ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Back in the mid-2000s, a group of scholars led by led by David Cash looked at how people use climate forecast information developed by scientists. Their finding seems in retrospect unsurprising: if users work with scientists beforehand, the information is a lot more useful (and more well used) than if scientists do the work on their own and simply hand it over. Their paper had the added benefit of a catchy title – Countering the Loading-Dock Approach to Linking Science and Decision Making – and their metaphor of the “loading dock” has become a handy shorthand for social scientists trying to guide what happens at the interface of science and the political action on which it depends.
A big part of the conflict that I wrote about in this morning’s paper over development of a new state water plan looks an awful lot like a loading dock problem:
[T]he planning process, still in its early stages, has revived a longstanding conflict between community leaders and state government. At issue is who will control the numbers. In past regional water planning, local communities developed their own supply and demand projections. This time around, the state says it will calculate the numbers for each of the state’s 16 regions.
“They’re just going to turn this into a top-down, state-run program,” said Charlie Nylander of Santa Fe, chairman of the Jemez y Sangre Regional Water Planning Council.