Dr Chris Cvitanovic is a transdisciplinary marine scientist working to improve the relationship between science, policy and practice to enable evidence-informed decision-making for sustainable ocean futures. In doing so Chris draws on almost ten years of experience working at the interface of science and policy for the Australian Government Department of Environment, and then as a Knowledge Broker in CSIROs Climate Adaptation Flagship.
Chris has published broadly on topics relating to knowledge exchange, stakeholder engagement and marine governance, with papers published in journals including Nature Climate Change, Nature Sustainability, Nature Communications, Nature Ecology and Evolution and Global Environmental Change. He is also on the Editorial Boards for the journals Environmental Science and Policy, Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries and Socio-Ecological Practice Research.
My research is focused around three key themes:
Theme 1: Generating the knowledge needed to support the sustainable management of marine socio-ecological systems
The first of Chris’ research themes is focused on generating the knowledge that is needed to support the sustainable management of marine socio-ecological systems. This research recognises that understanding, and developing solutions to, contemporary social-ecological challenges necessitates integrative forms of knowledge production, such as those associated with inter- and trans-disciplinary research approaches. Despite the promise of integrative research approaches, however, persistent and systematic barriers to the implementation remain – and thus Chris’ research in this space aims to identify strategies to improve their implementation. For example, through the evaluation of existing interdisciplinary research efforts to identify the critical factors underpinning success; or by drawing on organizational psychology theory to identify improved mechanisms for developing shared goals within interdisciplinary research teams that reflect the values, worldviews and knowledge bases of all team members (Cvitanovic et al. 2020).
Theme 2: Connecting marine science to policy and practice
Chris’ second theme of research is focused on improving knowledge exchange among marine scientists and decision-makers to enable evidence-informed decision-making processes. He approaches this topic in a number of ways. First, by seeking to identify and better understand the strategies that can facilitate improved knowledge exchange, to optimise their implementation and match specific strategies to contexts. This work has included a focus on knowledge brokers (Cvitanovic et al. 2017), boundary organisations (Cvitanovic et al. 2018a) and processes of knowledge co-production (Norström, Cvitanovic et al. 2020). Second, this research seeks to improve the ways in which knowledge exchange processes are evaluated (Posner and Cvitanovic, 2019) so as to improve our capacity to learn from existing efforts, and provide guiding principles for future initiatives aimed at linking marine science to policy and practice (e.g. Fig 1 in Cvitanovic and Hobday 2018). A key focus throughout all of this research has been identifying the institutional changes that are needed (by research organisations, government agencies and research funders) to better support a more dynamic relationship between marine science, policy and practice.
Theme 3: Public engagement for ocean literacy
The third theme of Chris’ research is focused on improving ocean literary among the public (e.g. community groups, tourists, etc.) for better environmental outcomes. This research stream developed following several years of collaborating with marine park managers in Australia across Commonwealth and State levels, and learning about their need for engagement strategies that can reach all segments of diverse communities and user groups. Thus, to ensure the practical utility of this research it is co-developed with different marine park managers. Recent examples include a study from the Ningaloo Coast in Australia that sought to understand community perceptions about the management of the Ningaloo Marine Park, so as to develop a typology of ‘community members’, and identify specific engagement strategies to engage with each ‘type’ of community member (Cvitanovic et al. 2018b).
Building the capacity of early career marine scientists
In addition to his research, Chris’ work also focuses on helping to build the capacity of early career marine scientists in relation to the themes outlined above. For example, Chris has co-authored several articles focused on helping early career researchers understand how to achieve impacts on policy and practice (e.g. Evans and Cvitanovic, 2018), and how to engage more effectively as part of interdisciplinary research teams and processes (e.g. Kelly et al. 2019). He is also a regular lecturer for the IMBeR ClimEco International Summer School series, and has convened practical workshops in Australia and overseas for early career scientists focused on building capacity for policy engagement.