The overall aim of this thesis was to take a holistic view of the scientific knowledge
and decision-making gap by examining both sides of the ‘divide’. The specific research
objectives were to develop an in-depth understanding of (1) how a body of scientific
knowledge can be synthesised to define an environmental problem relevant for environmental
decision-making (2) how a body of scientific knowledge can be synthesised and integrated
with other knowledge types (such as experiential knowledge) to inform the implementation of
a policy solution (3) how socio-political factors influence practitioners’ perceptions of the
role of scientific-knowledge synthesis in informing environmental decision-making (4) how
the rules and norms within which management agencies operate influence how scientific
knowledge can be used to implement solutions in environmental decision-making. To meet
the overall aim and specific research objectives I used a multi-disciplinary research approach
that comprised natural and social research methods. To narrow the focus of my research, I
selected two contemporary approaches proposed to link science with environmental decision-making.
The first approach was evidence-based practice and evidence synthesis. The second
approach was adaptive management.
My research findings provide empirical evidence of how some of the mismatches that create
a gap between scientific knowledge production and its use in environmental decision-making
can be ‘bridged’ using evidence synthesis methods and adaptive management. Through
collaboration, researchers can make primary research more accessible to practitioners using
evidence synthesis methods. Co-designing and co-producing the evidence synthesis produces
findings considered credible, salient by practitioners. Designing experimental management
actions in collaboration with stakeholders provides a greater institutional flexibility to
The overarching finding of my research is the importance of conducting multi-disciplinary
research that combines natural and social research methods. This finding is relevant for both
the application of evidence synthesis methods and adaptive management. Contemporary environmental problems are typically characterised by competing stakeholder objectives,
require compromise, and where scientific knowledge is one of several sources of information
that informs a decision. For researchers to play a constructive role in helping society to solve
environmental problems it is critical that they work closely with practitioners and their
stakeholders to provide credible, salient and legitimate ecological and social knowledge.
Combined, this knowledge can be used to develop a shared understanding between
researchers, management agencies and their stakeholders of how to manage and restore
aquatic ecosystems. Participation is the key to bridging the gap between scientific knowledge
production and its use in environmental decision-making.
|Date of Award
|Fiona Dyer (Supervisor), Sue Nichols (Supervisor) & Katie Moon (Supervisor)