Friday, January 15, 2021

Panelist recommendations on how to improve research impact

As part of a webinar with different perspectives on how scientists can improve the impact of their research (recording available at, I asked each panelist to share some advice and resources. Here are the answers from each of them.

Lynn Scarlett:

One complexity in exploring this science-decision maker intersection is that decision "types" vary significantly. Building issue awareness is different from informing regulatory analysis, which is different from developing, say, public sector resource management objectives and metrics (as in, for example, Everglades Restoration), and so on. The forms and processes and content of effective science-decision making interfacing vary significantly across different decision types.

I recommend three pdfs: the first is a slide deck of a speech I have given on science and decision making. It is shaped from the vantage point of a decision maker (rather than that of a scientist) but might offer food for thought of interest to the audience.  Because it is a slide deck, the points are in high-level bullet point form, but I think the points can be grasped, nonetheless. 

The other is a copy of Chapter 26 of the National Climate Assessment (US), 2014, on decision support, of which I was co-lead author with Richard Moss. While this is focused on decision support, it is, nonetheless, relevant to discussions of science impact on decision making. 

I also find a National Academy report "Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate" particularly insightful. 

This diagram shows that depending on the kind of science being done, the amount of co-development needed varies. So for example, foundational science on things like sea level rise can be impactful and useful even without much involvement from non-scientists.

Yoshi Ota:

My advice is as follows:

1. Consider what is the impact that you want. We often do not think about the large picture when we are not forced to do so. But this is important for both your motivation and for long-term planning. 

2. Consider the link between the impact and your activities. This is very difficult and many of us actually depend on “publishing in high impact journals''. However, this misses your opportunity to scope the work clearly and to discourage sequential thinking for problem solving. Think of this as an opportunity to open new ideas and impacts, so don't outsource!

3. Engage with the critical narrative. To engage with the process of Point 2 to explore new questions and perspectives as well as working on self-development, it is good to engage with critical narratives. Try not to think too much about their applications and be aware of simple logic. Embrace the complexity and enjoy the process of exploring. 

4. Be polite and be just: most important. I have been in many meetings where participants open their laptop while someone else is presenting. I even see this in stakeholder meetings where community representatives are speaking their opinion (in a second language) while scientists and NGO representatives are opening their laptops. During Nereus, the only person who never did this was Professor Jorge Sarmiento - a professor at Princeton and the most prominent scholar in our network. Also be just, meaning try to be the model for representing others and be aware of the unjust in the world. We feel vulnerable in these types of conversations but it is our duty not to dismiss them. 

Resources I recommend:

1) Nexus website

2) Nereus book 

3) Nereus website

4) COVID research report  

5) Recent paper: 

Mark Reed:

Put yourself in the shoes of those you want to help. 

More advice at

Christian Pohl:

Think of impact as something that starts with problem framing, then can happen through multiple planned and unplanned pathways and that might have unexpected outcomes.

More advice at “Ten Reflective Steps for Rendering Research Societally Relevant” 

Toolbox for co-producing knowledge:

Jon Fisher:

There are many small steps you can take to start improving your impact, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from others with complementary expertise.

More advice (based on our paper “Improving your impact: how to practice science that influences environmental policy and management”) at

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