The identification of 100 ecological questions of high policy relevance in the UK
Sutherland WJ., Armstrong-Brown S., Armsworth PR., Brereton T., Brickland J., Campbell CD., Chamberlain DE., Cooke AI., Dulvy NK., Dusic NR., Fitton M., Freckleton RP., Godfray HCJ., Grout N., Harvey HJ., Hedley C., Hopkins JJ., Kift NB., Kirby J., Kunin WE., Macdonald DW., Marker B., Naura M., Neale AR., Oliver T., Osborn D., Pullin AS., Shardlow MEA., Showler DA., Smith PL., Smithers RJ., Solandt JL., Spencer J., Spray CJ., Thomas CD., Thompson J., Webb SE., Yalden DW., Watkinson AR.
1. Evidence-based policy requires researchers to provide the answers to ecological questions that are of interest to policy makers. To find out what those questions are in the UK, representatives from 28 organizations involved in policy, together with scientists from 10 academic institutions, were asked to generate a list of questions from their organizations. 2. During a 2-day workshop the initial list of 1003 questions generated from consulting at least 654 policy makers and academics was used as a basis for generating a short list of 100 questions of significant policy relevance. Short-listing was decided on the basis of the preferences of the representatives from the policy-led organizations. 3. The areas covered included most major issues of environmental concern in the UK, including agriculture, marine fisheries, climate change, ecosystem function and land management. 4. The most striking outcome was the preference for general questions rather than narrow ones. The reason is that policy is driven by broad issues rather than specific ones. In contrast, scientists are frequently best equipped to answer specific questions. This means that it may be necessary to extract the underpinning specific question before researchers can proceed. 5. Synthesis and applications. Greater communication between policy makers and scientists is required in order to ensure that applied ecologists are dealing with issues in a way that can feed into policy. It is particularly important that applied ecologists emphasize the generic value of their work wherever possible. © 2006 The Authors.