Mark Schaefer, a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, presented on how to implement a multi-resource analysis (MRA) within a policy context. He commented that there are many terms used by researchers that often describe the same elements of an analysis. There is value in clearly communicating what is being advocated to a nontechnical policymaker. Clearly communicating the basic characteristics and benefits of MRA begins with agreeing on a set of easily understood, fundamental facts describing MRA and why it will advance resource conservation and sustainability (i.e., devise and reiterate the “one-minute elevator speech”). Multi-resource analysis provides a mechanism to define goals for resource use and conservation at a regional scale, set clear priorities to attain those goals, further sustainable resource use and planning across landscapes and regions, and provide a cost-effective approach.
Dr. Schaefer said that there is value in pursuing intersectoral collaborative opportunities and personnel exchanges. The corporate sector is often not included in MRA-related efforts, and is a sector that is influential with Congress. Engaging the corporate sector into MRA-related efforts could help practices be picked up more widely, he suggested. Track best and unsuccessful practices on an ongoing basis, he suggested, to better determine what worked and why. He also suggested emphasizing practices that further tangible results, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, and to clearly articulate goals and meaningful metrics to track progress of an MRA. It is invaluable to stakeholders to clearly demonstrate with understandable metrics that a decision support tool works and that science is clearly being brought into the discussion in a meaningful way, he commented. Policy makers currently view ecosystem services as a mechanism to ensure that biological and physical characteristics relate to economic valuation. There have
been efforts in the past decade to educate policymakers on ecosystem services and convey the importance and value they provide; thus, he said, it is important to use consistent terminology in order for policymakers to relate what they have historically heard to what is currently being proposed.
The successful implementation of MRA will require support at all levels of an agency and within the Executive Office of the President (EOP), Dr. Schaefer said. Key agencies that he listed as needing to support MRA were the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Council of Economic Advisors (CEA). It is also important to ensure that policy and budget guidance statements from the EOP and agency leadership include clear references to MRA. Briefing key leadership charged with developing statements on policy and budget guidance helps to ensure that MRA-related concepts become part of guidance documents. Recognition in budget guidance documents helps leadership in other agencies understand that these concepts are important and should be supported. Executive and secretarial orders also help to convey the importance of the concepts.
Dr. Schaefer added that developing decision support tools in the context of regulatory mandates is essential. Agencies and policy makers are required to follow mandates so developing a tool that is consistent with mandates will further the likelihood of implementation. He warned against pursuing new regulatory mandates unless they are essential for implementation or there is strong political support for a new mandate. Additionally, he suggested the expansion of capacity budget, personnel, and programs to make use of MRA.
Multi-resource analysis is multidisciplinary; collaboration across disciplines is essential, Dr. Schaefer stated. Advancing science in support of public policy requires collaboration across the natural and social sciences, and in particular, the integration of economics with the biological and physical sciences. Dr. Schaefer said it is important to take advantage of the disciplinary strengths of agencies by collaborating across agencies. Such collaboration is invaluable given the diverse missions and supporting science and technology programs: diverse expertise, laboratories, degrees of financial support, computer and other support systems, and flexibility in making use of public-private partnerships. One avenue for collaboration, he said, is to pursue interagency and intergovernmental personnel exchanges (e.g., Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program (IPA) positions, temporary assignments, fellowships, etc.). There can also be challenges to collaborations, however, including varying degrees of policy-level support, or recognition of the value of collaboration, varying degrees of financial support, pockets of “turf protectors” at multiple levels in agencies, and limitations in sharing financial resources across agencies.
Landscape-level projects involve diverse federal, state, and local lands, private landowners, corporations, and transmission and pipeline networks; consequently, stakeholder engagement is critical, said Dr. Schaefer. There is value
in multi-sector engagement early in project design and throughout the effort to pursue continuous engagement; a high level of engagement of stakeholders with diverse perspectives early helps with avoiding obstacles later. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and universities should also be engaged to open access to expertise, local and regional network and knowledge, and foundations and other private-sector support. Citizen science also should be incorporated as a powerful mechanism to leverage expertise and financial support; collaborations with NGOs help to further citizen science activities. Dr. Schaefer said that stakeholder engagement is invaluable in developing decision support tools, which can be less technical in order to be useful to a broader range of users. Decision makers, he said, are often under pressure to make a decision, and want to make a decision that will be favorable to stakeholders. Decision support tools allow the decision maker to better navigate available options. Broad thinkers from multiple sectors capable of envisioning the big picture and that come together on a regular and continuous basis are important throughout a project to assess that objectives are met, appropriate metrics are chosen to benchmark progress, and stakeholders are engaged.
