Civic Science and Salmon Recovery Planning in Puget Sound


Edward P. Weber is Professor and Director of the School of Environmental and Public Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.Thomas M. Leschine is Professor and Director of the School of Marine Affairs at the University of Washington.Jon Brock is an Assistant Professor in the Daniel Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.


Today, science and scientists as experts no longer hold sway as unquestioned authoritative sources of objective information in many policy debates. This has led to growing frustration on the part of government officials and scientists over their inability to have science exert as meaningful a role as they think appropriate in the consideration and selection of policy alternatives. Given this development, what can be done to restore or otherwise ensure that the appropriate science and scientists are integrated into the policy process so that they matter to policy outcomes? There is general agreement that traditional top-down, one-way (from scientists to others), linear models for conceptualizing the role of science and scientists in the policy process are not capable of capturing the changed political, social, and “scientific” realities of the contemporary policymaking context. Many have gravitated to the concept of civic science/scientists as a new and improved model. Yet, despite clear progress in reconceptualizing the role of science in the policy process, there are gaps in the literature when it comes to actual applications of civic science. As McNie correctly notes: “it is essential that we develop a more robust understanding of experience and practical experiments regarding how relationships [and institutions] are constructed and managed across the science-society boundary” (p. 29). This research develops lessons for civic science in the policy process by exploring an innovative collaborative governance effort by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the Shared Strategy for Salmon Recovery in Puget Sound (Washington). The integration of science into the salmon recovery process in this case relied on a series of actions that the Technical Recovery Team (TRT) took to bridge the traditionally separate science and policy spheres in order to increase the certainty of science impact, specific steps taken to establish and maintain the TRTs role as an authoritative, credible source of science, and the embrace of a results-oriented, adaptive learning approach.