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Knowledge Exchange: A Two-Way Street

Knowledge Exchange: A Two-Way Street

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ISSUE 11 - AUGUST 2011

The best available science is of little use if it gathers dust on the shelves of library stacks or is deeply embedded on an obscure website. A key part of the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) mission is to ensure research on wildland fire science is readily available to practitioners in a useful format so it can help support sound management decisions. The JFSP has made great inroads in this arena on a national level, but managers short on time often have to sift through an overload of information that may not be specific to their region. In the next few years, the JFSP wants to break the conventional mold of science delivery by creating ecologically coherent, regionally based consortia and encourage practitioners to take part in driving the research agenda. The key to the program’s success is establishing mutual trust between scientists and managers and opening pathways of communications that run both ways.
ISSUE 11 - AUGUST 2011

The best available science is of little use if it gathers dust on the shelves of library stacks or is deeply embedded on an obscure website. A key part of the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) mission is to ensure research on wildland fire science is readily available to practitioners in a useful format so it can help support sound management decisions. The JFSP has made great inroads in this arena on a national level, but managers short on time often have to sift through an overload of information that may not be specific to their region. In the next few years, the JFSP wants to break the conventional mold of science delivery by creating ecologically coherent, regionally based consortia and encourage practitioners to take part in driving the research agenda. The key to the program’s success is establishing mutual trust between scientists and managers and opening pathways of communications that run both ways.

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Published by: Joint Fire Science Program on Nov 01, 2012
Copyright:Public Domain

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Knowledge Exchange: A Two-Way Street
ISSUE 11 AUGUST 2011
The best available science is of little use if it gathers dust on the shelves of library stacks or is deeplyembedded on an obscure website. A key part of the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) mission is to
ensure research on wildland re science is readily available to practitioners in a useful format so it can
help support sound management decisions. The JFSP has made great inroads in this arena on a national level, but managers short on time often have to sift through an overload of information that may not be
specic to their region. In the next few years, the JFSP wants to break the conventional mold of science
delivery by creating ecologically coherent, regionally based consortia and encourage practitioners to take part in driving the research agenda. The key to the programs success is establishing mutual trust betweenscientists and managers and opening pathways of communications that run both ways.
 
2
FIRE SCIENCE DIGEST ISSUE 11 AUGUST 2011
are needed to increase adoption of the best availablescience. The JFSP has responded with a plan of actionto improve on traditional means of getting informationinto the hands of users and transform knowledgeinto meaningful action. The plan involves breakingthe conventional mold of communication roughlybased on the traditional teacher/student relationship:
a teacher standing in front of a class and lling the
empty heads of the students. Instead, there is strongagreement that the ultimate customers, the managers,should play a strong role in setting the research agendaand that knowledge exchange should be a two-waystreet with feedback loops and open communicationchannels that can be forged only in anenvironment of mutual trust, honesty,and respect.In response to the 10-year review,and in light of the budget prioritiesof the Governing Board, in August2009, the JFSP solicited proposals forthe development of several regionally
based consortia, dened by coherent
ecological boundaries, for the purposeof improving communication andexchange of information betweenscientists and managers. In the
rst phase of funding, eight were
chosen to initiate planning andimplementation of the regionalconsortia: Alaska, the Appalachians,California, the Great Basin, the Lake States, Piedmontand Southern Coastal Plain, the Southern Rockies,and the Southwest. Future plans include adding moreregional consortia to eventually blanket most of theUnited States; six additional consortia are currentlyunder consideration.“We are banking on the consortia to be one of ourprimary avenues for information dissemination,” saysPaul Langowski, vice-chair of the JFSP Governing
Board. “The initial efforts of the rst eight consortia
were so well received by both the management andscience communities, the board decided to solicitproposals for additional consortia in 2010 rather thanwait until a formal evaluation of the initial consortia.”
Information Overload
We get a rehose of information, and it’s oftendelivered with the fognozzle on.
That commentfrom one practitioner aptly captures the reaction of managers to the cascade of information that bombardsthem.
“The initial efforts of the
rst eight consortia
 
