GAO Report on FS R&D- the Conveyor Belt Model

Some of you may be interested in this piece I wrote for Roger Pielke, Jr.’s blog on the GAO report on FS R&D, and the comments. Roger also put in links to some key work including this article by Sarewitz and Pielke which is well worth a read. If you are not familiar with this literature, which examines how scientific processes work, I recommend this piece as an introduction. In the FS, one of our leaders once described self-awareness as a key component for her selection of individuals for leadership positions. In my view, science policy studies is a field that is key to self-awareness of the scientific community.

Here’s a quote from the Sarewitz/Pielke paper:

The idea that the creation of scientific knowledge is a process largely independent from the application of that knowledge within society has had enormous political value for scientists, because it allows them to make the dual claims that (1) fundamental research divorced from any consideration of application is the most important type of research (Weinberg, 1971) and (2) such research can best contribute to society if it is insulated from such practical considerations, thus ensuring that scientists not only have putative freedom of inquiry, but also that they have control over public resources devoted to science. The continued influence of this perspective was recently asserted by Leshner (2005), Chief Executive Office of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: ‘‘. . . historically science and technology have changed society, society now is likely to want to change science and technology,
or at least to help shape their course. For many scientists, any such overlay of values on the conduct of science is anathema to our core principles and our historic success.’’

I know that many in the natural resource/forestry/public lands community are not aware of, or do not have time to keep up with, the science policy literature. I am curious as to what readers think of my post on the conveyor belt model and the Sarewitz/Pielke paper.

One Comment

  1. I have always been frustrated that most Forest Service researchers do not consider national forest mangers to be their primary customers. There have been notable exceptions of course. When Lamar Beasley (a manager not a researcher) was station director in Asheville, he endeared himself both to scientists, by being skilled at building their budgets, and to managers by at least asking for (if perhaps not always following up on)their input on what was important to them.

    Imagine the power of a vision for America’s forests that is shared by the National Forests, FS Reasearch, and State and Private Forestry. Absent such a vision, I fear that FS Research will be viewed by many as increasingly irrelevant and is doomed to experience ever-decreasing budgets and more unhappy scientists.

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