Success and Evolution of a Boundary Organization

Science, Technology, and Human Values 41 (3):375-401 (2016)
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Abstract

This article challenges the idea that success of boundary organizations is marked primarily by the stability of the science–policy interface. We review key theory in the literature on boundary work and boundary organizations. We then present a case, the Derwent Estuary Program in South East Tasmania, Australia, to explore the evolution of successful boundary organization. We detail how a science-oriented program of work achieved success, through early wins that cemented its support and created a relatively stable entity able to navigate the expansion of its remit from managing controversy to implementing an integrated, systems approach to coastal zone management. The creation of “safe spaces” enabled contentious situations to be negotiated through well-established relationships and processes. The interaction among these elements, supported by exemplary leadership, was critical to reframing the problem. We suggest that it is through these abilities to navigate controversy and mediate among divergent interests, while maintaining a committed focus on science, that boundary organizations can succeed. Success in this context is achieved through using credible science to reframe problems. Success is further indicated not just by surviving periodic controversies but by being able to benefit from them, building legitimacy among partners and stakeholders through successfully navigating unforeseen events.

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