SCIENCE & PRACTICE: THE CASE STUDY OF CORAL REEF CONSERVATION & SEWAGE POLLUTION IN CURAÇAO
Much research is being conducted on environmental issues but more knowledge does not necessarily lead to more decisions that take into account such knowledge. A low research uptake can therefore be a threat to ecosystems. An example is research going on about coral reefs and pollution in Curaçao. Coral reefs are vibrant ecosystems and provide many services. They support the economy and protect the coasts. However, they are declining as many hazards threaten them such as sewage that pours out into the sea. Scientific research is being conducted on that topic, but a major issue is the insufficient uptake of research by the policy sphere and the civil society to adopt environmental friendly decisions and behaviours. This master thesis is embedded in the SEALINK project, which aims at understanding how pollution such as sewage impacts the coral reef in Curaçao, and more precisely to its work package on research uptake strategies. This thesis first identifies in the literature the conditions under which research uptake is optimal. Literature highlights three criteria that knowledge should meet in order to have an optimal research uptake: legitimacy, credibility and salience. The salience of the scientific knowledge produced on sewage pollution and its impact on the reef is the focus of this thesis as the legitimacy and credibility of the knowledge produced on sewage are assumed to be met already. Salience refers to the relevance of the knowledge produced for the users of science, such as policy makers. A lack of salience can be the cause of differences in timerames, in the vocabulary used between the scientist and users of knowledge, for instance. The stakeholders that affect sewage in Curaçao, such as the ministry in charge of sewage management, companies that pick up sewage, the tourism industry, or fishermen, were then listed to be interviewed. Interviews of these stakeholders were conducted to explore the behaviours undermining salience of the knowledge produced on the topic at hand. The results show that this knowledge lacks salience because of an operational misfit between the demand for, and supply of knowledge. Recommendations to the local actors and to future researchers on solutions to create more salient knowledge and therefore to have optimal research uptake to protect the reef better, are proposed under the form of science-policy interfaces with an emphasis on knowledge co-production as the main approach to improve the science and practice relationship.