Hello again! Hard for me to believe, but I recently passed the six month-mark in my Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia fellowship with Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). As I talked about in my last post, I’ve been working with the water quality assessment team at DEQ, and assisting in the development of procedures to assess biological impacts of Ocean Acidification (OA) and Hypoxia in Oregon’s near shore waters for the purposes of Clean Water Act 303(d) assessment. DEQ has convened a technical workgroup of scientists, researchers, and partner agency staff to help answer critical technical questions as we develop assessment procedures to understand impacts of these stressors. So far, my main task in this fellowship has been to help coordinate this workgroup towards this end. Since my last post we’ve been continuing to work with a subgroup of workgroup members versed in both scientific and policy perspectives to draft OA assessment procedures and an accompanying set of technical questions to bring to the full workgroup for refinement. We’ve had three meetings with the subgroup and are making progress on the set of questions and draft procedures. As we proceed with this workgroup made up of individuals with such a wide array of expertise and specialization across this topic area I thought I would share a couple of underlying elements of this process we’ve been considering and discussing as we formulate the set of questions for the technical group.
One challenging aspect of this process comes down to the inherent differences between scientists and policymakers in terms of approaches and methods of communicating knowledge and information. Translation between scientific research and information needs for policy development hinges on considering both styles of communication and making sure a shared understanding exists around terminology. The same terms can mean very different things depending on usage and context, so defining some key terms has been critical in this process.
Another key element of this translation involves the synthesis of information and ensuring the appropriate type and level of detail is included in conversations and questions, it’s easy to get “in the weeds” when talking about a complex topic such as OAH. One way we are currently addressing this is to divide our questions into a sequence of information needs, which has helped organize the dizzying amount of technical information we will be gathering into a structured framework. Finding the right level of detail to include along this sequence, especially in terms of how each question fits into DEQ’s overall assessment picture, has been an interesting iterative process, and I’m sure it will continue to be.
Overall, I’ve found that working in the subgroup has created opportunities for excellent discussions around these and other process-based factors that underly this work, and I’m looking forward to continuing to incorporate these elements into the remainder of my fellowship.