Communicating marine environmental information to decision makers: Enablers and barriers to use of publications (grey literature) of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment

Citation:

Cossarini, D. M., MacDonald, B. H., & Wells, P.

G. (2014). Communicating marine environmental information to decision makers: Enablers and barriers to use of publications (grey literature) of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment. Ocean & Coastal Management, 96, 163-172. DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2014.05.015

Abstract:

Ocean governance and management require reliable information for evidence-based solutions to ocean problems. Marine environmental organizations often wish to understand how the information they produce, frequently as grey literature, is used to influence designated audiences (e.g., policy makers), but rarely study such outcomes. In this paper, the publication practices of an American-Canadian intergovernmental organization, the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (GOMC), founded in 1989, were examined to identify enablers and barriers affecting production, distribution, and use of its publications. Many of GOMC’s publications are intended to increase public awareness and understanding about marine environmental issues; others are destined for specific audiences including policy makers, scientists, and environmental managers in the Gulf of Maine region. GOMC’s publications number over four hundred and are distributed to potential users, largely through the internet. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 members of GOMC’s primary Working Group to probe their knowledge of the publication processes. Enablers and barriers to three phases of GOMC’s publications —  production, distribution, and use — were identified through thematic analysis of the systematically coded responses. Careful consideration of these enablers and barriers is warranted, since many organizations rely on their publications as a primary means to communicate results of research and related activities. Further, dependence on the Internet for information dissemination requires understanding of searching patterns and of potential barriers to discovery and access to publications. This study shows that such knowledge will facilitate the use of marine scientific information by diverse audiences, hence influencing policy decisions and other efforts to manage and solve marine environmental problems.