Great Lakes Science & Policy: Strengthening the Connection Executive Summary
Informing public policy with sound science has long been recognized as a vital need for effective management and protection of the Great Lakes; however, delivering scientific findings to policy-makers in a timely, useful manner has been problematic. Policy-makers have often lacked timely access to scientific information. And when they do have access, this information is often too technical and needs interpretation to be truly useful for decision-making. Clearly, there is a need to strengthen Great Lakes science-policy linkages.
Efforts are underway in the region that address part of this problem. For example, some organizations are identifying emerging research issues (the International Joint Commission's Science Advisory Board). Other organizations provide valuable services by informing the region of legislative developments (Northeast Midwest Institute), or advocating on its behalf (Great Lakes Commission). Still others communicate research findings among the research community (Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Environment Canadaís National Water Research Institute) and to the general public, including students (Sea Grant).
Yet none has emerged as the source for scientific information geared directly at informing policy-makers to advance sound public policy. A call has gone out to binational organizations, such as the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR), to play a greater role in clarifying and reaching agreement on research priorities, and in strengthening science-policy linkages.
IAGLR is uniquely positioned to foster this connection between science and policy. IAGLR's mission is to promote all aspects of large lakes research and communicate research findings. This international, multidisciplinary organization has more than 900 members and provides a broad range of science and expertise to a number of audiences. Each year it convenes the premiere Great Lakes research conference, and the organization has become the repository of Great Lakes science over the years via its Journal of Great Lakes Research. Published since 1975, the journal contains the foremost collection of multidisciplinary Great Lakes scientific knowledge in the world.
This collection of both scientists and science positions IAGLR to effectively serve the policy-making community in the interest of advancing sound policy. Building on its strengths, and in keeping with its stated goal to reach out to policy-makers, IAGLR proposes a two-year project to lay the foundation for the ongoing exchange of information between scientists and policy-makers to ensure informed management and protection of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
Specifically, nine main tasks are envisioned to build this partnership:
- Survey key Great Lakes policy institutions and organizations to identify high-priority policy issues where further scientific information is desired;
- Establish a Sciene-Policy Advisory Board to guide the project;
- Build a web-based directory of scientists and researchers from the Association who are willing to interact with and answer questions for policy-makers;
- Build a repository of Great Lakes research based on the Journal of Great Lakes Research, readily available and searchable via the Association's web site to provide the scientific background for key issues over time;
- Identify Great Lakes policy development organizations and institutions to partner with IAGLR in a pilot project to address high-priority issues identified by the Science Policy Advisory Board;
- Translate the relevant science for policy-makers into a useful, readily accessible format available via the Association's web site;
- Facilitate dialogue between policy-makers and scientists in answering specific questions, addressing issues, and furthering policy development on priority issues;
- Evaluate and fine-tune the approaches of the project in strengthening science-policy linkages and develop recommendations for the Association and Great Lakes community regarding continued use of this and other tools; and
- Disseminate information about the project throughout the two years to advertise the initiative, secure participation, and share results.
This project will use the scientific knowledge that exists in the Associationís Journal, the technical expertise of the Associationís scientists, and key Great Lakes policy organizations and institutions to strengthen the connection between Great Lakes science and policy. It provides the framework for ongoing informed policy by building a readily accessible repository of information and establishing roles and access to expertise that will serve the policy-making community not only during the two years of the project, but into the future.