Enhancing science in coastal management through understanding its role in the decision making network
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Law and Justice
There is an obvious need for comprehensive interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research programs that can assist in the management of marine and coastal environments. An ongoing problem is to how to integrate this research into the ongoing development and evaluation of policy and management plans. A large scale systematic research program focused on the Ningaloo Coral Reef and its coastal terrestrial environment has been conducted. Many specific research projects were undertaken varying from bathymetry and fish behaviour to the needs and attitudes of tourists. Over fifty research projects were included. Integration of the findings is being achieved through a series of modelling activities of varying complexity including simple fish population models to a whole-of-system model. This paper provides an understanding of how this research fitted with the overall social system of interaction between decision makers and local stakeholders, and how the information could reach and be made relevant to all roles in regard to the management of Ningaloo. A network approach was developed through interviews and the construction of ego networks. The results of this study revealed clusters of groups that performed particular roles for reef management, and showed that the science cluster demonstrated the characteristics of the 'Coordinator Role' within their own cluster but did not demonstrate the 'Liaison Role' with other groups and only a low score for the representative 'Brokerage Role'. The Research Liaison group was potentially able to reach the entire management system within three links, but it was evident that this potential was not necessarily being fully achieved. The advantages of understanding the role of science in wider decision making networks are discussed in relation to the uptake of integrated research. Specifically, in this case it was found that the scientists and key coordinating group for the program had fragile connections with the decision making community, which could have been strengthened by earlier systematic understanding of how the decision making network operated.