Oh no, not another meeting about the science-practice gap !!
We already know that there is a gap between the delivery of conservation science outputs and their subsequent use by practitioners. We also understand the many barriers to the uptake of conservation science outputs: time pressures, information access, tools, training, etc. However, it is also recognised that conservation science has the ‘potential’ to identify, refine and evaluate conservation actions, and assist with their prioritisation. Effective conservation actions MUST be evidence-based.
So what's this meeting about ?
We do NOT want to have yet another meeting in which participants simply throw their hands in the air and say: "how terrible, there is a science-practice gap". This meeting is a [very] rare opportunity for conservation practitioners to identify what 'evidence' they want and need i.e. not an agenda driven by research systems in the academic sector. Stated plainly, the practitioners at the meeting (who deal with this stuff every day), will identify and prioritise the core scientific evidence they need in order to monitor and conserve species, manage and create habitats, maintain functioning ecosystems, and detect/measure adverse changes in the environment.
Lets talk about what research you need
This meeting is explicitly aimed at altering the current cart-before-horse approach where the 'how to get better uptake' seems to have been given priority over the 'what we actually need'. Only practitioners will attend this meeting, allowing them to focus solely on their needs. Future solutions to removing the [already identified] barriers to the uptake of science outputs by practitioners will form the basis of a second integrated workshop. At that meeting, academics and practitioners will together review the outputs from the current meeting, as well as identifying what is/is not possible, what is already being done, and how practitioners' needs can be serviced by science theory and practice.
Thinking outside the box
The current meeting will not be constrained by what is currently possible and practicable i.e. we want the meeting to map out a complete framework of practitioner evidence/research needs. The limits and constraints on accessing research outputs (time, funds, scale issues, etc) will be dealt with at the follow-on meeting with academics. For BES survey on 'barriers' to using scientific information see HERE.
Core questions for the meeting
The current meeting will tackle two key issues:
- What research do practitioners need to support, enhance and evaluate specific areas of their work: land management, species-focused actions, habitat restoration, monitoring, detecting change, etc.
- What are the major research priorities within each of these work areas?
A number of attempts have been made to use large-group processes to identify important questions for conservation (e.g. Sutherland et al. 2006; Sunderland et al. 2009; Sutherland et al. 2009). But the questions derived by these means have not been generated by the end-user community and were therefore subject to biases towards the expertise and knowledge of the participant scientists. The BES have also recently tackled this ongoing issue in a 3-day symposium called ‘Making a Difference in Conservation - improving the links between ecological research, policy and practice’. But again, this was a top-down process, not driven solely by practitioners’ needs. This meeting will use small-group and facilitated plenary workshops to tackle the core questions.
After the meeting
After the meeting, the outputs will be submitted as a ‘Practitioner Perspective’ article for the BES journal Applied Ecology. All participating organisations will be invited on the authorship. Executive summaries of the key discussions will also be made available via the online websites of Conservation Evidence and the Centre for Evidence Based Conservation, and submitted as an article for the BES Bulletin.
A second workshop will also be held later in 2017 for both academics and practitioners. Outputs from the first meeting will be used as the basis of discussions at the second meeting, to hone, enhance, clarify and take forward key issues.
The ultimate output: 'A Practical Guide to Conservation Science'
After both meetings have been delivered, a new practical guide will then be published covering all aspects of integrating science into conservation action.
Who should take part ?
We are seeking the involvement of conservation practitioners, land managers and ecologists at all structural levels within national/international NGOs, statutory agencies and private sector consultancies.