Tackling the Science Usability Gap in a Warming World: Co-Producing Useable Climate Information for Natural Resource Management

Molly S. Cross, Lauren E. Oakes, Heidi E. Kretser, Raymond Bredehoft, Paul Dey, Anika Mahoney, Noelle Smith, Ian Tator, Jim Wasseen
Posted on: 11/22/2022 - Updated on: 11/25/2022

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Developing scientific information that is used in policy and practice has been a longstanding challenge in many sectors and disciplines, including climate change adaptation for natural resource management. One approach to address this problem encourages scientists and decision-makers to co-produce usable information collaboratively. Researchers have proposed general principles for climate science co-production, yet few studies have applied and evaluated these principles in practice.

In this study, climate change researchers and natural resource managers co-produced climate-related knowledge that was directly relevant for on-going habitat management planning. We documented our methods and assessed how and to what extent the process led to the near-term use of co-produced information, while also identifying salient information needs for future research. The co-production process resulted in:

  1. An updated natural resource management plan that substantially differed from the former plan in how it addressed climate change
  2. Increased understanding of climate change, its impacts, and management responses among agency staff
  3. A prioritized list of climate-related information needs that would be useful for management decision-making

We found that having a boundary spanner—an intermediary with relevant science and management expertise that enables exchange between knowledge producers and users—guide the co-production process was critical to achieving outcomes. Central to the boundary spanner’s role were a range of characteristics and skills, such as knowledge of relevant science, familiarity with management issues, comfort translating science into practice, and an ability to facilitate climate-informed planning. By describing specific co-production methods and evaluating their effectiveness, we offer recommendations for others looking to co-produce climate change information to use in natural resource management planning and implementation.


Cross, M.S., Oakes, L.E., Kretser, H.E. et al. Tackling the Science Usability Gap in a Warming World: Co-Producing Useable Climate Information for Natural Resource Management. Environmental Management 70, 881–895 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-022-01718-4.