Pick Our Brain - April 2013

What’s the difference between “best available science” and any other type of science?

“Best available science” is the best scientific information and data available for informing management and policy decisions at any given time, and is widely used in national, state and local policies. Recent California law (Delta Reform Act 2009) requires use of “best available science” in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan. That plan, expected to be adopted by the Council on May 16, provides a more detailed definition of “best available science” and requires its use by others when demonstrating that their actions and projects are consistent with the Delta Plan. (See Appendix A in the Delta Plan).

“Best available science” meets the criteria outlined in the Final Draft Delta Plan:

  1. Relevance
  2. Inclusiveness
  3. Objectivity
  4. Transparency and openness
  5. Timeliness and
  6. Peer review*

* The level of peer review used to verify the quality of the science is variable among various fields of study and professional communities.

Primary sources of best available science, in a generalized order of most to least scientifically credible for informing decisions include:

  1. Independently peer-reviewed publications (e.g., scientific journal publications and books)
  2. Other scientific reports and publications (e.g., agency or academic reports)
  3. Science expert opinion (e.g., professional science judgments)
  4. Traditional knowledge (e.g., personal observations)

Any one of these sources could be “best available science” if they meet the criteria above. In some instances traditional knowledge might be the only scientific information available for a certain issue, location, and time.

Images representing sources of best available science (left to right): scientific journal, scientific reports and publications, science experts, traditional knowledge within a historical written account of the historical Delta landscape
Images representing sources of best available science (left to right):
scientific journal, scientific reports and publications, science experts,
traditional knowledge within a historical written account
of the historical Delta landscape