Scientists’ prioritization of global coastal research questions

Murray Alan Rudd, Ricky Neil Lawton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Complex coastal management challenges often span ecological and political boundaries, and involve competing demands from groups advocating alternative coastal management strategies. As a consequence, policy-makers require scientific evidence from across a range of disciplines. Implementing cross-disciplinary research and facilitating science-policy engagement are, however, a significant challenge in its own right. Seven recent ecologically oriented ‘big question’ exercises identified a variety of research questions potentially important for coastal and marine management. In this research, 592 coastal scientists from 91 different countries completed a survey that ranked those 20 coastally oriented research questions. There was a clear overall ordering of aggregated coastal research priorities but scientists did exhibit heterogeneity regarding priorities. Some prioritized ecological issues while others focused more on issues such as coastal resource use or global environmental change. The differences in opinion were largely disciplinary-based, highlighting the importance of, and challenges in, encouraging scientific collaboration across disciplines to support effective coastal zone management. In addition to the ranking of existing questions, scientists submitted an additional 340 potential priority research questions, thus broadening the participatory nature of the original exercises. New questions regarding coastal processes, contaminants and pollution, and monitoring were prominent. This first synthesis across ‘big question’ exercises should provide valuable insights into the diversity of scientists’ opinions and help policy makers understand potentially conflicting science advice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-111
Number of pages11
JournalMarine policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • coastal science
  • collaboration
  • research priorities
  • research orientation
  • interdisciplinary
  • best-worst scaling

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