Guide to Collaborative Science

Posted on: 1/03/2023 - Updated on: 1/03/2023

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Collaborative science is a knowledge co-creation process that informs natural resource management decisions by involving scientists, managers, communities, and others to advance understanding in a manner that none of them working alone could accomplish. The NERRS Science Collaborative Program, hosted by the University of Michigan Water Center, designed this guide based on observations and lessons learned from projects supported through the NERRS Science Collaborative.

Inside you'll find examples, tips, and downloadable tools to help you develop collaborative science projects that address urgent natural resource management challenges.

This Guide to Collaborative Science is designed to:

  • Introduce users to the collaborative science approach 
  • Provide guidance on envisioning and planning a project
  • Support the design and management of projects through practical tools and relevant project examples

This guide has relevance to collaborative research, science transfer, and catalyst projects supported through the NERRS Science Collaborative and similar funding programs, as well as other science-based research, monitoring, assessment, and policy analysis efforts that require collaboration and adaptation to meet the needs of intended users. This guide is applicable to projects that draw on both the natural and social sciences.

Guide Contents:


This guide was designed to be useful to people within the NERR System and beyond who are interested in developing collaborative science projects that address urgent natural resource management challenges in a variety of settings and with different sources of funding.


NERRS Science Collaborative

Managing Organizations

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative supports science for estuarine and coastal decision-makers. Managed by the University of Michigan Water Center, through a cooperative agreement with NOAA, the Science Collaborative coordinates regular funding opportunities and supports user-driven collaborative research, assessment, and transfer activities that address critical coastal management needs identified by the reserves.

NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them. From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product.

University of Michigan is one of the top universities of the world, a diverse public institution of higher learning, fostering excellence in research.