Applying the acid test
If one casually reads through issues of conservation science journals over the past twenty years – journals like Conservation Biology and Biological Conservation – it is easy to be cynical about the on-ground value of research.
The articles in these journals are often studies of the ecology, physiology, genetics or behaviour of a threatened species – they contain novel and potentially useful information. But what is the real 'value' of that information in terms of the benefit it could deliver to the threatened species concerned through new or altered actions on the ground?
The TSR Hub is all about carrying out research that delivers outcomes for threatened species. If our research is to deliver outcomes, we must ask ourselves some critical questions.
What is the chance that our research could discover a new management action, or enable us to make a better choice between existing management options? Is the new action socially, technically and economically feasible? If we adopt that new action, is the benefit to the species substantial? This is ‘value of information’ thinking: the thinking that assesses the likely net benefit of research in terms of outcomes.
This thinking leads us to actions that range from on-ground activities such as managing an invasive species or altering fire regimes, all the way through to education, community engagement and policy that delivers better land stewardship.
The next time you read a research article in a conservation journal, apply the acid test. Ask yourself whether or not that new knowledge could deliver a better outcome on the ground. This is the test that we apply to all of our TSR Hub research.
Professor Hugh Possingham
Cover image: Pilbara mesas by Billy Ross