Does the science enterprise in large-scale ecosystems like the California Delta provide a policy laxative, or contribute to policy constipation? This was a perspective offered by a Delta science enterprise stakeholder during a recent workshop facilitated by me and my CU Denver colleague Tanya Heikkila.
This memo attached to this blog post summarizes the findings from the Delta Science Enterprise Governance workshop held on January 29, 2020. The workshop involved approximately 20 Delta Science Enterprise stakeholders (representing federal, state, and local agencies, universities and NGOs). The goals of the workshop were to 1) provide a venue for reflecting on catalysts and barriers to policy learning within the Delta Science Enterprise; and then 2) explore how those ideas can inform research on these catalysts and barriers. From a social science perspective, the workshop represented the first stage of a participatory research project, where stakeholders are integrated from the very start to inform research questions, hypotheses, and methods. The findings from the workshop may also support the near-term development of various science reports produced by the Delta Science Program.
According to the 2016 Delta Science Enterprise Final Report, the term science enterprise “refers to the collection of science programs and activities that exist to serve managers and stakeholders in a regional system. The elements of an enterprise range from in-house programs within single agencies or other organizations to large-scale collaborative science programs funded by governments, to academic research that may operate independently of management and stakeholder entities. Science enterprises can vary greatly in the degree to which resources are concentrated in collaborative programs and produce publicly-available results. The differences among regional systems can reflect historical factors, depth and persistence of conflict regarding resource issues, governmental guidance and engagement, the range of agencies and interests involved, and other factors.” Table 1 summarizes the potential goals of the science enterprise, as articulated in the 2019 Delta Science Plan, as well as our summary of some key ideas from the broad academic literature on adaptive management, policy learning, and the role of science in policy.
If you want to hear more about what we learned, you can download the report here.