were so well received by 
 
both the management 
 
and science communities,the board decided tosolicit proposals for additional consortia in
2010 rather than wait 
until a formal evaluation
 
of the initial consortia.” 
The JFSP is rmly established as a driver of re-
related research. Since the JFSP was formed in 1998,the number of completed projects has accumulated.By 2007, the JFSP had funded more than 350 projects
on wildland re science research, and between 1998
and 2005 the JFSP had invested more than $100
million in re-related research projects, according
to a 2007 report to the JFSP by Jamie Barbour, titled“Accelerating Adoption of Fire Science and RelatedResearch.”Barbour writes that the JFSP “has long recognizedthat investments made in fuels management and
wildland re science need to be accompanied by
science interpretation and delivery.”Since its inception, the JFSP hasfunded projects with a strongtechnology transfer component.That original commitment toexchange information betweenscientists and practitioners receivedan even stronger boost in 2008, the10th anniversary of the JFSP, whichwas marked by a thorough programreview. “The 10-year review waspositive,” says John Cissel, JFSPprogram manager. “Everybodyincluding Congress likes what weare doing.”One of the review team’sprimary recommendations was tospend more energy and resources on fostering a two-way communication process between scientists and
those who will ultimately benet from knowledgegained: practitioners involved in applying re
science on the ground. This would entail spendingmore energy and resources on delivery and adoptionactivities. “We needed a boost in our allocation fordelivery and to push it closer to the ground, expandingexisting partnerships in many parts of the country,and improving our effectiveness by building on thosegroups,” says Cissel.To ensure that these goals are achievable, in itsFive-Year Investment Strategy announced in August2009, the JFSP Governing Board outlined a roadmapto increase funding for science delivery. As a result,delivery and outreach investments have nearly tripledand represent one-quarter of the total JFSP budget.Barbour’s report and another submitted to the
JFSP by Vita Wright in 2010, “Inuences to the
Success of Fire Science Delivery: Perspectives of Potential Fire/Fuels Science Users,” suggest that newstrategies to improve channels of communication
 
3
FIRE SCIENCE DIGEST ISSUE 11 AUGUST 2011
One way to redirect the stream of information isby creating regional consortia based on ecologically,rather than administratively, coherent boundaries
dened as closely as possible to local ecoregions
and organized according to reasonable geographic
and vegetation areas. “The consortia act as lters to
weed out information that is not relevant to differentecoregions,” says Tim Swedberg, JFSP communicationdirector. People in the Southwest don’t need copiousinformation on conditions in the Lake States, forexample. Similarly, the issues managers face in theAppalachians differ greatly from those of the Piedmontor Coastal Plain. “There is a lot of information outthere,” says Swedberg. “Filtering creates a trustedconduit that vouches for the information and delivers itin the best way possible.”“There is only so much that can be done at anational level,” says Langowski. “Our experienceswith roundtables and road shows showed us that thelocal and regional interactions provided opportunitiesthat we could not provide at a national level.The regional consortia will help us ensure thoseconnections for the future.”In addition, by connecting scientists to managersand fostering heightened communication between
managers from different jurisdictions, the re
community can be encouraged to work together ratherthan just within strict administrative boundaries.This type of collaboration is crucial for effectivelyaddressing complex management issues that span
large landscapes, including re, invasive species, and
wildlife habitat. “Fire plays a very important role inhelping us manage these vast landscapes, but it canalso produce unwanted consequences,” says JeanneHiggins, a forest supervisor with the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and member of the JFSPGoverning Board. “The more we can understand about
where re can be benecial and where it will have
unacceptable results, the better we can take appropriateaction.”
Breaking the Communication Barrier 
Information overload isn’t the only barrier toeffective communication. Language barriers amongthe different cultures of academic researchers and
The JFSP Knowledge Exchange Consortia
AlaskaCaliforniaSouthernRockiesSouthwestSouthAppalachiansLake StatesGreatBasin

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