2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting

Ocean Tipping Points team member Ashley Erickson presented at the 2014 AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii about the importance of two-way communication between science and policy in her talk entitled "The Tide Flows Both Ways: Communicating Science to Policy and Policy to Science". Here Ashley reflects on the experience: 

“As one of few attorneys in a sea of dedicated and respected oceanographers, engineers, biologists, geographers, climatologists, hydrologists, physicists and more that attended and presented at this year’s AGU Ocean Sciences conference, I was both intimidated and energized by the turnout at the session on "Policy Impacts of Ocean Research: Communicating Science to Decision-makers," of which my talk was a part. I think the large crowd in attendance emphasizes both the importance and the need for more sessions dedicated to showcasing and discussing the two-way street between scientific researchers and decision-makers at this and similarly “traditional” science conferences. I was proud to represent an underrepresented discipline at the conference, and enjoyed showcasing our highly diverse and interdisciplinary Ocean Tipping Points team while emphasizing the importance of co-developing and communicating our scientific research in a way that will make it relevant and usable for practitioners and policymakers in the future.”

At the interface of science and policy, we often discuss the importance of science communication and science-supported policy, implying a one-way flow of information from scientist to policy-maker. To successfully integrate science into management, the flow of information must also travel from policy-makers back to scientists. When science is informed by the needs of decision-makers, scientific analyses can both advance knowledge and produce applicable results. This talk will introduce the Ocean Tipping Points project, a multi-year, multi-organization effort to advance our understanding of abrupt shifts in marine ecosystems and consequently improve ocean management. Using this project to demonstrate the “two-way street” between science and sound policy, we will discuss an approach to engage decision-makers early and often as a way to drive policy-relevant science and increase buy-in from the management community. While initial discussions between the two worlds can be fraught with jargon and confusion as both sides try to understand the other, we find this initial struggle is critical to the process of creating sound decision-making for the benefit of the world’s oceans.

Photo credit: Peter Southwood, Wikimedia Commons