Policy Tools & Opportunities for Members
The North America policy committee (SNAP) is available to assist SCB members when they have policy concerns and issues that they would like to address. The majority of SCB’s formal policy statements originate with ideas from our members that have been brought to the attention of SCB’s policy committee. SNAP encourages SCB North America Section members to contact us if you believe SCB should weigh in on a particular issue.
If you are interested in a policy issue outside of North America, we can also help to put you in touch with the appropriate representatives for your Section or issue. As a global society, no member or group may issue a policy statement on behalf of the Society without prior approval from the SCB Policy Committee. If you would like SCB, a Section, Working Group, or Chapter to issue a policy statement, you must follow the SCB Policy Approval Process. Learn about the Policy Approval Process here.
There are additional ways that SCB members can become involved in the policy process, and here too, the policy committee is available to assist members. Below are listed a few of the ways that the policy program interacts with SCB’s members, as well as additional resources that will help SCB members contribute to the policy process independently.
Policy Program Activities for North American Members
Formal letters – SCB sends formal letters to heads of governments, legislators, agency directors, and other officials around the world to encourage them to take actions that would strengthen biodiversity protections. All letters on behalf of SCB, its sections, working groups, or chapters must be first approved by the SCB policy committee. Therefore, the policy program encourages members to contact the policy committee if they believe that SCB should send a letter on a particular issue.
Public comments – Public commenting on proposed government activities is standard practice in the United States. SCB submits a wide variety of comment letters on proposed government activities that impact biodiversity. Members may be aware of commenting opportunities that have been overlooked by the SCB policy program, and are encouraged to contact the program to see how, or if, a comment letter by SCB would be appropriate.
Meetings with legislators – SCB members often become aware of issues that could affect biodiversity and may wish to make their Representative or Senators aware of a potential problem. SCB policy staff can assist members in reaching out to their Congressional representatives, and if members wish to brief Congressional staff in Washington D.C., can help facilitate such meetings. In addition, the SCB policy program occasionally receives requests from the Congress to provide expert advice and identify expert witnesses for Congressional hearings on issues relating to biodiversity. When applicable, SCB policy staff will reach out to those SCB members, who have self-identified in the SCB expert database, to inquire as to whether they would be willing to testify.
Meetings with agency staff – SCB members also often wish to bring their research to staff within the Federal agencies that manage biodiversity, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and others. SCB staff can assist members by facilitating meetings with agency staff, and can provide advice on how best to interface with a particular Federal agency.
SCB members may wish to interact with members of the United States government on their own. SCB has prepared a quick overview of the United States government as a resource to our members and to help them make their voices heard. SCB’s guide to the U.S. government can be found here.
How to Get Involved with SNAP
The North America Section’s Policy Subcommittee works through a number avenues to elevate the policy reach of SCB and its partners. They strive to work closely with other scientific societies to increase overall policy capacity and leverage policy influence through such mechanisms as joint position papers, press releases, briefings and sign on letters. We encourage SCB’s members to contact the policy chair if you believe that the North America Section should weigh in on a particular policy issue: firstname.lastname@example.org
See examples of past SCB policy statements (both global and North American) here.
Scaling up Chapter Involvement in Policy
SNAP endeavors to work with its member chapters to look for opportunities to scale up chapter involvement in policy and identify ways to involve members in strategic plan implementation. This objective is achieved in part through the opportunities to meet with legislators and agency staff, and collaborate on public comments and formal letters, that the policy program offers to members. SNAP will also provide strategic support and reinforcement of approved local policy oriented campaigns that are spearheaded by individual chapters. Other suggestions for ways the SNAP can help improve Chapter engagement around policy activities are welcomed.
The Role of Scientists in the Policy Process
There has long been debate over the role that scientists should play in the development of policy, since crafting policy in the most basic sense involves advocating for the adoption of one approach or another. SCB’s organizational values speak directly to our discipline’s stance on this issue. We believe that “Collaboration among scientists, managers, and policy-makers is vital to incorporate high-quality science into policies and management decisions affecting biological diversity.” One of our five organizational goals is to “Increase application of science to management and policy. Directly inform management and policy at local, national, regional, and global levels with the highest quality science. Routinely and openly evaluate the effectiveness of management actions.”
Nevertheless, it can be difficult for a conservation biologist to know how best to approach this endeavor. Concerns over maintaining scientific integrity, avoiding uncomfortable media exposure, career impacts, and conflicts of interest are all quite real and valid. The North America Policy Program attempts to support members in navigating these challenges through the various activities outlined on this page. We also encourage members to engage with this conversation in order to strengthen their individual positions about what policy roles they can and should play. To that end we have collected a few articles from among SCB’s own publications that we think offer particularly useful insights into the issue. For subscribers, the February, 2007 edition of Conservation Biology dedicated a special section to the issue as well.
SCB is by no means the only discipline to weigh in on this debate and excellent perspectives can be found in other academic journals and public forums. The science/policy nexus is an ongoing conversation and we will continue to post current literature here that adds meaningful insight into this debate. Links to these resources can be found below.
Articles and Editorials from SCB’s flagship Journal, Conservation Biology
- Thomas Lovejoy. 1989. “The Obligations of a Biologist.”
- Michael Nelson and John Vucetich. 2009. “On Advocacy by Environmental Scientists: What, Whether, Why and How.“
- Reed Noss. 2007. “Values are a Good Thing in Conservation Biology.”
- Michael Scott, et al. 2006. “Policy Advocacy in Science; Prevalence, Perspectives, and Implications for Conservation Biologists.”
Articles from other Scientific Journals
(Some links are to abstracts only; subscription may be required to access the full article.)
- Donald Strong. 2008. “Ecologists and Environmentalism.” Guest editorial in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a publication of the Ecological Society of America
- Judy Meyer, et al. 2010. “Above the Din but in the Fray; Environmental Scientists as Effective Advocates.” Paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a publication of the Ecological Society of America.