UBC Theses and Dissertations
Perceptions of advocacy and credibility in policy-relevant natural resource science Rivers, Andrea Elizabeth
There is an ongoing need for scientific information to inform natural resource policy decisions, and scientists are viewed as reliable sources of expertise and objectivity at the interface between science and policy. One important question at this interface is whether or not scientists should advocate policy outcomes, and if so, under what conditions? While advocacy can be advantageous to natural resource management policy formation, the risk of scientific credibility loss is often a major deterrent from scientist engagement in advocacy and policy decisions. This study draws upon the results of a web survey of professional foresters and biologists, academic scientists, and a sample of multi-disciplinary undergraduate students on support for advocacy, and issues of advocacy and credibility in natural resource management science. Responses from the four groups were analyzed to examine the influence of science values, environmental values, and socio-demographic characteristics on an individual’s support for advocacy by scientists. Another objective of the study was to explore the relationship between support for advocacy and perceptions of credibility. Science values and political affiliation were found to be significant influences on a respondent’s support for advocacy, consistent with previous research. No significant differences in support for advocacy were found between the four groups, however the results identify differences in the values and credibility perceptions of professional foresters, biologists, and academic scientists. Risks to credibility were observed to increase with higher levels of advocacy. The results suggest credibility of source and mode of communication as other influences on a respondent’s perception of credibility. Drawing on the results from both components of this study, expert advocacy receives broad support, and political advocacy poses considerable risks to the credibility of scientists. The results also reinforce a number of guidelines for credibility protection, and highlight avenues for future research.
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