coastal zone to the edge of the 200-mile outer limit of U.S. ocean jurisdiction—the Exclusive Economic Zone.
The symposia have each brought together 60 to 80 individuals representing three major perspectives: natural sciences, social sciences and policy analysis, and policymaking and implementation at both state and federal levels (the symposium participants are listed in Appendix B). The Gulf of Maine symposium was cochaired by Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain (University of Delaware), Mr. David Keeley (State of Maine), and Dr. David Townsend (University of Maine). The symposium was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (National Ocean Service's Center for Coastal Ecosystem Health and the Coastal Ocean Program); the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and the Minerals Management Service (MMS).
This report presents the papers delivered at the Gulf of Maine symposium and summarizes the essence of the lively discussions that ensued during the symposium and the divergent perspectives that were expressed regarding the difficult questions related to improving the use of science in coastal policy making. Background information about two of the major Gulf of Maine science programs is given in Appendix C.
Government policy often appears to the scientific community to be unconnected to science, representing the results of value-based pressures from different groups, as is natural in a democratic system of government. The public plays an important role in interpreting science and in communicating their preferences to policymakers. This factor makes the education of the public and their involvement in the policy process important issues. Some issues do not require input from science, because the decisions about the issues are not based on natural or social science information. For other issues, the application of scientific knowledge is extremely important. The absence of appropriate natural science information, for example, can sometimes lead to poor policy outcomes: irreparable damage to the environment or a waste of public resources in efforts to control situations beyond the extent —from a scientific point of view—to which the situations can or should be controlled. Similarly, when social scientific analysis is not used, poor policy outcomes may result—for example, the wrong people may benefit from a governmental program, a range of unintended negative social impacts may occur, or a policy may not work because the institutional capacity for carrying out the policy (e.g., enforcement capability) is not taken into account. In addition, situations also arise in which there is apparent consensus between decisionmakers and the scientific community, but the policies fail because the affected public disagrees with the policy choice. The reasons for the disagreement may include the financial cost of the choice, a disagreement over risk assessment, the lack of effective public education strategies, or a simple lack of trust that scientists and policymakers have taken sufficient account of public values.