Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8674
Title: Evaluating the Best Available Social Science for Natural Resource Management Decision-making
Author: S. Charnley, Courtney Carothers, Terre Satterfield, Arielle Levine, Melissa R. Poe, K. C. Norman, Jamie Donatuto, Michael B. Mascia, Sara Jo Breslow, Xavier Basurto, Christina Hicks, Carlos Garcia-Quijano, Kevin St. Martin, Arun Agrawal, Nives Dolsak, P. S. Levin
Publication Year: In press
Journal: Environmental Science & Policy
Keywords: best available scientific information,qualitative social science,environmental management,National marine fisheries service,US Forest Service
Abstract:

Increasing recognition of social-ecological systems as being integrated, and of conservation as concerning both people and nature, highlights the importance of applying social science to natural resource management decision-making. Moreover, a number of laws and regulations require natural resource managers to consider the “best available science” when making decisions, including social science. Yet definitions and standards for “best available science” are sparse, particularly in the case of best available social science (BASS). This paper offers some definitions and standards for BASS, emphasizing qualitative social science methods and data, and explains why a broader set of standards than those used for natural science is needed. We also provide two case examples from the USA – one from the National Marine Fisheries Service and one from the U.S. Forest Service – of how these federal agencies have attempted to integrate BASS into natural resource management. We find that the natural and social sciences share many of the same scientific standards for quality, but also exhibit some differences, especially where qualitative social science is concerned. Thus we argue that the standards of evidence for evaluating best available science should expand to include those associated with the qualitative social sciences in particular. Greater attention to including BASS in natural resource management decision-making can contribute to better, more equitable, and more defensible management decisions and policies.

Description:

Increasing recognition of social-ecological systems as being integrated, and of conservation as concerning both people and nature, highlights the importance of applying social science to natural resource management decision-making. Moreover, a number of laws and regulations require natural resource managers to consider the “best available science” when making decisions, including social science. Yet definitions and standards for “best available science” are sparse, particularly in the case of best available social science (BASS). This paper offers some definitions and standards for BASS, emphasizing qualitative social science methods and data, and explains why a broader set of standards than those used for natural science is needed. We also provide two case examples from the USA – one from the National Marine Fisheries Service and one from the U.S. Forest Service – of how these federal agencies have attempted to integrate BASS into natural resource management. We find that the natural and social sciences share many of the same scientific standards for quality, but also exhibit some differences, especially where qualitative social science is concerned. Thus we argue that the standards of evidence for evaluating best available science should expand to include those associated with the qualitative social sciences in particular. Greater attention to including BASS in natural resource management decision-making can contribute to better, more equitable, and more defensible management decisions and policies.

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management