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A comparison of European and North American approaches to the management and communication of environmental research
Responsible organisation
2009 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

s a follow up to a study of research management and communication practices carried out in Europe in 2006, a further study has been undertaken to examine analogous processes in Canada and the United States, and to compare approaches and experiences in Europe and North America. The study has been carried out by a team from Sweden, Canada and the United Kingdom as part of the work programme of the SKEP (Scientific Knowledge for Environmental Protection) network of European environmental ministries and regulators (www.skep-era.net). The focus has been primarily on research programmes funded by environmental ministries and agencies, and associated bodies: research carried out with the intention that it should inform environmental policy making and regulation. Both the original European study and this follow-up study explore the following five areas:•     the planning and management of research projects and programmes: in particular, the ways in which potential end-users of the research are involved in planning, project selection, project and programme management, and potentially the co-production of knowledge;•     the communication of results: the routes and mechanisms for bringing the research results to the attention of users;•     the roles of interpreters and intermediaries in making results available to users in a form which is useful;•     engagement with stakeholders: how to ensure that information is made available to stakeholders in a form which meets their information needs, enables them to play an effective role in the decisionmaking process, and that processes are transparent and build trust; and•     the evaluation of processes of dissemination and implementation.Review of published documentation and the literature has informed the study, but the central approach to information gathering has been interviews with people working at the interface of science with environmental policy making and regulation. Taking the two studies together, 128 people have been interviewed, working in 40 organisations in 13 countries.The report presents the findings of the interviews and documentation reviews for each of the five areas listed above, comparing and contrasting approaches and experiences in Canada, the US and Europe. Despite differences in national administrative traditions and structures for environmental science, policy and regulation, there are many similarities between the approaches taken across the contributing organisations. Some overarching conclusions may be drawn from the experiences of the many organisations contributing to this study, and its precursor in Europe:•     If research is intended to inform policy making and regulation, thenclose engagement between researchers and research users from the planning of the research, through the research phase, to its communication and interpretation is essential. Where the science is contested and the issue controversial, engagement should include a broader range of stakeholders. This has resource implications that must be taken on board in the planning and management of research projects and programmes. Challenges requiring further work remain, such as better understanding the science seeking behaviours and preferences of policy makers and regulators, and facilitating their clear articulation of knowledge needs on timescales relevant to research.•     Early attention needs to be given to the dissemination of research,which should be appropriately budgeted in research project and programme planning. Research communication needs to be targeted to meet the particular knowledge needs of different research users, providing information and advice in preferred forms and using appropriate communication channels. Better mutual understanding between researchers and research users arising from the ongoing engagement described in the previous bullet facilitates this effective targeting.•     The pressures faced by researchers and policy makers/regulators togenerate new knowledge on the one hand, and to make policies and regulatory decisions on the other, are such that there is inevitably a ‘gap’ between them, with severe time constraints on both sides inhibiting their undertaking the activities necessary to close and/orbridge it. This problem is exacerbated by radically different motivations, cultures and reward structures. There is consequently a key, and increasingly well recognised role, for interpreters and intermediaries to facilitate the interactions and undertake activities that can help to bridge the gap and enable an effective science-policy interface. This ‘knowledge brokering’ function is seen as a central role of the organisations responsible for planning and managing research within the US EPA, Environment Canada, and certain environmental ministries and regulators in Europe.•     Evaluation of the uptake and impact of research is generally recognised as a potentially valuable activity which could drive an ‘active earning’ cycle to enhance research programme planning and management. However, it is little practiced, and there are some significant methodological problems remaining to be overcome. Even where it has been routinely used, most notably in the US EPA, questions remain about the effectiveness of current approaches in accurately identifying uptake and impact.There is much common ground in experiences of what works, and what does not, and consequently the challenges that remain to be addressed in order to secure effective investments in research to inform environmental policy making and regulation. This points to the value of ongoing collaboration between the responsible organisations in Europe and North America to address these challenges.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Naturvårdsverket, 2009. , p. 132
Series
Rapport / Naturvårdsverket, ISSN 0282-7298 ; 5958
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:naturvardsverket:diva-9589ISBN: 978-91-620-5958-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:naturvardsverket-9589DiVA, id: diva2:1618671
Note

Authors: Alex Bielak, Environment Canada John Holmes, Independent Consultant Jennie Savgård, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency Karl Schaefer, Environment Canada

This report was prepared as part of the Swedish EPA report series by the above authors in collaboration with their own and other agencies, and as an initiative of the SKEP Era-net.

Available from: 2021-12-10 Created: 2021-12-10 Last updated: 2021-12-10Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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