Gail Bingham, president emeritus of RESOLVE, presented on collaborations that bridge disciplines and perspectives. Decision making that utilizes multiple-resource analysis must be connected to the human dimension, she said. In a multi-agency collaboration, there are many different interests, expertise, and perspectives about what is in the public interest. The issues are generally complicated, and the answer is not always known. It is necessary, she said, to use everyone’s ideas to help find better solutions. Collaborations are mutual efforts intended to achieve solutions that meet diverse interests by using a variety of tools and approaches (e.g., recommendations, shared decision making, and joint action). It is not a box to check or a one-size-fits-all solution, she commented.
There is a rich history of collaborations for the passage of environmental statutes in the 1960s and 1970s, Ms. Bingham said. The new environmental regulations that emerged from this period provided forums for differences to emerge as disputes among stakeholders. In response, multiple federal and state centers emerged since the 1970s. Ms. Bingham commented that she was involved in the development of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Conflict Resolution & Public Participation Center of Expertise (CPCX).1 The CPCX was created to help USACE staff anticipate, prevent, and manage water conflicts by ensuring the public interest was incorporated into USACE decision-making processes. The CPCX accomplished this by expanding the application of collaborative tools to improve water resources decision making, providing training, conducting research, and applying the application of collaborative process techniques and modeling tools to prevent and minimize water conflicts. Similarly, the Depart-
ment of the Interior’s Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution (CADR) aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department’s operations, enhance communication, and strengthen relationships among all its stakeholders.2 CADR aims to build and model conflict management competencies and integrate collaborative problem-solving and alternative dispute resolution processes in all of the Department’s focus areas.
Ms. Bingham provided some examples of best practices basics. When diagnosing any particular situation or thinking about what tools to employ to respond to a particular challenge, it is important to ask about substance, process, and relationships each individually (Figure 6-1). An effective process, she said, requires attention to all three of these dimensions. It is important for the members of a stakeholder collaboration to focus on common interests and not individual positions. Other important principles include developing multiple options, using objective criteria, and developing an alternative to the collaboration. A collaboration is a shared learning process, she said. Ms. Bingham presented 10 principles from the 2008 National Research Council (NRC) report Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making.3 The principles include such basics as being clear on the purpose and being transparent and inclusive about the process (Box 6-1). The NRC committee that produced the report explicitly affirmed the 10 principles with substantial amount of evidence from the published literature.
Members of a stakeholder collaboration are seeking to be heard, and to not just have the opportunity to speak but to have their interests and ideas be valued, she said. They are also seeking to have meaningful communication and relationships, improved understanding of the issues, and to find solutions that meet their interest. Members of a collaboration want to come to an agreement with implementable results, and to do so with less stress, time, and cost. Stakeholders need to be consulted early in the process; however, Ms. Bingham cautioned that stakeholder fatigue can be a challenge to long-term collaborations. There are other challenges common to stakeholder collaborations, including adequacy of information on the issue, clarity of the decision-making process with respect to science, managing data, communication, and trust. She emphasized iteration between analysis and deliberation with a focus on decision-relevant information, explicit attention to both facts and values, explicitness about analytical assumptions and uncertainties, independent review, and reconsideration of past conclusions. Stakeholders and scientists, she said, each play an important role in these tasks; defer to stakeholders on the questions that are decision-relevant and to scientists on the information and analyses to answer those questions, she suggested. In conclusion, Ms. Bingham said to diagnose challenges early and col-
2 Available at: www.doi.gov//pmb/cadr/index.cfm.
3 National Research Council (NRC). 2008. Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. [Available: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12434/public-participation-in-environmental-assessment-and-decision-making].
FIGURE 6-1 Best practices basics for collaboration.
SOURCE: Gail Bingham, Presentation, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Workshop, June 2, 2015, Washington, D.C.
Ten Basic Principles of an Effective Stakeholder Collaboration
- Clarity of purpose (informed commitment and commitment to use the process to inform decisions)
- Timeliness in relation to decisions
- Inclusiveness (balanced, voluntary representation)
- Collaborative problem formulation and process design (group autonomy; process impartiality)
- Focus on implementation
- Accountability (good faith communication)
- Openness (transparency)
- Adequate capacity and resources
- Commitment to shared learning
- Iteration between analysis and broadly based deliberation
SOURCE: NRC, 2008.
laboratively, be inclusive, plan the process jointly, learn together, base decisions on interests (as criteria), and plan for implementation by asking if key questions were answered and if the solution is technically sound, balanced, and fair for all interests.
