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Uncertainty as Information: Narrowing the Science-policy Gap

G. A. Bradshaw, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and USDA Forest S
Jeffrey G Borchers, Department of Forest Science, Oregon State University


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Conflict and indecision are hallmarks of environmental policy formulation. Some argue that the requisite information and certainty fall short of scientific standards for decision making; others argue that science is not the issue and that indecisiveness reflects a lack of political willpower. One of the most difficult aspects of translating science into policy is scientific uncertainty. Whereas scientists are familiar with uncertainty and complexity, the public and policy makers often seek certainty and deterministic solutions. We assert that environmental policy is most effective if scientific uncertainty is incorporated into a rigorous decision-theoretic framework as knowledge, not ignorance. The policies that best utilize scientific findings are defined here as those that accommodate the full scope of scientifically based predictions.

Key words

adaptive management, decision making, environmental policy, global climate change, monitoring, risk, uncertainty
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087