In most developed countries today it is generally agreed that for environmental policy to be effective, the decision-making and actors involved need to be well informed by science. However, communication between science and policy has sometimes been ineffective in the past. The ambition to improve the use of science in policy making   processes   has   much   in   common   with   the   ambition   to   increase   public  participation:   to   limit  inadequately informed and incompletely deliberated decisions, which can result in unnecessary costs, social conflicts and mistrust of the government. Previous research has described how the main barriers to successful science-policy communication relate largely to the nature of environmental science, the nature of policy making, and the gap between them. A number of recommendations for addressing this gap have been described in the literature, which have broadly focused upon: increasing interface between scientists and policymakers; use of translators, advocates and networks; and new skills, tools and roles for scientists.

This research tested the value of these recommendations in real-world policymaking settings from a number of
European countries, and set out to develop lessons to improve future activities to communicate science to policymakers. Through a series of five in-depth case studies and four mini-case studies, including climate change and nanotechnology, from  different  countries  across  Europe,  narratives  of  the  communication  issues  and  recommendations  from  the literature sources were developed. These were then added to and  refined through interviews with the key stakeholders involved and then analyzed to isolate themes and patterns. The  findings generated a complex picture of  the many factors that affect the ways in which science and research feeds into policy making. Some of these factors echoed the criteria identified in the literature, while others were new and additional.Some factors relate to communication, but a number (and arguably the most significant) relate to wider matters –such as the process by which policy is made and the context within which this process takes place. In particular, the research found that the role of the translator is much more complex  than simply explaining science clearly and  that the credibility of science was key but easily confused by policymakers with the ‘settledness’ of science.     The importance of moving towards an ongoing dialogue model of policymaking rather than an ‘end of pipe’ model was also  identified as being key, with institutional structures, as much as communication players, enabling this ongoing communication to take place.   Finally, we consider what these  findings mean for communicating research to the public and whether their role would change in this new dialogue model of policymaking.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

An assessment of lessons learned in the communication and dissemination of emerging scientific issues to environmental policymakers across Europe

Melanie Smallman   LTS International (UK) – Pentlands Science Park

Kirsti Thornber   Think-Lab Ltd

Anna Jobourn   IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute Ltd

Lotten Westenberg   IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute Ltd

 In most developed countries today it is generally agreed that for environmental policy to be effective, the decision-making and actors involved need to be well informed by science. However, communication between science and policy has sometimes been ineffective in the past. The ambition to improve the use of science in policy making   processes   has   much   in   common   with   the   ambition   to   increase   public  participation:   to   limit  inadequately informed and incompletely deliberated decisions, which can result in unnecessary costs, social conflicts and mistrust of the government. Previous research has described how the main barriers to successful science-policy communication relate largely to the nature of environmental science, the nature of policy making, and the gap between them. A number of recommendations for addressing this gap have been described in the literature, which have broadly focused upon: increasing interface between scientists and policymakers; use of translators, advocates and networks; and new skills, tools and roles for scientists.

This research tested the value of these recommendations in real-world policymaking settings from a number of
European countries, and set out to develop lessons to improve future activities to communicate science to policymakers. Through a series of five in-depth case studies and four mini-case studies, including climate change and nanotechnology, from  different  countries  across  Europe,  narratives  of  the  communication  issues  and  recommendations  from  the literature sources were developed. These were then added to and  refined through interviews with the key stakeholders involved and then analyzed to isolate themes and patterns. The  findings generated a complex picture of  the many factors that affect the ways in which science and research feeds into policy making. Some of these factors echoed the criteria identified in the literature, while others were new and additional.Some factors relate to communication, but a number (and arguably the most significant) relate to wider matters –such as the process by which policy is made and the context within which this process takes place. In particular, the research found that the role of the translator is much more complex  than simply explaining science clearly and  that the credibility of science was key but easily confused by policymakers with the ‘settledness’ of science.     The importance of moving towards an ongoing dialogue model of policymaking rather than an ‘end of pipe’ model was also  identified as being key, with institutional structures, as much as communication players, enabling this ongoing communication to take place.   Finally, we consider what these  findings mean for communicating research to the public and whether their role would change in this new dialogue model of policymaking.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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