**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.**/p>

This post is the second of a two-part series on the roles that boundary organizations play in linking science with decision making. It was first published on January 24, 2014 in Leopold Leadership 3.0. Click here to view part one.

In our first post, we described a few of the key concepts and findings that have emerged from research on boundary organizations. What does this look like in practice? Here are a few examples from our work at the Ocean Science Trust.

Science Needs Assessment

Scientists and decision-makers operate in different worlds, at different paces, and with different priorities, which can often lead to missed opportunities. One way to remedy this disconnect is by developing a deeper understanding of how agencies interact with and use science. Through “Science Needs Assessment,” we map decision makers’ science needs using interviews, focus groups, and surveys. Conducting these interviews helps us to capture the priority information needs of managers, and the processes by which new scientific information could actually be used. With this knowledge in hand, we can work more effectively with the scientific community to align activities with decision making.

Expert Judgment

Expert judgment can be a valuable tool in helping to translate science for decision makers. We define expert judgment simply as a process that takes advantage of specialized knowledge and experience to inform some management or decision making need. Expert judgment can be especially helpful in cases where empirical evidence is lacking or insufficient. Or in deriving useful information from large amounts of data, or in assessing complex situations. Expert judgment is used in an extremely wide range of circumstances. In our own context, we see an increasing need for expert judgment processes that inform adaptive management of complex socio-ecological systems.

Scientific & Technical Review

Ocean Science Trust employs scientific review on behalf of ocean and coastal management agencies in California to help ensure that decisions are supported by the highest quality science. Unlike academic journal articles, agency products often have diverse review needs due to the fact that scientific and technical aspects are intertwined with regulatory components, and there is often significant public interest involved. Therefore, there is no ‘one size fits all’ review process. Review processes must be perceived widely as transparent, while being credible and scientifically rigorous.

It is important to note that these are just a few examples. They do not represent everything Ocean Science Trust does to help link science with decision making. Also, the boundary space is diverse. One of the exciting aspects of this growing field is that different boundary organizations are using different models and approaches, or may focus on different skill sets or areas of expertise (e.g., science communications, law, management processes, etc.). The producers and users of scientific knowledge will benefit most when all these institutions are functioning well and working together constructively.

So why should scientists care about boundary organizations? They can efficiently improve your relevance and impact by:

1.) Taking care of process

These examples all have one element in common, and that’s process, process, process! In having an organization equipped with the expertise and capacity to design and implement strong processes, scientists and decision makers are provided the support and guidance they need to constructively collaborate and learn from each other. Often the gap between science and decision making is bridged by the right process at the right time.

2) Finding the right audience for your work

Boundary organizations can serve as a valuable guide to the policy issues and decision making audiences where your research might be relevant. An effective boundary organization can relieve some of the pressure that gets heaped onto scientists through mechanisms such as the NSF’s “broader impacts” criterion by pointing out credible avenues through which your work can make a difference.

3) Identifying new collaborations

In the course of working with scientists and decision makers to align information with needs, boundary organizations often generate new opportunities for collaboration and expanding the utility of scientific research.

Do you engage with a boundary organization as part of your work? Tell us about the organization and your experiences in the comments!

Read more about the Ocean Science Trust’s approach to our boundary role here, and see here for a presentation on boundary organization theory and practice.

Further Reading

Dilling, L., & Lemos, M. C. (2011). Creating usable science: Opportunities and constraints for climate knowledge use and their implications for science policy. Global Environmental Change, 21(2). doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.11.006

Guston, D. H. (2001). Boundary Organizations in Environmental Policy and Science: An Introduction. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 26(4), 399–408. Retrieved from http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0162-2439(200123)26:4<399_BOIEPA>2.0.CO;2-D

Parker, J. N., & Crona, B. I. (2012). On Being All Things to All People: Boundary Organizations and the Contemporary Research University. Social Studies Of Science, 42(2).

SPARC. (2005). Climate Science Policy: Lessons from the RISAs. (E. C. McNie, R. A. Pielke Jr, & D. Sarewitz, Eds.). Honolulu, HI: Workshop Report from the Science Policy Assessment and Research on Climate Project. Retrieved from http://cstpr.colorado.edu/sparc/research/projects/risa/workshop_report.html