Many early career scientists think about how their research may affect policy decisions, but the process oftentimes remains mysterious. Every other summer the Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) hosts a two week long Ocean Policy Course with Monterey Area Research Institutions’ Network for Education (MARINE) for early career professionals that are passionate about solving ocean problems. The course consisted of students and professionals from across the country with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The composition of students immersed us in real-life collaborative situations. From role-playing scenarios, to writing public comment letters, we actively engaged with one another and built a community of future ocean leaders. Here is a video on the differing student perspectives about the course:
We began the course learning about the structure of ocean governance and several relevant laws including the Endangered Species Act, National Marine Sanctuary Act, and Coastal Zone Management Act. This gave us an understanding of the intricacies of laws and how they are created. The course moved on to explain what role our research may play in informing decisions and about the different processes involved in ocean policy. Oftentimes science is used to identify a problem and evaluate solutions in ocean policy processes, but this varies greatly depending on the specific process used to manage the issue you are addressing and the level of governance involved (i.e. international, national, state, regional, or local). If you are interested in dispersing your research results to policymakers, but don’t see yourself as an advocate, there are boundary organizations such as COS or COMPASS that focus on delivering science to decision makers.
Our last week focused on stakeholder engagement and communication. Stakeholder engagement is critical for identifying and incorporating perspectives from individuals or groups that may be affected by policy changes. Communication is a core component to public and stakeholder engagement and we had practice at this through various roleplaying, networking, and outreach activities throughout the course. I felt very honored to participate in the course and spend two weeks with such a fantastic group individuals!