Bringing molecular tools into environmental resource management: Untangling the molecules to policy pathway

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Wilson Freshwater, Research Specialist (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:

Abstract: Increasingly, scientists are drawn to public debates on environmental policy, yet find themselves ill-equipped to influence the outcome. While many scientists have collected data (for example, on species being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act) or developed technologies (for example, to detect unregulated waterborne pollutants) relevant to current policy debates, communicating these results to policy makers is no guarantee that a rational policy response will follow. Biologists continually overemphasize the technical aspects of their work and almost completely ignore the social-political environment in which their work is meant to inform. Specifically, most biologists seem to believe that if they work out the technical hurdles and then effectively communicate their science to policy makers, their work will affect and change policy. This is a grievous mistake and one that has continued to reinforce the science/policy divide, rather than anneal it. Scientists who do receive training (RS was 2002–2003 Congressional Science Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, under the sponsorship of the Geological Society of America) quickly learn about the “three Ps”—policy, politics, and process—that govern lawmaking. Scientists tend to focus overwhelmingly on the first “P,” because policy is the one area where data and scientific expertise may be brought to bear. But policy does not move forward without attention to the often complex politics behind the policy, or the bureaucratic processes that must be navigated. Even once policy is made, its implementation may not follow the most scientifically appropriate methods. This is both because improved techniques may have been developed after the policy was enacted and because managers constrained by legislatively mandated protocols (no matter how outdated) have limited opportunity for feedback to policy makers.

Additional Information

Sagarin, R., Carlsson, J., Duval, M., Freshwater, W., Godfrey, M. H., Litaker, W., et al. (2009).Bringing molecular tools into environmental resource management: Untangling the molecules to policy pathway. PLoS Biology, 7 (3), e1000069. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000069.
Language: English
Date: 2009
Environmental policy, Fishery management, Fishes--Molecular aspects, Molecular biology--Technique, Policy sciences
Environmental policy
Policy sciences
Molecular biology--Technique
Fishes--Molecular aspects
Fishery management

Email this document to