Using the Fire Science Exchange Network
Authors: Lenya Quinn-Davidson
Fire is a rapidly evolving field, subject to increasingly volatile natural and social processes. Science is thus at the heart of the issue, helping us understand and manage the complex dynamics that define fire. However, the integration of fire science remains a central challenge for scientists and managers alike. Scientists struggle to make their work relevant and digestible, and managers are left to interpret and incorporate existing science while keeping their fingers crossed that the critical questions they face in the field will be addressed by the science community.
Enter the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP), which has long recognized this science-management divide and has in recent years prioritized the issue through their national Fire Science Exchange Network. With its 15 regional fire science consortia, JFSP is supporting interaction and communication between fire scientists and managers, with a goal of increasing the relevance and flow of science information within the fire community. These regional groups offer webinars, research briefs, field tours and conferences, and other events and resources focused on fire science and management. Several of them also have an “ask an expert” option, where fire-related questions are directed to and answered by a researcher with expertise in that area.
The JFSP approach is refreshing because it focuses not only on delivering science information to managers, but also on gleaning research questions and concerns from the management community and sharing those with scientists. This emphasis on two-way communication and shared learning is at the heart of the consortia model, and is critical to its success. Many regions have advisory committees that include a full spectrum of fire professionals, and the JFSP draws on those groups as it defines its research funding program each year. See JFSP’s tentative list of 2016 research topics, and contact the consortium in your region to find out how to get your research questions into the mix.
To access the exchange and/or find the consortium in your region, visit http://firesciencegov.squarespace.com/. On that page, you can filter resources by region or by topic, and link to regional consortia websites. And remember: these groups are there for you! Ask them questions, attend their events, suggest topics of interest for research briefs and webinars, work with them to host a field tour—the sky’s the limit, and they’re open to involvement and ideas from all sides!