Paul Sandifer, professor at the College of Charleston and former chief science advisor at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), discussed lessons learned and best practices from nearly 40 years of using science to reach and implement conservation management decision. Dr. Sandifer spent 31 years with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources as a scientist and state fisheries administrator. As the agency administrator, Dr. Sandifer said there were a host of issues involving aquaculture; marine, coastal, and inland fisheries; conservation of special lands and biodiversity; and emergency response. One example was the ACE Basin Project, which was a 200,000-acre coastal conservation effort. It is considered one of the largest and most successful land conservation efforts in South Carolina.4 The ACE Basin Project protects a vital part of the South Carolina coast between Charleston to the north and Beaufort/Hilton Head to the south, both of which are rapidly developing urban areas. The Jocassee Gorges was another example, he said, which involved the purchase of 45,000 acres of the most biodiverse area of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains.5
At NOAA, Dr. Sandifer was involved with the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, U.S. National Ocean Policy, numerous interagency working groups, and leadership roles including being co-chair of the Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology, the Deep Water Horizon oil spill response, and the NOAA Scientific Integrity Policy. Dr. Sandifer commented that when starting out, he felt as though fishery stakeholders viewed him as trying to take the life out of commercial fisheries. He developed four realities of management and regulation:
- Everyone wants government to regulate somebody else but not them.
- Perception is reality. If they view the regulator as an enforcer, then that perception needs to be altered by building trust.
- Everyone claims they want decisions based on “best available science” but only if that science supports their point of view.
- Facts can be interpreted and are open to interpretation by different professionals (i.e., scientists, lawyers, the public).
Dr. Sandifer also offered 10 rules of science and data used in environmental decisions:
5 Available at: www.dnr.sc.gov/managed/wild/jocassee/indexfull.htm.
Rule 1: Data and scientific analyses—no matter how extensive or rigorous—cannot make management and conservation decisions. They can only inform decision making.
Rule 2: There is never enough data, and information from natural and social sciences is needed along with traditional ecological knowledge.
Rule 3: Available data and analyses often do not tell you what you really need to know.
Rule 4: Data and analyses are open to different interpretations.
Rule 5: Everyone thinks they know more about the data than you, and they often have their own data. Some of that data can be from questionable sources—rigorous peer review is essential.
Rule 6: If you give scientists another week, month, year, or decade—and some funding—they will promise to answer the question you originally posed. But if you give scientists another week, month, year, or decade, they will come up with another question.
Rule 7: You will rarely have enough scientific data to unambiguously resolve a management question on the basis of science alone.
Rule 8: Nearly all of the time, you have to make decisions without defining data,
Rule 9: but that is far preferable to making a decision with no data or by ignoring data.
Rule 10: If scientists want their data to count in policy decisions, they must engage in the policy-making process. To do so, they have to learn to speak in plain language.
Dr. Sandifer commented that the stakeholder process needs to be about partnering and engaging and that one strategy is to use ad hoc committees. Putting together a committee of stakeholders, often with the most vocal opponent as the chair of the committee, is a strategy that can further issues with communication and collaboration. Only after consensus has been defined can the committee move towards finding solutions, he said. It is important to hear what stakeholders have to say and have it reflected in the output of the committee. It is also important, he said, to be prepared for vitriolic attacks, which should not be taken personally. Engaging in stakeholders and communication processes will lead to the successful implementation of multi-resource management projects.
Joseph Kiesecker from The Nature Conservancy commented that the need for a shared vision for a landscape was a concept that emerged from the panelists’ presentations. He asked the panelists what capacity or expertise exists within federal agencies to shift from having a vision to engaging with the public to create a landscape-scale vision. In response, Mr. Schaefer said that federal agencies have made great strides engaging with the public on creating visions, and noted the National Environmental Protection Act, passed in 1969, contained language pertaining to participation and decision making with the public. Early on when
most of these agencies were first formed they were overwhelmed and had limited resources, and were not able to effectively engage with the public. Many agencies now have in-house entities to advance collaboration and conflict resolution. Federal agencies still need to find ways to more effectively engage stakeholders. Dr. Sandifer commented that a key shortfall is the lack of training capacity for scientists within federal agencies for public engagement. Most expertise in this field lies in the private sector and NGOs.
