D5: Best Practices and Priorities for Science-Informed Decision-Making

Earth and environmental scientists are often told to make their research more immediately relevant to management and policy decisions. Indeed, as human-induced and natural perturbations in the ecological and hydrological cycles of the earth increase in magnitude and frequency, the sense of urgency to not “Fiddle while Rome burns” is understandable. However, success at effectively generating science information that directly and profoundly influences decision-making has often been elusive. Ecosystems are complex, decision support tools that offer general tendencies and forecasts may not represent ecological conditions at specific locations and times to be managed, and human behavior is unpredictable. Resource management and policymaking is likewise complex, so scientific investigations often yield outcomes that are not immediately seen to be relevant to the legal, cultural, economic, or jurisdictional conditions where and when resource issues occur. Recent efforts at co-production of scientific investigations, the establishment of baseline measurements of ecological and socio-economic conditions for early detection of change, and the testing of potential study outcomes for their efficacy in aiding decisions, are showing promise for improving science and decision-making linkages. In this session, we will present examples of science-informed decision-making that attempt to inform management or policy outcomes. Speakers will discuss potential factors that affect success or failure. How did the application of science make a difference? What processes enabled (or disabled) the successful linkage of science to a decision? How can we measure success and compare science-informed decision efforts to define best practices for building resilience or mitigating disturbance events? What science is needed to provide early performance evaluations of future policy or management actions? What are the most pressing decisions that need to be informed with more science information? What are best practices for engaging the public so that science is integrated into decision-making culture.


  • Carl Shapiro, Director, Science and Decisions Center, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Peter Murdoch, Science Advisor, Northeast Region, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Scott Chiavacci, Interdisciplinary Ecologist, Science and Decisions Center, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Jennifer Graham, Harmful Algal Bloom Coordinator, New York Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Emily Pindilli, Natural Resource Economics Lead, Science and Decisions Center, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Michael Runge, Research Ecologist, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey