Prepared by David N. Wiley, August 2011
with funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy
Dr David Wiley is Research Coordinator for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Scituate, Massachusetts. His research on the conservation, ecology and behaviour of whales has appeared in numerous scientific journals and been featured by National Geographic, the BBC, and the Discovery Channel. He is adjunct faculty at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and the recipient of numerous awards including the US Department of Commerce’s Gold Medal for scientific leadership.
During David’s Ian Axford Fellowship exchange to New Zealand he was based at the Department of Conservation in Wellington, where he researched how multi-stakeholder inclusivity in scientific research can increase the social power of its results in marine protected area management.
The use of multi-stakeholder working groups to resolve disputes is becoming a norm in marine protected area (MPA) management. Disputes are characterized by high stakes, divergent values and knowledge conflicts over information used for decisions. Scientific research is seen as producing superior information for resolving knowledge conflicts because research is conducted in isolation from those most impacted by its results (i.e. stakeholders), making its findings objective and unbiased.
Interviews with stakeholders involved in New Zealand’s MPA decisions identified myriad barriers to their acceptance of scientific information, primarily related to social concerns over biases inherent in those conducting the research. As a result information contributed to entrenchment by allowing stakeholders to reject it, rather than contributing to problem-solving by providing agreed upon information.
Research that is inclusive, balanced by a diversity of interest and demonstrates a full set of problem definitions and potential solutions, as identified by those impacted by them, is identified as providing results that are seen as more credible and more likely to be accepted by stakeholders for decision-making. A “Ladder of Scientific Participation” is provided that will increase the social power of results and help scientists achieve the scientific ideal of producing information that is judged unbiased and defensible.
Conclusions And Recommendations
Appendix 1: Interview Sheets
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In September 2012 David presented his Ian Axford Fellowship research at TEDxNewBedford in New Bedford, Massachusetts: