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Change in Conservation Efforts

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Change in Conservation Efforts
Author(s): Lekelia D. Jenkins and Sara M. Maxwell
Source: BioScience, 61(2):93-93. 2011.
Published By: American Institute of Biological Sciences
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inquiries or rights and permissions requests should be directed to the individual publisher as copyright holder. February 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 2s"IO3CIENCE 93
Change in Conservation Efforts
As postdoctoral scholars in the field of
conservation, we laud the empirically
supported call of Arlettaz and colleagues
(BioScience 60: 835–842) for conserva-
tion biologists to actively implement
conservation recommendations and
we offer further suggestions.
We believe that conservation scien-
tists should begin grassroots change
for gaining recognition within aca-
demia for implementation efforts.
For example, in our curriculum vitaes
we have a section that describes our
efforts to implement our research-
derived recommendations and the
resulting impacts. We crafted this
section because we believe that on-
the-ground changes in conserva-
tion (in our case a regulatory change,
revised marine park boundaries, and
more than $100,000 of programmatic
grants with lasting, tangible conser-
vation products) speak more to our
success as conservation scientists than
just publications. If more people list
implementation and impacts on their
curriculum vitaes and yearly activ-
ity reports; if search committees ask
for statements of implementation; and
if lab heads, department chairs, and
deans give rewards and acknowledg-
ment for implementation, a wide-
spread change will occur. A rewards
system does not need to be established
by new rules; all that is required is
bottom-up development of a common
currency to create acceptance through-
out academia.
The authors aptly described the
common barriers to implementa-
tion of conservation guidelines and
implied that the conservation com-
munity should focus more on relevant
but often complex issues. We agree,
but recognize that scientists’ sphere of
influence can be quite limited within
these complex global issues. In cases
when it is not possible to directly
implement their recommendations, we
urge conservation scientists to actively
escort their recommendations through
the established implementation pro-
cesses. Active escorting can include
serving on advisory boards, request-
ing observer status at international
governance meetings, submitting let-
ters during public comment periods,
writing reports about recommenda-
tions specifically for the implementing
agency, and offering to be a resource to
the individual agency staffer(s) respon-
sible for the implementation.
To facilitate this process, we sug-
gest scientists begin building connec-
tions with managers and policymakers
in early research stages—even before
recommendations have been formu-
lated—as it often takes considerable
time to build the trust necessary to
create relationships that will lead to
lasting change. We additionally sug-
gest building the time and travel costs
for implemenation or active escorting
into grant proposals; this establishes
implementation as more than an after-
thought that is conducted on piece-
mealed time and funds, but instead
gives this important piece of conserva-
tion science a prominent and tangible
place in research design and funding.
Lekelia D. Jenkins ( is a
David H. Smith Conservation Research
Fellow at the University of Washington
School of Marine Affairs.
Sara M. Maxwell (sara.maxwell@ is a postdoctoral fellow at the
Marine Conservation Biology Institute
and University of California Santa
Cruz Long Marine Laboratory.
Response from Arlettaz and
We agree with Jenkins and Maxwell
that a fundamental change in assess-
ment criteria would help move con-
servation biology beyond publications
and toward an active discipline that
places science within the policy and
management realm. We also encourage
all conservation researchers to high-
light in their résumés how their scien-
tific results have been implemented by
policymakers and practitioners in the
field, as well as the resulting impact on
biodiversity. However, we doubt that
this would be sufficient to overcome
the immense research-implementation
divide prevailing in biodiversity con-
servation, which partly stems from
the practices currently ruling research
The reward system in academia for
conservation scientists is heavily focused
on publications in peer-reviewed jour-
nals. Although we believe that peer-
reviewed research must be maintained,
we think it is only one dimension of
effective conservation science. Con-
servation biology differs from other
disciplines among the life sciences in
that it is mission driven. However, the
consequential trade-off that conserva-
tion scientists face when ensuring that
their scientific evidence is employed by
policymakers and conservation practi-
tioners is ignored by almost all research
institutions when assessing academics
for employment, promotion, or grant
One first idea for trying to overcome
this is developing a system of accredi-
tation that rewards the full spectrum
of activities that conservation biolo-
gists play, similar to the patent-based
accreditation system of engineers. In
addition to the bottom-up approach
suggested by Jenkins and Maxwell,
we propose top-down evaluation rules
be recognized by academia. Indexes
for biodiversity conservation impact
similar to the traditional metrics esti-
mating publications output must be
A second idea is for new scien-
tific journals or sections in exist-
ing conservation journals to publish
results that are not simply novel but
are proven to be useful for regional
conservation in practice. In these sec-
tions, authors would provide a letter
of support from practitioners demon-
strating that their work is of practical
importance, similar to the traditional
approach of engineers for progressing
relevant work in their field. Journals
may also systematically request prac-
titioners to function as reviewers for
judging the applicability of results.
Such concepts would tighten the col-
laboration between conservation sci-
entists and practitioners, optimally
from the start of the research process,
... There are many barriers to conservation science being effective on the ground (Sutherland et al. 2004) and many suggestions of how to overcome them (Shanley & Lopez 2009;Sunderland et al. 2009;Braunisch et al. 2012). For example, Jenkins and Maxwell (2011) argue that to be effective, conservation scientists must actively escort their recommendations through the implementation processes via any process possible (e.g., serving on advisory panels, writing submissions on policy documents, tailoring reports specifically for implementing agencies). Arlettaz et al. (2010) go a step further and argue that when there is no clear pathway to implementation, the onus is on conservation scientists themselves to implement their recommendations directly. ...
... Engaging with stakeholders when initially developing research questions greatly increases the probability research will have on-the-ground effects (Jenkins & Maxwell 2011). Resource users, local agencies, and NGOs involved in the management of resources or species often have a wealth of knowledge regarding conservation issues, local context, and management information needs Laurance et al. 2012). ...
Full-text available
Seasoned conservation researchers often struggle to bridge the research-implementation gap and promote the translation of their work into meaningful conservation actions. Graduate students face the same problems and must contend with obstacles such as limited opportunities for relevant interdisciplinary training and a lack of institutional support for application of research results. However, students also have a crucial set of opportunities (e.g., access to academic resources outside their degree programs and opportunities to design research projects promoting collaboration with stakeholders) at their disposal to address these problems. On the basis of results of breakout discussions at a symposium on the human dimensions of the ocean, a review of the literature, and our own experiences, we devised recommendations on how graduate students can create resources within their academic institutions, institutionalize resources, and engage with stakeholders to promote real-world conservation outcomes. Within their academic institutions, graduate students should foster links to practitioners and promote knowledge and skill sharing among students. To institutionalize resources, students should cultivate student leaders and faculty sponsors, systematically document their program activities, and engage in strategic planning to promote the sustainability of their efforts. While conducting research, students should create connections to and engage actively with stakeholders in their relevant study areas and disseminate research results both to stakeholders and the broader public. Our recommendations can serve as a template for graduate students wishing to bridge the research-implementation gap, both during their current studies and in their future careers as conservation researchers and practitioners. Recomendaciones Prácticas para Ayudar a Estudiantes a Vencer la Brecha entre Investigación e Implementación y Promover la Conservación.
... Their findings are being used by WCS and Parcs Nationaux Gabon to redesign a marine protected area in the region (Witt et al. 2008;Maxwell et al. 2011). The embedded scientists returned to Gabon for meetings to shepherd their findings through management changes, where they capitalized on their relationships with park managers made during the embedded experience (Jenkins & Maxwell 2011). ...
... The University of Maryland also recently began to designate 2% of the proceeds from the sale of items associated with the " Fear the Turtle " slogan towards the protection of the terrapin – the school mascot and official state reptile (Hsieh, 2003). The terrapin is generally regarded as an " ambassador " for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, as it relies on it's water quality, shorelines, salt marshes and tidal rivers, and has provided the basis for extensive public education and outreach regarding comprehensive approaches to conservation (Dunlap, 2003, Golder et al., 2000). Most arrangements will consist of a package of various instruments. ...
Increasing degradation of watersheds has led to increased recognition of the services they provide, in various forms of support for livelihoods and general well-being, as well as to a greater willingness-to-pay for them and to cooperate in initiatives to protect them. This is reflected in numerous initiatives, in which market-based instruments and other supporting institutional arrangements are used as a way create incentives and to recover the costs of watershed protection, as well as to allocate water more efficiently among various uses. Many of these payment initiatives have focused narrowly, on the role of forests in the hydrological regime, as a way to justify funding for their conservation, but should be developed in the context of basin-wide management objectives, which provides a framework for considering the full range of interests that share a common river basin, in the context of specific ecosystem functions that support them, and for identifying and quantifying trade-offs associated with various management options. In addition to forests, this would include consideration of the relative values of all types of landcover and land uses, such as wetlands, riparian areas, steep slopes, roads, and management practices. It also requires an accounting for the role of human consumption in the modification of the hydrological cycle, so that these changes can be distinguished from natural variation, and so as to be able to distinguish biophysical from economic causes of scarcity. Economic justification for an initiative may also require that initiatives aimed at protection of freshwater supplies be part of a package of approaches designed to capture the value of multiple ecosystem services found in landscapes, and to resolve conflict among various
... To this criticism, recent research on the relatedness of different scientific impact measures adds that the impact factor does not seem to be situated at the core of the notion of scientific impact but represents a rather specific aspect of scientific impact [7]. The ever-increasing demand for research that makes a practical difference in terms of translated outcomes reflected, among others, in policy and societal health, has given rise to ideas about the necessity to evaluate scientific research not only in terms of the accomplished scientific impact, but also in terms of policy impacts, service impacts or societal impacts8910111213141516. In particular, the societal impact has been repeatedly discussed as a relevant aspect to determine the value of a publication for the society [8,9,13,14,17]. ...
Full-text available
A 'societal impact factor' that complements the scientific impact factor would contribute to a more comprehensive evaluation of scientific research. In order to develop a practical tool for its assessment, it is important to learn about perceptions of scientists on how to measure a societal impact factor. This qualitative study presents the development of a practical tool to measure the societal impact of publications based on 8 focus group discussions with 24 biomedical scientists at the Medical University Vienna between May 2008 and May 2009. Topics focused on (1) features of an ideal tool, (2) criteria that should be considered in the assessment, and (3) the identification of practical pitfalls. In an iterative exercise involving the repeated application of the drafted tool to scientific papers, criteria for the assessment were refined. A small-scale exercise to evaluate the tool in terms of its comprehensibility, relevance and practicability was conducted using questionnaires for 6 external experts in leading positions of public health, and yielded acceptable results. The tool developed consists of three quantitative dimensions, that is (1) the aim of a publication, (2) the efforts of the authors to translate their research results, and, if translation was accomplished, (3) (a) the size of the area where translation was accomplished (regional, national or international), (b) its status (preliminary versus permanent) and (c) the target group of the translation (individuals, subgroup of population, total population). Focus group discussions with scientists suggested that the societal impact factor of a publication should consider the effect of the publication in a wide set of non-scientific areas, but also the motivation behind the publication, and efforts by the authors to translate their findings. The proposed tool provides some valuable insights for further research and practical applications in the topic area.
Full-text available
Conservation science is a crisis discipline in which the results of scientific enquiry must be made available quickly to those implementing management. We assessed the extent to which scientific research published since the year 2000 in 20 conservation science journals is publicly available. Of the 19,207 papers published, 1,667 (8.68%) are freely downloadable from an official repository. Moreover, only 938 papers (4.88%) meet the standard definition of open access in which material can be freely reused providing attribution to the authors is given. This compares poorly with a comparable set of 20 evolutionary biology journals, where 31.93% of papers are freely downloadable and 7.49% are open access. Seventeen of the 20 conservation journals offer an open access option, but fewer than 5% of the papers are available through open access. The cost of accessing the full body of conservation science runs into tens of thousands of dollars per year for institutional subscribers, and many conservation practitioners cannot access pay-per-view science through their workplace. However, important initiatives such as Research4Life are making science available to organizations in developing countries. We urge authors of conservation science to pay for open access on a per-article basis or to choose publication in open access journals, taking care to ensure the license allows reuse for any purpose providing attribution is given. Currently, it would cost $51 million to make all conservation science published since 2000 freely available by paying the open access fees currently levied to authors. Publishers of conservation journals might consider more cost effective models for open access and conservation-oriented organizations running journals could consider a broader range of options for open access to nonmembers such as sponsorship of open access via membership fees.
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