Understanding and evidencing a broader range of ‘successes’ that can occur at the interface of marine science and policy

C. Cvitanovic*, M. Mackay, RJ. Shellock, EI. van Putten, DB. Karcher, M. Dickey-Collas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Scientists and scientific institutions alike are under increased pressure to demonstrate the tangible ‘impacts’ arising from their research. However, current conceptualisations of impact are largely instrumental and do not recognise the full diversity of forms that impacts can take across the spectrum of activities that comprise the ‘science-policy interface’. Moving beyond such instrumental definitions is critical for developing indicators that can monitor and measure research impact, and to guide impact planning activities to maximise the value that science can have on policy and management. This study sought to contribute towards filling this gap, not by seeking to understand what impacts have been achieved within a certain context, but rather by asking what ‘success’ would like in its broadest sense for an organisation working at the marine science-policy interface. We do so via an in-depth qualitative evaluation of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Specifically, we aim to develop a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes success for organisations working at the marine science-policy interface, and in doing so elucidate and articulate a range of metrics and approaches that can be used to evidence success. We also seek to identify the barriers and enablers to the attainment of success. Results show that successes can take a range of forms across five different scales; (i) impacts on the organisation, (ii) impacts on policy, (iii) impacts on science, (iv) impacts on people and (v) impacts on ecosystems and society. Metrics to quantify and evidence these successes are also identified, and whilst quantitative measures were most common, it was evident that quantitative measures alone could not capture the full range of impacts and that they would need to be supplemented with qualitative indicators. Enablers of success took many forms, but most commonly related to the process of knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers (e.g. the process must engender trust, be transparent and free from political influence), the individuals involved in the process (e.g. teams should be composed of diverse individuals across disciplines, career stages, geographic locations and gender, who are capable of developing strong relationships with diverse stakeholders), and the organisation itself (e.g. the organisation should have a clear mission and strategy to guide their activities, and a positive and inclusive culture). We discuss these findings, with particular focus on the implications of our results for how marine scientists and scientific institutions can plan, achieve and evidence a broader range of successes from their research on marine policy and management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104802
JournalMarine Policy
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Evidence-informed
  • Science-policy
  • Research impact
  • Barriers
  • Enablers
  • Boundary organisation
  • Trust
  • Transparency
  • ICES


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