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Title: An Examination of Factors that Explain the Use of Data in the Natural Resource Policy Process
Authors: Gerlach, John David II
Advisors: Dr. Richard M. Clerkin, Committee Member
Dr. G. David Garson, Committee Member
Dr. Dennis M. Daley, Committee Chair
Dr. Ryan Bosworth, Committee Member
Keywords: data use
diffusion theory
neo-institutional theory
natural resource policy
Issue Date: 28-Jul-2009
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Public Administration
Abstract: GERLACH, JOHN DAVID II. An Examination of Factors that Explain the Use of Data in the Natural Resource Policy Process. (Under the direction of Dr. Dennis M. Daley.) Natural resource agencies often seek to make policy based on best available science. This study identifies key factors which predict why natural resource professionals choose one data source over another by drawing upon neo-institutional theory literature to pinpoint potential organizational factors which influence data selection, as well as diffusion theory literature to identify potential environmental factors. These factors inform a research model, which is tested through the collection of original data. Data were collected using a web-based survey. The survey was sent via e-mail to 557 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service field offices, representing all eight regions of the agency, with 204 responding (36.6%). Multiple analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) procedures were conducted to assess the effects of 22 organizational and environmental independent variables on dependent variables measuring data selection and data newness (federal, state or local, and non-governmental sources). This study suggests that federal data are used most frequently by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service field offices for the purpose of making natural resource policy decisions, followed by state or local data and non-governmental data sources, respectively. Results indicate the parent agency may influence its field offices to use non-governmental data sources to supplement governmental data when making policy decisions. This study also suggests that collaborating with a non-governmental organization when making natural resource policy is positively related to the selection of non-governmental data sources. However, the data marketing efforts of non-governmental data producers do not positively relate to non-governmental data selection. Certain aspects of neo-institutional and diffusion theories were proven salient with regard to explaining data selection among U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service field offices. The neo-institutional theory tenets of institutional isomorphism and path dependency were proven explanatory of data selection decisions. Diffusion theory literature which suggests that interest or advocacy group relationships and the adoption of an innovation by a similar entity positively affect the diffusion of innovations was also proven salient with regard to explaining data selection.
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