Problems: (1) Many academic scientists in conservation biology are isolated from end-users of their work, including policy makers, stakeholders, and conservation NGOs (CNGOs). (2) CNGOs rely on science and scientists, however, a science staff is very expensive to maintain.
Assumptions: (1) Science is valuable and useful to CNGOs. (2) Some academic scientists want to produce conservation-relevant science.
Solution: Link academic scientists with CNGOs via two-way exchanges. These could include short (weeks to months) and long term (years to semi-permanent) placements. For example, CNGOs staff could be based in an academic research group and collaborate on applied research with academic scientists and their students. Academic scientists could work at or collaborate more directly with local CNGOs offices in their area or spend longer periods of time based at CNGO offices or field sites (whole semesters via sabbatical or even years by taking a leave of absence). Joint retreats could facilitate collaborations and linked projects.
Benefits for the NGO include: greatly reduced cost to achieve scientific output1, far greater connectivity with world-class science, staff training, career advancement opportunities, and a conduit for future staff and student interns. NGO’s would also gain access to students (advised, mentored, and managed by academic scientists) that can work on CNGO research projects.
Benefits to academic scientists and institutions include: far greater involvement with conservation, a better sense of what is needed, and inclusion in the conservation community. Academic scientists will also gain a greater understanding of how to communicate science outputs and to achieve real world conservation outcomes.
1Many of the costs associated within maintaining a science group could be absorbed by the academic institution, including office/lab space, IT support (as well as wireless, software, etc.), PI salary and some staff salaries, journal access, proximity to colleagues in many disciplines, and countless other resources available on a college campus.