Connecting marine science with policy and practice

Connecting marine science with policy and practice: Lessons from the study of science-policy ‘Bright Spots’?


Successfully navigating complex challenges to marine socio-ecological systems - such as those associated with climate change and coastal development - requires the integration of new and evolving scientific knowledge into decision-making processes. Achieving demonstrable impacts on policy and practice, however, is not easy, and despite significant efforts from scientists and decision-makers alike, the uptake and integration of scientific knowledge into decision-making processes remains a significant challenge. 

As a result, the past two decades have seen numerous attempts to identify new pathways to support evidence-informed decision-making in relation to the management of marine systems.  For the most-part such efforts have focused on documenting and understanding situations where science has failed to inform policy or practice, and in turn, identify the barriers that prevent the successful integration of these domains. 

While the study of failures and challenges is an important first step in the identification of a problem, improving the relationship between marine science, policy and practice necessitates moving beyond the ongoing diagnosis of challenges and barriers towards the study of science-policy ‘bright spots’ -  situations whereby marine science has successfully influenced policy and/or practice.  Doing so will help to identify the key principles underpinning successful knowledge exchange across science-policy-practice boundaries, the institutional and social settings in which knowledge exchange is most successful, and in turn allow for the development of more effective strategies for increasingly the real world impact of marine science.

Project aims

This overarching goal of this project will be to study science-policy-practice bright spots to identify new ways of improving knowledge exchange among marine scientists and decision-makers to support evidence-informed decision-making processes.  This work could take a number of forms, and the specific research questions and thesis topic will be co-developed jointly with the successful applicant.  However, examples of themes that this project could explore include, but are not limited to:

  • Identifying the key principles underpinning successful knowledge exchange;
  • Understanding the conditions (across individual, group and institutional levels) required for successful collaboration and knowledge sharing among marine scientists and decision-makers;
  • Exploring how the optimism created through science-policy-practice bright spots can be used to empower and encourage early career researchers to engage with decision-makers.  


Dr Chris Cvitanovic, Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU, and Centre for Marine Socioecology.

Dr Bec Colvin, Climate Change Institute, ANU.

Dr Ingrid van Putten, CSIRO, Hobart and the Centre for Marine Socioecology.


Admission to a Doctor of Philosophy degree at ANU requires:

  1. An Australian Bachelor degree with at least Second Class or its international equivalent, or
  2. Another degree with a significant research/thesis component that may be assessed as equivalent to paragraph (1), or
  3. A combination of qualifications, research publications and/or professional experience related to the field of study that may be assessed as equivalent to paragraph (1).

Further information relating to eligibility can be found on the ANUs website:

The candidate

The successful applicant will have a passion for connecting science with policy and practice, particularly within marine settings.  They will have a background in a relevant discipline (e.g. marine social science, natural resource management, environmental psychology, science engagement, etc.), strong interpersonal skills, strong writing skills, and be able to work effectively as part of a small team and also independently.  An understanding of social science research methods will be highly regarded in the application process, but not essential.


The successful applicant with be based in the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) at the ANU. Scholarships are available for both domestic and international applicants, and CPAS will work with the successful applicant to guide them through the scholarship process.

To apply

To be considered for this position, in the first instance please forward a current CV (2-page maximum) and short cover letter (1-page maximum) to Dr Chris Cvitanovic on  In the cover letter, be sure to let us know why you are the perfect candidate based on the skills outlined above.  Shortlisted candidates will then be invited to skype to discuss their applications further. 

Applications will be assessed on a rolling basis as they are received, and this position will remain open until filled.   

Background reading

  • Cvitanovic C, Hobday A (2018) Building optimism at the environmental science-policy-practice interface through the study of bright spots. Nature Communications 9, 3466.