We have all heard policy-makers and managers in natural resource management complain that researchers are out of touch, impractical and irrelevant. Similarly, we have all heard researchers accuse environment management agencies of ignoring, under-utilising or misrepresenting researcher findings when formulation or implementing policy. So, how can we overcome this? How can we improve engagement between researchers and natural resource managers to communicate science more effectively and ultimately see more positive outcomes?

These questions are addressed in a great article entitled Some practical suggestions for improving engagement between researchers and policy-makers in natural resource management. In it, Gibbons et al. explain that successful research-policy partnerships are built around personal relationships, and that actively building and maintaining relationships with key individuals will increase the likelihood that research outcomes will inform policy decisions. As a researcher, you cannot expect your results to inform policy by only publishing in journals. In the same way, as a policy-maker, you cannot guarantee engagement from researchers by publicly inviting comment on a document.

Building strong relationships is something that we are really interested in at ARRC, and is one of the goals of the work that we do with facilitation. Some of the ways that we can foster these relationships include discussions, meetings, workshops and field days. When this occurs, it becomes possible to effectively communicate science to achieve better outcomes.

We also use story to share our science with others.  The above photo was taken at a community forum in Kerang where we brought together local community, policy-makers and scientists to talk about carp.  We developed a story that all of our presenters used to share what they wanted to say.  The story talked about where carp came from, why they have been so successful in our waterways, what we have learnt about carp, and what options we have available to manage them.  The forum worked because it did not matter if you were a scientists, a local, or someone from Melbourne – we all contributed to the story about carp and how we could manage this invader in the Kerang region.   Story binds us together and helps us develop shared strategies, it really is the most powerful way to inspire change.

More information about this article and the work we do around relationships, storytelling and facilitation is available here:


Part of this article was adapted from Some practical suggestions for improving engagement between researchers and policy-makers in natural resource management.