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Building a shared context for science: Cross-group engagement at the science-policy interface

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September 1 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

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OneNOAA Science Seminar

Title: Building a shared context for science: Cross-group engagement at the science-policy interface

Speaker: Lindsey C. Williams, PhD, University of New Hampshire, Independent Consultant

Sponsor: NOAA's National Ocean Service Science Seminar Series. Coordinator is Tracy Gill.

Remote Access: Register at
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Abstract: It is widely accepted that public policy decisions that account for scientific and technical advice are likely to improve outcomes for all. Even with more data and information available than ever before, it has become increasingly difficult to agree on baseline facts and develop mutually beneficial paths ahead. Drawing lessons from dispute resolution and negotiation theory along with the literature on public engagement and collaborative processes, this seminar uses research findings from two case studies (groundfish management and estuarine water quality management) to illustrate opportunities ahead. Based on participant observation and analysis of semi-structured interviews with researchers, managers, and the regulated community within each case, we consider the role of credibility, legitimacy,and salience in the use of science as well as the impact of engagement and collaboration opportunities. The findings from this research and other experiences shows that when done well, engagement activities can help to develop relationships, open lines of communication, expand individual and collective understanding of the issues at hand (not driven by just one group view), and create space for creative solutions. While decisions will ultimately still need to be made, processes that enable a more complete picture and an expansion of the ideas at the table are more likely to account for science and technical information and will ultimately be more resilient and adaptive in the face of change. These approaches can be hampered by several factors including poor process design, power imbalances, lack of resources, limited familiarity with negotiation, and lack of exposure to other perspectives or ways of thinking.Efforts to think differently about systems approaches, changes to research processes, new perspectives on stakeholder engagement, and multi partner collaborative efforts might help make the jump towards progress in social-ecological systems.


Lindsey Williams is a social scientist and policy specialist with over 17 years of experience in research, teaching, and practice on ocean and coastal management issues, including 10 years in federal government service in several budget, policy, and communications roles. Her current work focuses on the science-policy interface, negotiation and consensus building, and collaborative processes particularly as they relate to coastal and environmental matters. She holds a PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies from the University of New Hampshire, a Master of Marine Policy from the University of Delaware, and Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Colby College. Lindsey works as an independent consultant,advisor, and lecturer and is currently teaching several courses at the University of New Hampshire, serving on the Scientific and Statistical Committee for the New England Fishery Management Council, and is in her second term as an At-Large member of City Council in Dover, NH.

Subscribe to the OneNOAA Science Seminar weekly email: Send an email to 
OneNOAAscienceseminars-request@list.woc.noaa.gov with the word 'subscribe' in the subject or body. Visit the OneNOAA Science Seminar Series website for more information.

(Lindsey C. Williams, PhD, University of New Hampshire, Independent Consultant)



September 1

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Via webinar