HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Harvey Brooks Research Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development


The boundary between science and policy is only one of several boundaries that hinder the linking of scientific and technical information to decision making. Managing boundaries between disciplines, across scales of geography and jurisdiction, and between different forms of knowledge is also often critical to transferring information. The research presented in this paper finds that information requires three (not mutually exclusive) attributes - salience, credibility, and legitimacy - and that what makes boundary crossing difficult is that actors on different sides of a boundary perceive and value salience, credibility, and legitimacy differently. Presenting research on water management regimes in the United States, international agricultural research systems, El Niño forecasting systems in the Pacific and southern Africa, and fisheries in the North Atlantic, this paper explores: 1) how effective boundary work involves creating salient, credible, and legitimate information simultaneously for multiple audiences; 2) the thresholds, complementarities and tradeoffs between salience, credibility, and legitimacy when crossing boundaries; and 3) propositions for institutional mechanisms in boundary organizations which effectively balance tradeoffs, take advantage on complementarities, and reach thresholds of salience, credibility, and legitimacy.


Cash, David, William C. Clark, Frank Alcock, Nancy Dickson, Noelle Eckley, and Jill Jäger. "Salience, Credibility, Legitimacy and Boundaries: Linking Research, Assessment and Decision Making." KSG Faculty Research Working Papers Series RWP02-046, November 2002.