Elucidating the Role of Scientific Information in Decision-Making for Fisheries Management
Soomai, Suzuette Sharlene
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While protocols may exist within governmental organizations for the production of scientific advice, the information pathways, i.e., how it is produced, communicated, and used in policy contexts, are not fully understood. The research addressed this knowledge gap by asking: What role(s) does fisheries scientific information fulfill in policy- and decision-making for fisheries management? Questions were asked in the context of fisheries science and management, information management, and public policy within case studies of three inter-related organizations with different jurisdictional and geographic scales of governance: Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Through three internships, research was conducted using qualitative methods and included interviews of 78 key actors, e.g., scientists and managers, direct observations of 15 science and management meetings, and content analysis of scientific reports and publications. The textual data were analyzed based on coding of themes related to theoretical perspectives of the science-policy interface and information use in policy contexts. The leading drivers in the information pathways in the organizations include: the demand for scientific advice; policy development and organizational collaboration and networking; and trade aspects. The common enablers to information flow include the attributes of information and organizational structures that facilitate iterative communication – reinforced by trust relationships and respect – among actors. The barriers include dispersed organizational structures, inadequate communication processes, austerity measures, political and trade aspects related to the fishing industry; and scientific uncertainty associated with ecosystem approaches to fisheries management (EAF). A well-defined process for producing scientific and management advice – in DFO and NAFO – ensures transparency and creates credible, relevant, and legitimate information for operational decision-making. FAO functions as a boundary organization to bridge science and policy-making communities in its member countries. Trade-offs in the attributes of information facilitate information flow at the interface to meet the organizations’ objectives. Non-governmental organizations, the fishing industry, and civil society are increasingly important actors in the information pathways. EAF requires collaborative models of decision-making and information use. A new model of information use in operational decision-making by governmental organizations for fisheries management is presented.