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Credibility and advocacy in conservation science
- Horton, Cristi C., Peterson, Tarla Rai, Banerjee, Paulami, Peterson, Markus J.
- Conservation biology 2016 v.30 no.1 pp. 23-32
- advocacy, biodiversity, issues and policy, politics, scientists
- Conservation policy sits at the nexus of natural science and politics. On the one hand, conservation scientists strive to maintain scientific credibility by emphasizing that their research findings are the result of disinterested observations of reality. On the other hand, conservation scientists are committed to conservation even if they do not advocate a particular policy. The professional conservation literature offers guidance on negotiating the relationship between scientific objectivity and political advocacy without damaging conservation science's credibility. The value of this guidance, however, may be restricted by limited recognition of credibility's multidimensionality and emergent nature: it emerges through perceptions of expertise, goodwill, and trustworthiness. We used content analysis of the literature to determine how credibility is framed in conservation science as it relates to apparent contradictions between science and advocacy. Credibility typically was framed as a static entity lacking dimensionality. Authors identified expertise or trustworthiness as important, but rarely mentioned goodwill. They usually did not identify expertise, goodwill, or trustworthiness as dimensions of credibility or recognize interactions among these 3 dimensions of credibility. This oversimplification may limit the ability of conservation scientists to contribute to biodiversity conservation. Accounting for the emergent quality and multidimensionality of credibility should enable conservation scientists to advance biodiversity conservation more effectively.