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Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities
greater attention to issues of scale and heterogeneity and the roles of nongovernmental institutions, will enhance and fill in the details of policy analysis based on those frameworks; it may also generate new frameworks or paradigms.
Likelihood of Use
Individual research projects are seldom translated directly into policy choices. However, an accumulation of findings, including challenges to existing assumptions and interpretations of fact, can make a difference in policy (Lindblom and Cohen, 1979). An accumulation of research findings on environmental governance has demonstrated the limitations of policies that indiscriminately promote particular property rules, such as nationalization or privatization: each property regime can lead to either success or failure, depending on how it meets governance requirements (e.g., Feeny et al., 1990, Dietz et al., 2003 and online supplement). Such results appear to have already had some influence on federal marine fisheries policy, in which market-based management regimes are increasingly modified to reflect concerns about both conservation and community (McCay, 2004), and with appropriate attention from decision makers they may become influential in other areas of environmental policy as well. The relevance is clearly there.
The use of research is often influenced by uncontrollable factors, such as its compatibility with the agendas of specific policy leaders and the occurrence of dramatic environmental events that lead to serious reassessments of policies and institutions. Research can nevertheless be organized in ways that increase the likelihood that its results will be used. One way is to encourage a body of research that covers a large enough scale and that continues over a long enough time to become integrated into cumulative changes in understanding and incremental changes in policy (Lindblom, 1959; Lindblom and Cohen, 1979). A recent example with considerable promise is the large comparative case study research project on forest dynamics and governance institutions carried out by the Center for Institutions, Population, and Environmental Conservation at Indiana University (Gibson et al., 2000). Research can also be brought to the attention of policy decision makers by encouraging networks that link the producers and consumers of the research, through formal organizations, such as the International Association for the Study of Common Property (www.iascp.org) and through the participation of researchers in scientific advisory panels and other units of governmental and nongovernmental institutions.