What is Science-Based Policy Making?

What is science-based policy making and how can it be used in natural resources management?

Laws serve as institutions that guide people in their actions such that peace and order are maintained in a country. Many of these laws were crafted by legislators to serve the popular interests of their constituents founded on some noble purpose and having some sort of equity implied in its execution.

Laws created by legislators are not without flaws because although some thought and deliberation among lawmakers are devoted into its development while it is still in draft form (referred to as a bill), there are weak areas that must be revised. This is the reason why these laws have amendment provisions to set straight the loopholes that may arise out of the law in the future.

Science-Based Policy Making

One of the ways to prevent too many flaws in the implementation of a law is to craft a law using science. This is the so-called science-based policy making. Science-based policy making is policy making that uses the systematic approach of science in solving problem situations that the law aims to correct. Science-based policy making recognizes the importance of research in clarifying and resolving issues by instituting laws or regulations. Specific areas of concern are clarified such that the lawmakers as decision makers will have a better idea on how to deal with issues confronting them.

Using Science-Based Policy Making in Natural Resources Management

Science-based policy making is useful in managing the natural resources. For example, the government needs to declare a policy to develop its natural resources such that it is able to sustain its economic development. It has two options available: one direction is to undertake mining for minerals while the other is to develop eco-tourism. Both of these options are potential revenue generators but there are questions on how significant the contributions of these options are to the country’s economy. There are also issues concerning the sustainability of the activities under each option. This is where science-based policy making comes in.

Use and Non-use Values of Natural Resources

One of the ways to clarify the issue is to conduct an economic valuation of the alternatives for decision making. Economic valuation appraises the use and non-use values of natural resources in monetary terms. Economic valuation is founded on the idea that aside from the direct benefits that can be derived from natural resources such as mineral ore or timber from a forested land (see How to Determine Forest Value); there are other indirect and non-use benefits that people can benefit from it. An indirect benefit would be in the form of ecological services such as keeping the air clean and sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere. Non-use benefits include the value of new information that can be derived from the forest by avoiding irreversible loss as well as the value of learning the use and non-use values of the forest by the next generation. These indirect and non-use values have economic values by themselves that could be used to balance decision making in terms of the economic approach.


In the light of these considerations, science-based policy making can help lawmakers as decision makers make sound decisions for the benefit of the country and its citizens. It is easy to see the direct benefits that can be derived from natural resources but likewise important ecological services and other non-use values must be considered in order to sustain economic development in the long-term. Science-based policy making is in order.

©Patrick Regoniel 22 August 2010

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Posted on Aug 22, 2010