Everyone shares the human condition, but we play it out in different ways. As scientists, we play a role when we work, speak and write as scientists. A recently completed EU-funded multi-disciplinary project on integrating science and policy in the context of coastal management (SPICOSA) illustrates how divorcing this role of scientist from the underlying context of a human being with values and opinions gives rise to the illusion that science can remain detached from the human messiness of the social¿environmental policy context. An ongoing social¿environmental conflict in Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland illustrates different perspectives on marine conservation held by different roles (policy makers and local community). Our roles position us on the social grid and allow us to function in society. We speculate that working and communicating with an awareness of a shared human condition, and an acceptance of the messiness of the social¿environmental policy context, enables us to consciously choose our roles as a means of facilitating effective communication and providing policy-relevant science.