Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Defining and using ‘best available science’: a policy conundrum for the management of aquatic ecosystems

Darren S. Ryder A D , Moya Tomlinson A , Ben Gawne B and Gene E. Likens C

A School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia.

B Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre, Latrobe University, PO Box 991, Wodonga, Vic. 3691, Australia.

C Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Box AB, Millbrook, NY 12545-0129, USA.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(7) 821-828
Submitted: 25 May 2010  Accepted: 24 June 2010   Published: 23 July 2010


Integrative research has been the dominant theme in this Special Issue, demonstrated by contemporary examples of effective collaborations and solutions for the successful engagement of scientists in the policy and management arena. Evident in these papers is the increasing use of the term ‘best available science’ (BAS) as a basis for well-informed resource management decisions. The term is used to engender credibility and trust among stakeholders and promotes greater awareness, communication, involvement, transparency and understanding among research, policy and management communities. However, there remains no clear statement of the properties of BAS or guidance on its practical application in the decision-making process. We define the attributes that underpin BAS and examine the issues of uncertainty, risk and communication as key challenges to successful integrative management. We advocate an interdisciplinary process that facilitates understanding of discipline-based knowledge structures, articulates uncertainty and risk about the scientific information, and promotes engagement and trust among the generators and users of information. Ultimately, successful management of aquatic ecosystems will rely on scientists, managers and decision makers who have the skills and courage to apply the best science available and not wait for the best science possible.

Additional keywords: environmental risk, interdisciplinary, knowledge exchange, scientific uncertainty, water resource management.


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