. "Appendix E: Notes on the Role of Research Translator." Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium
accurate translation, the translator of research needs to understand the research questions, the research language, and the intent of the scientists. . . The person will also have to be familiar with coastal zone management issues. He or she will further have to be aware of the needs of the local [add state, regional, and federal] managers for information. Even more importantly, s/he, will have to know in what form the managers can use the information. Another 10-page report given to someone who does not have time to read it, will not be as effective as a one-page chart that can be referred to quickly and often.”
The Reserve requires the research translator to have background in coastal ecosystems, coastal policy, and communication. It is interesting to note that while the need for a science and policy background is often accepted during discussions on the role of a research translator, the need for a background in communication/education is often underemphasized. It seems that many people feel that the communication is the easy part of the task. However, research has shown that the learning process is complex; people have different ways of assimilating knowledge and information. While some people can learn from reading, many people learn much better through visual, auditory, and tactile approaches. Most people who work with children understand that information has to be presented in a variety of ways to address all learning styles. This same understanding of the learning process needs to be applied to the transfer of science to management. The research translator must have background in the learning process and effective information transfer techniques including printed materials, workshops, experiences, presentations, and demonstrations. The educational background that provides these skills can be as specific as that needed for science and policy.
Because transferring science to management requires a background in several disciplines, the research translator needs to be someone who is interested in integrating several different fields; a person whose interest is in drawing different things together to form a bigger picture; a person who sees systems, who looks at the overview. For these reasons and because scientists come from a different “ culture,” most scientists would not make good research translators. Researchers are often interested in step-by-step exploration of questions on a particular topic. They often do not feel comfortable discussing a topic in which they are not fully and rigorously versed. Their training discourages them from sharing information before a high degree of confidence in the data has been established. And because they are so involved in their topic, they often make erroneous assumptions about what people know or understand about their subject. Further, many scientists don't have the background in communication and policy that they need to transfer their research effectively to the policymakers.
Transferring research to management involves several levels of translating. In many areas of the country, notably New England, the general public, as town meeting members and town board members, are the decisionmakers. Translating science at this level may often involve general concepts and not many details. An example is when the Waquoit Bay NERR staff was asked to attend the selectman's meeting to explain coastal eutrophication