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Using Science to Inform Controversial Issues: A Case Study from the California Ocean Science Trust

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Connecting science and policy to promote the effective management of marine resources is a necessity and challenge acknowledged by scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders alike. As a leader on ocean issues, California has recognized the importance of integrating science into ocean and coastal management through specific policy choices. An example is the establishment of the California Ocean Science Trust (OST), a non-profit organization mandated to support management decisions with the best available science. The OST functions as a “boundary organization” bridging the often-disparate worlds of science and policy. Recently, while coordinating a scientific study on the controversial issue of decommissioning California's offshore oil and gas platforms, the OST encountered public misconceptions about the peer review process and how it can help ensure unbiased scientific information informs policy. The OST's experience with this study, and generally as a scientific knowledge broker, provides a practical perspective on techniques for navigating the choppy waters between science and policy. This article presents a critical reflection on the OST's experience coordinating the platform decommissioning study, examined through the framework of boundary organizations and salience, credibility, and legitimacy. It highlights lessons-learned from the project and shares recommendations for working toward the effective integration of science and policy.

Keywords: California; boundary organizations; marine policy; oil and gas platform decommissioning; science integration

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: California Ocean Science Trust, Oakland, California,School of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 2: California Ocean Science Trust, Oakland, California 3: California Natural Resources Agency, Sacramento, California 4: Independent Consultant, Carmel, California

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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