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Exploring the science-policy gap with Australian marine scientists, policymakers, and interest groups

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Sumby, JM (2012) Exploring the science-policy gap with Australian marine scientists, policymakers, and interest groups. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The ‘science-policy gap’ is a term that emerged during the 1990s and can be broadly defined as: ‘The distance, or gap, between what the best available science advises and what policymakers actually decide’. This thesis examines the development and current status of the science-policy gap, identifies the structure and primary causes of the gap, and suggests what can be done to close the gap. Between 1663 and 2011, the causal elements of the science-policy gap are identified in the primary literature. This was done using a literature review that focuses on papers and articles that specifically mention the science-policy gap, forming a living discourse within the scientific and policymaking communities. The primary literature approach highlights the differing experience and perspectives of the science and policy communities and the efforts to ‘close the gap’. Global overfishing of marine life is a clearly recognized and critically important issue, for both marine ecosystems and for the millions of people who depend on marine protein as a primary food source. In response, there have been many policy instruments designed to control the extraction of marine living resources. However, the continuing experience of fisheries management policies worldwide is one of failure and the consequent collapse of marine fisheries and ecosystems. This research refers to the issues around the management of marine living resources as examples of the science-policy gap, mainly relating to the management of ocean fisheries. The bulk of all fisheries are wild capture, exploiting marine populations that exist without human intervention as wild organisms within marine ecosystems. The tension between commercial exploitation of marine living resources and maintaining healthy marine ecosystems, now and into the future, is one that allows for the greatest expression of the science-policy gap. However, the discourse within the literature does not exclusively address marine systems, so examples of the science-policy gap occur in other disciplines (e.g. Health, early childhood development, geology, water resources). A survey and interview series was done with Australian stakeholder groups engaged in the use of the marine environment. This was done to determine if there is any difference between what the primary literature considers being the primary causes of the science-policy gap and what day-to-day actors in the field believe. The stakeholders were: Marine scientists; marine policymakers; the fishing industry; and marine environment groups. These people were drawn from throughout Australia and the results compared against the global discussion within the literature. Analysis of the results found that there are two levels to the gap; a structural level experienced in the day-to-day relationship between science and policy, and a deeper, architectural, level that is the main cause of the gap. Compared to the discourse in the literature, the Australian survey respondents and interviewees were far more aware of the deeper architectural level; putting it first and foremost and ranking other factors, such as uncertainty, as less important.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: science-policy gap, fisheries policy management, overfishing, uncertainty governance
Additional Information: Copyright the Author
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2012 04:41
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 04:41
URI: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/id/eprint/14803
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