In 2006, Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study founders Gene Likens and Herb Bormann, together with Tom Gross, a member of the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation Board of Trustees, established a facilitated-dialogue model for linking Hubbard Brook science with environmental issues of local, regional, and national significance. This program was rooted in the belief that a small number of people who don't ordinarily come together, can, through dialogue, harness the power of "ecosystem thinking" to address complex problems.
In 2014, the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the roundtable model as a method of advancing informal science learning among citizens and stakeholders in the rural regions of the Northern Forest. The Forest Science Dialogues project also worked to build capacity for scientists and public engagement practitioners to support outcomes of dialogue activities. The project involved a series of Hubbard Brook Roundtables with invited scientists and stakeholder participants representing major networks across the Northern Forest, including woodlot owners, consulting foresters, corporate and nonprofit land managers, maple syrup producers, loggers, outdoor recreation leaders and business owners, informal and formal educators, economic development organizations, conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies. An external evaluation of the project was conducted by RMC Research Corp. Forest Science Dialogues resulted in new insights about convening intentional dialogues among scientists and stakeholders, overcoming barriers to public engagement with science, understanding scientists’ and stakeholders’ motivations for participation, and what participants valued about the events.
Hubbard Brook Roundtables typically involve:
- 1–2-day facilitated dialogue sessions
- 10–25 invited participants
- Focus on "gatekeepers" of formal and informal stakeholder networks
- Pre-meeting interviews and synthesis report to inform the agenda
- Outcome activities or products co-designed as part of the dialogue
- Post-dialogue report
It used to be that foresters, of all agencies and groups, would get together to talk. We don't anymore. Times have changed and technologies have changed. Your programs do this — they bring people together."