“Science in Public Policy: Maintaining Relevance, Ensuring Accuracy, and Avoiding Advocacy”

The Interfaces of Global Change IGEP at Virginia Tech is pleased to welcome Dr. Robert Lackey for a special EEB Seminar on Thursday, March 5th, 2015.


Has science become irrelevant in informing policy debates?

Scientists in environmental science, natural resources, ecology, conservation biology, and similar disciplines are often not trusted by the public and decision-makers to present policy-neutral science. One reason is that scientists advocating personal or organizational positions on ecological policy issues have become widely tolerated and even encouraged by a segment of the scientific community. As a result, the scientific enterprise is collectively slipping into a morass that risks marginalizing the contribution of science to public policy. Public confidence that scientific information is technically accurate, policy relevant, and politically unbiased is central to informed resolution of policy and regulatory issues that are often contentious, divisive, and litigious. Especially, scientists should watch for the often subtle creep of normative science (i.e., information that appears to be policy neutral, but contains an embedded preference for a particular policy or class of policies). Failing to do so risks marginalizing the essential role that science and scientists ought to play in informing decisions on important public policy questions.

About Dr. Lackey

Dr. Bob Lackey is a professor of fisheries science at Oregon State University. In 2008 he retired after 27 years with the Environmental Protection Agency’s national research laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon, where he served as Deputy Director among other senior science and management jobs. Since his very first fisheries job mucking out raceways in a California trout hatchery, he has worked on an assortment of natural resource issues from various positions in government, academia, and the private sector. His professional assignments involved diverse aspects of natural resource management, but mostly he has operated at the interface between science and policy.

Dr. Lackey has published over 100 articles in scientific journals. He has long been an educator, having taught at five North American universities (including Virginia Tech) and currently teaches a graduate course in ecological policy at Oregon State University. Canadian by birth, he is a U.S.-Canadian dual-citizen living in Corvallis, Oregon.

His primary recent research themes have included: Pacific salmon policy and management; ecosystem management and alternative management paradigms; ecological policy and decision analysis; and the interface between science, scientists, and natural resource policy. These days, his specific research and policy focus is on the three overarching policy realities that will drive natural resource and environmental agencies in the Pacific Northwest through this century:

(1) the dramatic increase in the numbers of humans in the region

(2) a changing climate which will impose different ecological options and constraints on many species and the Endangered Species Act

(3) the ongoing and intensifying collective demand for ecosystem services

Dr. Lackey’s seminar will be titled: “Science in Public Policy: Maintaining Relevance, Ensuring Accuracy, and Avoiding Advocacy”.