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Researching “Puzzling” Solutions

Much of the information used for making decisions about resource management in our region came from projects designated as “research” by some entity such as a state or federal agency, a university, or private organization. Research, by definition, varies in the eyes of the beholder, but in essence, it is a body of work that leads to increased knowledge about a problem. Each project offers a new “piece of the puzzle” that adds to building a complete picture.

Some research is focused and can lead to valuable short-term answers. The public is waiting for these solutions and they are quickly assimilated. (If the public were working on the outside edges of a puzzle, these would be welcomed like missing edge pieces.) This type of research is high priority for many, including Sea Grant.

Other research lays the groundwork for what may become solutions for the future. This type of research may be broad or focused, but is often associated with some of the most perplexing natural resource problems of our region. The answers that come from it may not be immediately applicable. This research is like finding pieces for a section of the puzzle you’re not ready for yet. More pieces must come together before its relevance is recognized.

Sea Grant can play a role in funding both types of research, particularly when we see applications to regional problems. Spending money on research is not without risk. By its nature, research implies asking questions and exploring techniques for addressing problems that have yet to be solved. Not all projects are ultimately successful. However, well-designed research that doesn’t work out can still guide the efforts of future researchers in addressing similar problems. Sometimes knowing what piece of the puzzle doesn’t fit is as important as knowing what piece helps complete the picture.

We at Minnesota Sea Grant are keenly aware of the importance of generating useful information and of the potential problems encountered by researchers. We believe the secret to achieving a body of useful information is by empowering talented researchers through peer-reviewed scientific proposals.

The projects you see in this issue of the Seiche (“New Research Grants Awarded”) have each been through rigorous review by several scientists outside of Minnesota, our scientific panel, as well as our advisory committee. (Curious about who is on our science panel and our advisory committee?) We are proud to be able to fund this group of researchers and look forward to assisting their efforts.

Carl Richards
Minnesota Sea Grant Director

By Carl Richards
January 2001

Return to January 2001 Seiche

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