The Science-Government-Stakeholder Interface and Access to Appropriate Expertise for Coastal Environmental Planning in Brazil

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:00
Oral Presentation
Thomas SAFFORD, University of New Hampshire, USA
Paulo Henrique VIEIRA, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil
The rapidly changing marine environment is affecting coastal communities around the world. Declines in fisheries, new pollutants, and increasing ocean temperatures necessitate innovative environmental planning strategies. With its extensive coastline, Brazil is one of the countries grappling with these challenges. Brazilian policy makers have prioritized implementation of socially and environmentally sustainable coastal development alternatives. To achieve this objective, ensuring access to wide-ranging scientific expertise will be critical. Nonetheless, how social forces affect scientific engagement and the use of different data within planning and management efforts remains unclear. Drawing on insights from environmental sociology and the sociology of science, we investigate how different conceptions what are appropriate data and scientific expertise shape coastal development planning in Brazil.

Our project is an in-depth case study of the planning and management of a development activity often promoted as a socially and environmentally sustainable alternative for coastal communities, marine aquaculture (mariculture). Data consist of 62 interviews with public officials (marine resource, seafood safety, and public health), scientists, and growers in Santa Catarina, Brazil conducted in 2014-2015. Findings show key differences in the way social and institutional forces influence conceptions of what is appropriate scientific expertise and data during the planning of mariculture development versus its on-going management. At the outset, a government-university partnership formulated a production science-based rationale emphasizing the simplicity, sustainability, and economic benefits of mariculture, facilitating adoption of mariculture among coastal communities. However, once mariculture was well-established the production science emphasis deterred broader scientific engagement and constrained growers ability to access different expertise and understand more complex data related to myriad risks (economic and environmental), increasing their vulnerability. These asymmetries in the way science and scientists shaped the development process in Brazil suggest a need for additional sociological research investigating how the science-government-stakeholder interface shapes conceptions of appropriate expertise within environmental planning.