pertise and interest of environmental scientists, it is important for making environmental science information useful. In particular, the design must be sensitive to the needs and capabilities of its intended audience (Jones et al. 1998, 1999).

A third reason that environmental science may not live up to its practical potential is that the research questions addressed by scientists may not be those for which decision makers most want answers. For example, climate modelers may do excellent research to predict average precipitation, while planners want information on the likelihood of extreme precipitation events (e.g., Policansky 1977); risk assessors may predict the incidence of cancer in an entire population, while public health officials may be most concerned with risks to children. Sometimes the science does not match informational needs because theory and knowledge are insufficient to yield the desired information. Sometimes, however, having a clear picture of the needs of decision makers, including public officials, private and nonprofit organizations, and interested and affected members of the informed and attentive public can allow the scientific community to develop more relevant information than would otherwise be the case. Dialogue between environmental scientists and those whose lives the science is intended to improve can help uncover such possibilities for mutual benefit and clarify the limitations of science for those who want information that lies beyond present scientific capabilities. In so doing, dialogue may also help ensure the trusting relationship needed if public support for environmental science is to grow and if the information science produces is to be deemed credible. Such dialogue is typically required from the beginning of a research program, when the scientific questions are being framed (Fischhoff 2000, Institute of Medicine 1999, National Research Council 1996). It is for this reason that the users of environmental research should be included in the planning workshops recommended in Chapter 3 . Some federal agencies have been experimenting with such dialogues and report that the usefulness of the science improves without its quality being compromised.

Increasing the usefulness of research may also require research to identify the kinds of information that could benefit various types of decision makers, the information they want, and the modes of presentation and systems of information delivery that would facilitate their effective use of the information. It may also require research, sometimes called “translational,” that establishes the implications of knowledge about basic processes for practical applications.



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