A participant provided an anecdote about a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer colleague who mediated parties as a central component to his career. The colleague would request information from whomever they were supporting on a project prior to meeting with them, and was able to use that information during the mediation process. The colleague found that overall the success of a decision support tool or model was largely dependent on the audience’s willingness to accept and work with the tool. Ms. Bingham replied that different terms like conflict or situation assessment have been used to describe the human dynamic of a mediation situation. Sometimes, she said, when an agreement cannot be reached, it is not due to the decision process. An example Ms. Bingham provided from Maryland related to a disagreement over Clean Water Act funding allocation. Scientists upstream related nutrient issues to phosphorus loading, but those downstream related the issues to nitrogen loading. The disagreement really was over the allocation of funding to point versus non-point source contributors of nutrients to the Chesapeake Bay. A mediator was able to work with stakeholders to find which disagreements were decision-relevant to implement land-use plans and ultimately to negotiate funding allocations. Stakeholders need to be reminded about what the decision is to make, how it is going to be implemented, and who will be affected by the implementation, she pointed out.
Dr. Bartuska commented that despite all the discussion about analysis and modeling, the decision-making process is determined by the human factors of communication, social engagement, and participation. An ever-persistent challenge to governmental collaborations is that as budgets are cut, such efforts are often the first programs to be cut, she said. Because agencies are always funding-limited, that training gap is intractable; however, some agency employees have such skills already which could be cultivated and provided opportunity to function in a more collaborative role.
Dr. Sandifer replied that one way to work around the funding challenge is to work with university and NGO partners. This would allow for distributed activities that may relate back to congressional districts and gain more political traction for support. It would also provide an extra benefit of collaboration building among people from different backgrounds and agencies who would end up having similar training. Pushing the envelope on science application, he said, would also find support among philanthropic groups who can bridge funding gaps for start-up training-related activities.
Ingrid Burke facilitated a recap of the workshop by describing themes that she identified from speaker presentations and panel discussions. The social context, for example, is critical for multiple resource assessments. It is must be clear who the decision maker is in a multi-stakeholder situation in order to appropriately match the scale of the science to the scale of the decisions being made. Decision makers, however, often have variable jurisdictions and the scale of the problems can change. Dr. Burke said that the optimization of multiple resources must occur where the entire landscape is optimized and not by focusing on individual locations or “pixels”—a term several speakers used.
Dr. Burke emphasized that a key lesson learned from several of the speakers’ presentations was that multiple, large-scale projects can lead to stakeholder fatigue. These projects often require the most analysis and also have major conflicts. Another challenge to multi-resource assessments is a sudden change in priorities for a given area with lots of investments. These challenges to the stakeholder process require that uncertainty be communicated well and at the right level of detail. At times, she said, details are very important, but there are also times that communicating at a conceptual level is important—there is a balance between providing simplicity and accuracy. Communication training and development for scientific professionals is important. There are several university programs that provide this training to emerging scientists, but providing it to mid- and senior-level career scientists should also be encouraged.
Structured decision analysis, she said, is important not only for outcomes, but also as a way of communicating with stakeholders. Landscape planning and ecosystem services analysis often do not fully take into consideration the step of addressing who benefits from the analysis—demographic results should be included into the analyses of ecosystem services. A recurring theme from speakers was that conducting stakeholder engagement at the beginning of the analysis is critical. Stakeholder engagement early in the process allows modelers and scientists to learn more about each other priorities.
Dr. Burke said that multi-resource assessments are conceptually easy to conduct, but empirically difficult to execute. The answer is not always clear with the available data and analyses, and decisions often need to be made in the absence of exhaustive databases. How to manage data is also a recurring challenge. There are nonlinear variables that can be aggregated in an analysis, but other data, such as value data, that are difficult to aggregate. Managing and aggregating data appropriately will be critical to successful analyses. Decision frameworks also change because of ongoing processes of developing science and decision tools. It is important, she said, to understand that decision frameworks
continually change as more information is developed. Interagency collaborations also have many challenges that limit their efficacy, including sharing budget and personnel. Dr. Burke concluded that it may be useful to develop best practices for decision analysis tools and multi-criteria or multi-resource assessments to ensure consistency in results.