Bridging the gap in developing countries: Improving communication between conservation biologists and local practitioners

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1 Bridging the gap in developing countries: Improving communication between conservation biologists and local practitioners Terry Sunderland, Jacqueline Sunderland-Groves, Patricia Shanley & Bruce Campbell Published in: Biotropica 41(5): (Special Issue on: Ecological knowledge transfer: from local to international context )

2 The problem Gap between science of conservation biology and design and execution of conservation projects Hence science rarely informs practice High-quality journals rarely read outside of academia In turn, field practitioners rarely document their work Recent editorials in Nature and Conservation Biology articles describe this great divide

3 Six reasons why is there a researchimplementation gap? Lack of access to published literature Poor levels of scientific literacy among many field workers Conceptual problems and issues of relevance of academic literature Lack of inter-disciplinarity Poor reporting of conservation successes and failures (few lessons learned )

4 Access to scientific literature Scientific journals still remain main form of academic dissemination Developed country scientists rely on home institutions for journal subscription (hence buffered from rising costs) 56% of institutions in 75 of the world s poorest countries currently subscribe to no journals at all Conservation Biology: Only 4.6% of subscribers are from developing countries 90% of scientific literature now on-line but subscription rates still very high

5 Northern dominance Eight countries produce 85% of the world s most cited scientific literature Add 23 more developed countries and this rises to 98%!! 162 of the remaining countries responsible for only 2% of peer-reviewed articles Developed country scientists are failing their developing country colleagues!!

6 Issues of scientific literacy Limited access to journals limits capacity of developing country scientists and few contribute their work in published form Domination of English Capacity building a double-edged sword Bush-faller syndrome is very common Poor mentoring and lack of real partnerships

7 Failure to embrace interdisciplinarity Dominance of biological sciences in conservation field (Lack of grounded training at graduate level) Yet most field practitioners work in complex human-dominated landscapes Better integration of human, socio-economic, legal, & policy issues into conservation much needed May see it shift from being a perpetual crisis discipline

8 Whose innovations? What concepts? Only 2.4% of respondents from UK survey of field biologists said they read scientific papers Despite being an applied science, conservation biology is mired in concepts, innovations, tools etc. that bear little resemblance to real world issues CIFOR Cambodia workshop 2007: most scientific papers were described as being irrelevant or too abstract Name changes within taxonomic literature creates ill will with field biologists

9 Sharing experiences to inform conservation science Field practitioners rarely document their experiences Poor documentation even at project level (e.g. Cameroon review) Conservation in complex environments can lead to unexpected consequences but value in terms of lessons learned not regarded as important Reporting failure can affect donor confidence and future funding Professional reputations at stake

10 No lessons learned = Duplication of effort Same mistakes are made in conservation implementation Especially with ICDPs!! Virtually no impact either on conservation OR development yet remained major means of conservation delivery for over 20 years!! Urgent critical self-analysis required (Michael Wright, MacArthur Foundation)

11 Some fundamental issues.. Should research results that have been generated by public money be locked up in journals that are not easily accessible? Open-access journals now becoming more popular However, the perception is their impact factor remains low but actually impact is increased by 157%! Excellent new initiative:

12 Bridging the gap: the way forward Availability and relevance of scientific information needs to be improved Open-access journals: greater access increases citation and hence impact reported to increase by up to 157% Scientists should post papers so that they are available on line without subscription: More joint publication/mentoring!!

13 The way forward Halt the hemorrhage of developing country scientists by creating conditions for them to stay and pursue good science Translate scientific literature into more usable forms (e.g. user-friendly field guides from taxonomic work) Involve field practitioners in peer-review process to ensure relevance of science Free access to hard copy publications

14 The way forward Training of future conservation biologists should focus on field training and management as much as biology Disseminate field experiences (both good and bad): via the Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation and

15 Thank you! The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is one of the 15 centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)

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