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Lackey, Robert T. 1999. The savvy salmon technocrat: life’s little rules. Environmental Practice. 1(3) 156-161

For over a century, salmon technocrats (fisheries scientists and kindred technical experts) have played an important role in Pacific Northwest salmon policy, but their involvement has caused them and others discomfort. The discomfort is summarized by the following observations: (1) the public, apparently, supports maintaining wild salmon runs; (2) there are competing societal priorities, many of which are partially or wholly mutually exclusive; (3) increasing numbers of people in the Pacific Northwest create additional pressures on all ecological resources (including wild salmon); (4) policy positions in the salmon policy debate are entrenched; (5) society expects salmon technocrats to help solve the salmon problem; (6) each of the many sides of the policy debate attempts to utilize salmon technocrats to bolster its argument; (7) it has proved nearly impossible for salmon technocrats to avoid being categorized as supporting a particular policy position; and (8) many policy advocates frame their policy views in scientific terms rather than value-based preferences. Involvement with salmon policy can be the professional undoing of a salmon technocrat unless his proper role is understood. From a technocrat’s perspective, and in order to survive professionally, I propose several rules: (1) be honest; (2) focus on science; (3) accept that politicians covet legitimacy; (4) recognize that framing the policy question largely defines the analytical outcome; (5) avoid the allure of junk science and policy babble; (6) concede that societal values and priorities evolve; and (7) avoid technical and scientific hubris.

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