“The policy sciences are an approach to understanding and solving problems.

Whether the problems are local, regional, international, or planetary, the policy sciences provide an integrated and comprehensive set of procedures for addressing them in ways that help to clarify and secure the common interest. Helping people make better decisions is the central objective of the policy sciences, and the fundamental goal is to foster a commonwealth of human dignity for all.” The Society of Policy Scientists

If you, like me, are interested in figuring out how to better resolve wicked problems, such as stewardship ecosystems and species at risk, sustainable use of natural resources, and safe operations within the Earth system, here are some literature resources that explain or use the policy sciences approach to problem solving, an integrative approach to understanding and solving problems. These and other resources have been informative, enlightening, and useful for me in thinking about and expressing some of the challenging problems that I’ve been involved with trying to solve. I’ll be adding more references.

I’ve searched far and wide and this approach is by far the best approach to solving the types of problem that I work with that I’ve found yet. The best part, in my view, is that even if the problem is a particularly stubborn one to solve, it provides a means of understanding the path traveled to the point of reflection, and it provides direction to find better ways of moving forward in order to successfully reach the goal in mind; it does this by highlighting what’s missing, what’s not helping, or what’s not needed.

Of the references I provide here, one that is brief and reader friendly that may be of interest to non-scientist and non-policy analyst types, and that I think will give readers a good idea of what the policy sciences approach to problem solving is all about, is Mike Gibeau’s article Of bears, chess, and checkers: moving away from pure science to solve problems in The Wildlife Society’s The Wildlife Professional. On this front, I’ll also endeavor to blog about the policy process to problem solving in ways that are more fun with less jargon. See there I go, doing it myself: “jargon” are special words or expressions that people working in specialized professions use to convey information to each other. More on this topic later. I’ll just say here that all of these resources have been invaluable to me for making sense of unruly problems and deciding how I might best contribute to find better ways of moving forward.


I set out on my career thinking that the work I did would be used to inform decisions to protect the public interest. A decade and a half later, I realized that it’s more like the GDP and other economic considerations inform decisions that tend to protect special interests. The policy sciences approach to problem solving has given me a way to express the gaps and barriers in problem solving processes, and find better ways of moving forward.


Policy Sciences Process for Problem Solving

Lasswell, H. D. 1971. A pre-view of policy sciences. New York, NY: American Elsevier.

Clark, T. 2002. The policy process: a practical guide for natural resource professionals. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

  • If you are new to the policy sciences, this is the place to start.

Clark, T. W., A. P. Curlee, and R. P. Reading. 1996. Crafting effective solutions to the carnivore conservation problem. Conservation Biology 10:940–948.

Clark, T. W., P. C. Paquet, and A. P. Curlee. 1996. General lessons and positive trends in large carnivore conservation. Conservation Biology 10:1055–1058.

Clark, S., A. Hohl, C. Picard, and D. Newsome. 2010. Large scale conservation: integrating science, management, and policy. Unpublished report prepared for Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Edwards, F. N. and M. L. Gibeau. 2013. Engaging people in meaningful problem solving. Editorial. Conservation Biology:pp. 239–241.

Primm, S. A. 1996. A pragmatic approach to grizzly bear conservation. Conservation Biology 10:1026–1035.

Primm, S. A., and T. W. Clark. 1996. Making sense of the policy process for carnivore conservation. Conservation Biology 10:1036–1045.


Policy Sciences Approach Applied for Endangered Species

Wallace, R. L., T. W. Clark, and P. P. Reading. 2002. An interdisciplinary approach to endangered species recovery: Concepts, applications, cases. Endangered Species Update 19 (4):65204.

Policy Sciences Approach Applied for Ungulates

Vernon, M. E., and S. G. Clark. 2016. Addressing a persistent policy problem: The elk hunt in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Society and Natural Resource 29 (7):836851.



Policy Sciences Approach Applied for Carnivores

Clark, D., and D. S. Slocombe. 2005. Re-Negotiating Science in Protected Areas: Grizzly Bear Conservation in the Southwest Yukon. Pages 33–53 in G. Humphrys and M. Williams, editors. Presenting and Representing Environments. Volume 81. The GeoJournal Library, Springer Netherlands.

Clark, D. 2009. Societal dynamics in grizzly bear conservation: vulnerabilities of the ecosystem-based management approach. Park Science 26(1):50–53.

Clark, D., S. Clark, M. Dowsley, L. Foote, T. Jung, and R. Lemelin. 2010. It’s not just about bears: a problem-solving workshop on aboriginal peoples, polar bears, and human dignity. Arctic, North America 63:124–127.

Clark, D. A., and D. S. Slocombe. 2011. Grizzly Bear conservation in the Foothills Model Forest: appraisal of a collaborative ecosystem management effort. Policy Sciences 44:1–11.

Clark, T. W., M. B. Rutherford, and D. Casey, editors. 2005. Coexisting with large carnivores: lessons from Greater Yellowstone. Island Press, Washington.

Clark, S., A. Hohl, C. Picard, and D. Newsome. 2010. Large scale conservation: integrating science, management, and policy. Unpublished report prepared for Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Clark, S. and M.B. Rutherford (Editors). 2014. Large carnivore conservation: integrating science and policy in the North American West. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago and London.

Courtney Hughes & Scott E. Nielsen. 2019. ‘‘Bear are only the lightning rod’: ongoing acrimony in Alberta’s grizzly bear recovery. Society & Natural Resources, 32:1, 34-52,DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2018.1502853

Mattson, D. J., S. Herrero, R. G. Wright, and C. M. Pease. 1996. Science and management of Rocky Mountain grizzly bears. Conservation Biology 10:1013–1025.

Richie, L., J. D. Oppenheimer, and S. G. Clark. 2012. Social process in grizzly bear management: lessons for collaborative governance and natural resource policy. Policy Sciences 45:265–291.

Wilson, S. 2011. Managing livestock carcasses to reduce conflicts with grizzly bears in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley. International Bear News 20(2):pp. 21–22.

Wilson, S., Bradley, E. H., Neudecker, G. A. 2017. Learning to live with wolves: community-based conservation in the Blackfoot Valley of Montana. Human–Wildlife Interactions. 11 (2):245–257.

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