Some practical suggestions for improving engagement between researchers and policy-makers in natural resource management


  • Philip Gibbons,

  • Charlie Zammit,

  • Kara Youngentob,

  • Hugh P. Possingham,

  • David B. Lindenmayer,

  • Sarah Bekessy,

  • Mark Burgman,

  • Mark Colyvan,

  • Margaret Considine,

  • Adam Felton,

  • Richard J. Hobbs,

  • Karen Hurley,

  • Clive McAlpine,

  • Michael A. McCarthy,

  • Joslin Moore,

  • Doug Robinson,

  • David Salt,

  • Brendan Wintle

  • Philip Gibbons (Tel: +61 2 6125 2562; Fax: +61 2 6125 0746; Email:, Kara Youngentob, David B. Lindenmayer, Adam Felton and David Salt, The Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University (Building 43, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia). Charlie Zammit and Margaret Considine, Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia). Hugh P. Possingham and Karen Hurley, The Ecology Centre, The University of Queensland (Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia). Sarah Bekessy, School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University (GPO Box 2476V, Melbourne, Vic. 3001, Australia). Mark Burgman, Michael A. McCarthy, Joslin Moore and Brendan Wintle, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne (Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia). Mark Colyvan, Department of Philosophy, University of Sydney (Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia). Richard J. Hobbs, School of Environmental Sciences, Murdoch University (Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia). Clive McAlpine, School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, The University of Queensland (Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia). Doug Robinson, Trust for Nature (PO Box 124, Benalla 3672, Australia). This article arose from a meeting between researchers in Australia's Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) research hub for Applied Environmental Decision Analysis (AEDA), policy-makers and managers from the Australian Government's Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) and other practitioners who share the common aim to create closer links between research and policy.


Summary  Policy-makers and managers in natural resource management (NRM) often complain that researchers are out of touch. Researchers often complain that policy-makers and managers make poorly informed decisions. In this article, we report on a meeting between researchers, policy-makers and managers convened to identify practical solutions to improve engagement between these camps. A necessary starting point is that every researcher and policy-maker should understand, and tap into, the motivations and reward systems of the other when seeking engagement. For example, researchers can be motivated to engage in policy development if there is a promise of outputs that align with their reward systems such as co-authored publications. Successful research–policy partnerships are built around personal relationships. As a researcher, you cannot therefore expect your results to inform policy by only publishing in journals. As a policy-maker, you cannot guarantee engagement from researchers by publicly inviting comment on a document. Actively building and maintaining relationships with key individuals through discussions, meetings, workshops or field days will increase the likelihood that research outcomes will inform policy decisions. We identified secondments, sabbaticals, fellowships and ‘buddies’, an annual national NRM conference and ‘contact mapping’ (a Facebook-type network) as forums that can catalyse new relationships between researchers and policy-makers. We challenge every researcher, policy-maker and manager in NRM to build one new cross-cultural relationship each year.