Aligning scientific research with conservation and decision-making

Connecting science with policy and practice is complex and shaped by the ability of decision-making processes to integrate and respond to new knowledge.

Decisions about what knowledge to act on, when, and how, are questions for both science and policy. Yet they are often viewed as separate with different time horizons and priorities. The result is often a lack of connection, or a mismatch between the needs of decision-makers and the science produced.[1]

The Luc Hoffmann Institute strives to create greater alignment between conservation science, policy and practice. To do this, we focus our research on understanding the critical questions at the frontiers of conservation policy and practice, the context that conservation decisions are made, the role that scientific knowledge may play in this addressing these challenges and constructing strong relationships between scientists, policy makers and practitioners.

As no two problems are the same, our approach varies across projects, context and geography. We assess emerging issues and threats. We develop solutions involving scientists, policymakers and practitioners within and outside of WWF. Our approach combines scientific research, communications and capacity building to provide leadership to deliver actionable science focused on the key problems faced by the conservation community.

The research produced by the Luc Hoffmann Institute is underpinned by four key criteria:[5]

  • It is credible. All of our processes – from the choice of projects to the papers, tools, and methods we produce – undergo an independent, transparent peer review process focused on scientific rigor and the importance of the work to conservation policy and practice.
  • It is salient. We produce and deliver research that is relevant and has direct application to WWF conservation programmes. We provide opportunities for our academic partners to connect their research with a global network of conservation practitioners to have greater impact.
  • It is legitimate. We generate results through fair and unbiased processes that are respectful of collaborators’ divergent beliefs and values.
  • It is transformative. We bring novel, cutting-edge thinking to solve critical conservation issues.

To maximise the value of our direct connection with one of the world’s largest conservation organizations, we engage directly with WWF to develop our projects. We focus our portfolio on research outcomes that can be directly applied to WWF conservation objectives, but which are also relevant to the broader conservation community.[6]

Our current areas of focus include:

  • Habitat protection in the face of complex threats;
  • Sustainable production systems for agricultural commodities;
  • Governance, trade and finance;
  • Climate change and adaptation;
  • Trade-offs and synergies between water, food and energy sectors;
  • Urbanisation.


[1] Fazey, I., Fischer, J., & Lindenmayer, D. B. (2005). What do conservation biologists publish? Biological Conservation, 124(1), 63–73.

[2] Bednarek, A. T., Shouse, B., Hudson, C. G., & Goldburg, R. (2015). Science-policy intermediaries from a practitioner’s perspective: The Lenfest Ocean Program experience. Science & Public Policy, scv008.

[3] Clark, W. C., Tomich, T. P., van Noordwijk, M., Guston, D., Catacutan, D., Dickson, N. M., & McNie, E. (2011). Boundary work for sustainable development: Natural resource management at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi:10.1073/pnas.0900231108

[4] Cook, C. N., Mascia, M. B., Schwartz, M. W., Possingham, H. P., & Fuller, R. A. (2013). Achieving conservation science that bridges the knowledge-action boundary. Conservation Biology: The Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, 27(4), 669–678.

[5] Cash, D. W., Clark, W. C., Alcock, F., Dickson, N. M., Eckley, N., Guston, D. H., … Mitchell, R. B. (2003). Knowledge systems for sustainable development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 100(14), 8086–8091.

[6] In February 2015, the Luc Hoffmann Institute consulted with the WWF Global Network on our draft strategy.

Boundary Organisations

Connecting policy and practice

Boundary organizations seek to connect communities producing science and communities using science.

An effective boundary organization must be independent and produce research that is considered to be credible, salient and legitimate by scientists, policymakers and practitioners.[3] The Luc Hoffmann Institute is a boundary organization focused on conservation science. We produce and broker scientific expertise to address critical conservation challenges to support. This work is often termed “boundary science” – research that advances scientific understanding and contributes to decision-making.

Main photo: Maasai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) silhouetted by beams of light from setting sun, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa. Photo © / Andy Rouse / WWF

Luc Hoffmann InstituteAligning Scientific Research with Conservation and Decision-making