Questioning the relationship between evidence and policy in conservation

Chris Sandbrook, Lecturer in Conservation Leadership and member of the Conventions and Policy Support programme at UNEP-WCMC, and Bill Adams, from the University of Cambridge, have written a Forum article in Oryx entitled “Conservation, evidence and policy.” Their paper is about evidence-based conservation, which has rapidly established itself as an important concept in conservation. The paper focuses on the definition of ‘evidence’ and how such ‘evidence’ is connected to the policy-making process. Adams and Sandbrook suggest that qualitative data and local and indigenous knowledge should play an important role in evidence-based conservation alongside quantitative data generated by formal science. They also argue that policy making is not straightforward, and good evidence does not necessarily result in good decisions, particularly in complex issues that have social and political dimensions. The paper concludes with a call for a transition to evidence-informed conservation, which would recognise a broader range of sources of evidence and that many conservation decisions should be the result of deliberation and not just based on evidence.

The paper is followed by a response from Haddaway and Pullin, two experts on Evidence-Based Conservation at Bangor University, in which they politely take issue with some of the points raised by Adams and Sandbrook, who respond in turn with “Towards evidence-informed conservation: a reply to Haddaway and Pullin.” The authors found some agreement about the idea of evidence-informed conservation, but disagreements remained over the relationship between conservation science and policy making. As Adams and Sandbrook make clear in a supporting article on their blog, the Oryx Forum is intended to stimulate a wider debate in the conservation community about the role of Evidence-Based Conservation. If you wish to contribute to this debate, please feel free to leave a comment on the blog article.