Governments and funding agencies have increasingly required programs to be designed using research or evidence-based practices; however, at the same time academics continue to lament the non-use of their most recent work by practitioners. Professionals in most fields--whether academics or practitioners--readily recognize the chasm between the academic world and the applied world. This study explores the potential for evaluation to strengthen communication between such professionals by providing an informational bridge between those worlds. To support that function, the field of evaluation must fully realize evaluation's dual role as both knowledge producer and knowledge evaluator . Currently, the field of evaluation has primarily focused on evaluating practice and not on evaluating the knowledge or research that is being applied in practice.
To explore this concept, this study examined an evaluative process--independent science review (ISR)--as it was used to assess the scientific basis for river management decisions or programs. Using a retrospective, comparative case study design, I investigated three ISRs conducted by the Sustainable Ecosystems Institute (SEI): the review of the Columbia Channel Deepening Project (conducted in 2001), the Missouri River Pallid Sturgeon Monitoring and Assessment Program (conducted in 2004), and the Missouri River Habitat Assessment and Monitoring Program (conducted in 2006). The study was based on document review and interviews with 35 people who participated in review workshops or meetings, including panelists, agency staff, technical presenters, and SEI staff.
Specifically, this study described the process of using ISR in the complex, applied situations of natural resource management; how the results of the review were used in the environmental or natural resource project; and how the process of review affected the interactions between academic scientists and resource agency staff. Findings included the critical importance of the planning phase of the ISR, including the selection of issues to be reviewed and panelists, and the reported significance of face-to-face meetings. However, this study also found that the interactions during ISRs continued to favor the unidirectional flow of knowledge from panelists (academic world) to agency staff (applied world).
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. February 2008. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Jean A. King. viii, 196 pages.
McEathron, Mary A..
Independent science review in natural resource management: evaluation's role in knowledge use..
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