Organising evidence for environmental management decisions: a ‘4S’ hierarchy

Lynn V. Dicks, Jessica C. Walsh, William J. Sutherland

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Making decisions informed by the best-available science is an objective for many organisations managing the environment or natural resources. Yet, available science is still not widely used in environmental policy and practice. We describe a '4S' hierarchy for organising relevant science to inform decisions. This hierarchy has already revolutionised clinical practice. It is beginning to emerge for environmental management, although all four levels need substantial development before environmental decision-makers can reliably and efficiently find the evidence they need. We expose common bypass routes that currently lead to poor or biased representation of scientific knowledge. We argue that the least developed level of the hierarchy is that closest to decision-makers, placing synthesised scientific knowledge into environmental decision support systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-613
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number11
Early online date1 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • evidence
  • evidence-based conservation
  • information
  • policy
  • practice
  • environmental management
  • environmental decision-making

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