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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: What Are Working Groups and Why Should Scientists Be Involved?

Author
item Svejcar, Anthony

Submitted to: Weed Technology Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 15, 1995
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: It is not uncommon for policy decisions to be made without access to the best current scientific information. At times the communication among scientists, policy-makers, and the general public appears less than optimum. In this article, it is suggested that scientist have a major role to play in "working groups" i.e. coalitions of individuals interested in controversial issues. Scientists have the resources to gather publication and synthesize information that would not be readily available to policy- makers or the general public. In addition, scientists can suggest sampling protocols if a group wishes to gather its own information. This sort of involvement helps researchers receive input from a wide variety of sources which improves the responsiveness of research to public interest.

Technical Abstract: The conflicts over management of natural resources, especially on public lands, have resulted in a high level of frustration among many of the interested parties. There are many underlying causes of the conflicts, but I think several major societal trends must be considered. During the past decade or two, there has been increased emphasis on participatory democracy, where the general public seeks more involvement in decision making and policy formulation. A second, and possibly related trend is the decline in public image of science and lack of trust in state and federal agencies. Thus individual members of society wish to be included in decision making, and may not necessarily see scientists (or other "experts") as capable of providing the answers. Particularly in the natural resource arena, seeking input from experts before making decisions may not satisfy critics. One response to natural resource conflicts is to form a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds to discuss and act on management conflicts. These coalitions or working groups may take many forms. There are two basic types of groups I will mention: 1) those formed to deal with a specific issue over a set time period, and 2) those formed to foster communication, interaction and education, and which may not tackle specific projects. I would argue that scientists should be active participants in such efforts. Participation provides the opportunity to demonstrate the value of science in decision-making and may also serve to guide research efforts to insure that the results are of value to a wider cross-section of society.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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