This page contains additional information on my poster “This Research is Important for the Conservation and Management of Sharks: A Framework for Assessing the Policy Relevance of Shark Research” from the 2023 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.
You can download a .PDF of the poster itself here (coming soon).
A framework for assessing the policy relevance of shark research: More details
Question 1: What is the conservation or management issue that your research hopes to address? This should be more detailed and specific than “shark conservation,” and should be species, region, and threat specific.
Question 2: What is the specific management goal associated with that issue? Preventing overfishing while allowing a sustainable fishery is a distinct goal, with distinct research needs, from banning all fishing for a species. Both are distinct from a goal of delineating a fisheries closure area.
Question 3: What is the current regulation or law? This can be the current quota for a fished species, the current boundaries of a protected area, etc. You are unlikely to be able to influence policy change if you don’t understand what the current policy is, or why it is that way!
Question 4: How does your research show that the current regulation or law is inadequate? (e.g., the current quota is 10,000 tons, but our research shows that this is too high and contributes to overfishing or significant population decline; the current boundaries of the protected area are X but our research shows that this is inadqueate to prevent overfishing, etc.)
Question 5: What does your research suggest that the current regulation or law should be instead? This is vital, as surveyed natural resource managers frequently report frustration that scientists say “a regulation should be changed,” but don’t say what it should be changed to. (E.g., the current quota is 10,000 tons and that’s too high, our analysis shows that the quota should instead be 8,500 tons).
Advice from surveyed experts: More details
End users frequently report frustration that they’re often sent papers that represent years of work by scientists…but those papers are totally irrelevant to any current conservation or management needs, and they could have told the scientists that before they started the project if only someone had asked.
If your research question appears on a list of research priorities, you know that you’re working on an issue that policymakers or environmental advocates have already said they need more information about. Where do you find a list of research priorities? Many management agencies make and distribute these. Here are NOAA’s 2020 research priorities for Highly Migratory Species in the Atlantic, for example.
Increasingly, the most conservation policy relevant research questions are regional, national, or even international in scope, which means that one scientist or one lab won’t be enough to answer it. Larger scale collaborations are increasingly common and increasingly important. Case studies from a single reef or bay performed by one lab are often not transferable to other contexts, and while those may be perfectly valid science, they’re less likely to be useful for advocacy or policymaking.
1 Shiffman, D. S., & Hammerschlag, N. (2016). Preferred conservation policies of shark researchers. Conservation Biology
2 Shiffman, D. S., et al. (2021). The role and value of science in shark conservation advocacy. Scientific Reports
3 Shiffman, D. S., et al. (2022). The next generation of conservation research and policy priorities for threatened and exploited chondrichthyan fishes in the United States: An expert solicitation approach. Conservation Science and Practice
4 Gupta, T., et al. (2022). Shark and ray research in India has low relevance to their conservation. Ocean & Coastal Management
5 Phillis, C. C., et al. (2013). Multiple pathways to conservation success. Conservation Letters.