What Are Working Groups and Why Should Scientists Be Involved
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 June 2017
The conflicts over management of natural resources, especially on public lands, have resulted in a high level of frustration among many of the interested parties. There are many underlying causes of the conflicts, but I think several major societal trends must be considered. During the past several decades, there has been increased emphasis on participatory democracy, with the public seeking more involvement in decision making and policy formulation. A related trend is the decline in the public image of science and lack of trust in state and federal agencies. Individual members of society desire to be included in decision making, and may not necessarily view scientists as capable of providing the answers to natural resource issues. One response to natural resource conflicts is to form a group of interested individuals from diverse backgrounds to develop solutions. These groups may also work toward policy development. Coalitions or working groups may take many forms. There are two basic types of groups I will mention: 1) those formed to address a specific issue over a set time period, and 2) those formed to foster communication, interaction, and education. Many working groups have been formed over controversies, but effective use of the groups might also keep controversies from arising. In my opinion, scientists should be active participants in natural resource working groups. Participation provides the opportunity to incorporate science in decision-making and may also guide research efforts insuring that the results are of value to a wider cross-section of society.
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