Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Making Research Relevant for Decision Makers

CIRES’ Western Water Assessment releases new usable science guide for researchers hoping for impact

Experts in NOAA/CIRES’ Western Water Assessment have released a new usable science guide to break down common barriers: research questions may not be targeted to resolve issues of most relevance to stakeholders, and research products such as publications or datasets are often inaccessible or impractical for use by non-experts. The handbook provides tested, tangible methods for researchers to produce useful science for those who write legislation, implement policy, manage natural resources or public resources, or manage their own business—bridging the gap between critical scientific research and constructive societal impact.

“To create usable research, we must deliberately make connections with decision makers throughout the path of our projects,” said Lisa Dilling, director of Western Water Assessment, associate director of CIRES’ Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, and CU Boulder associate professor in Environmental Studies. “This ensures the questions we are asking and the research we are producing are useful and relevant to the decisions at hand—whether in land management, health care, disaster prevention, or transportation planning.”

The guide features easy-to-follow steps, tools, and resources to improve usability. It also spotlights several CU Boulder researchers who have made their research usable and accessible to various sectors in society:

There’s Lise St. Denis in CIRES/CU’s Earth Lab who works on wildfire issues. She built trust and established early, meaningful connections with hazard-management decision makers to work toward a flexible, web-based fire risk-management interface that can be used by experts and non-experts alike.

And there’s Florence Fetterer, a National Snow and Ice Data Center researcher, who sought to improve sea-ice forecasts in the Arctic. She identified the specific operational needs of several external stakeholders, including the Naval Research Laboratory and U.S. National Ice Center, to drive her research forward.

How will YOU make your science usable to decision makers? Access the usable science guide online here. If the interest emerges, Dilling and her Western Water Assessment colleagues can give seminars on the topic of usable science; let her know you’re interested!

CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.


Ursula Rick
Western Water Assessment

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