We hear increasing calls for science that informs decision-maker needs. But understanding what those needs are is challenging. Many factors, both practical and political, can drive decision-makers’ demand for and use of science. The California Ocean Science Trust uses a Science Needs Assessment to understand those dynamics. Using social science methods and strategic engagement, we are characterizing science needs from a systems perspective. In other words, this approach acknowledges that understanding science needs is not just about identifying information gaps, but also about understanding process. We believe that this approach has value for scientists seeking to increase their impact, decision-makers looking to expand and improve their use of science, and boundary organizations like Ocean Science Trust, who seek to strengthen the connections between these two communities.


As Science Integration Program Manager, Emily Knight is the California Ocean Science Trust’s Science Integration Program Manager. She serves as the key staff link and advisor across a range of initiatives and activities, including coordination and management of the Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team (OPC-SAT).

Emily leads the design and implementation of the agency science needs assessment (ASNA), a process to proactively identify key management priorities where scientific research and information can make a positive difference. As part of this work, Emily is working to map the science policy landscape in California to create and align opportunities for scientists and decision-makers to more effectively collaborate across such topics as ocean acidification, fisheries, and sea level rise, among others.

Emily’s background is in marine science and natural resource legislation and policy. Prior to joining Ocean Science Trust, Emily worked in the U.S. House of Representatives, first as a Sea Grant Fellow in Marine Policy for Congressman Tom Allen of Maine, and then as Professional Staff for the House Natural Resources Committee. She was heavily involved with the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act, as well as legislation related to western fish and wildlife issues, particularly endangered species and ecosystem restoration in the CA Bay-Delta, and west coast salmon. Emily also worked for COMPASS in California, helping scientists hone their communications skills. She holds a M.S. in Oceanography from the University of Maine.

Ryan Meyer is a social scientist and expert on the relationship between advancing knowledge and environmental problems.

As Senior Scientist at Ocean Science Trust, Ryan works across the organization to provide context and support that motivates staff to think deeply about the organization’s mission of promoting a constructive role for science in decision-making. He is leading both an emerging initiative focused on expanding the ways that citizen science programs can link with coastal and marine policy and management, as well as a multi-institution effort to incorporate sea level rise into flood plain management and other coastal planning processes. He also supports a variety of projects at Ocean Science Trust, such as the agency science needs assessment, development of expert judgment processes, innovative funders, and strategic planning efforts for the organization as a whole.

Ryan completed his PhD at Arizona State University. He is a Fulbright Scholar, a University Fellow in the Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods at Charles Darwin University, and an affiliate of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University.