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Scientific support for sustainable development policies


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This presentation gathers the results from Sitra's study on scientific support for sustainable development practices, written by Mr Roope Kaaronen in October 2016.

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Scientific support for sustainable development policies

  1. 1. Brief for Sitra Studies 118: Scientific Support for Sustainable Development Policies: a Typology of Science–Policy Interfaces with Case Studies Roope Kaaronen, 9.11.2016 1Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • Scientific Support for Sustainable Development Policies
  2. 2. Science–Policy Interface (SPI) Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 2 Return on the endowment capital (12/2015) 5.7% • [Suom. Interface = Rajapinta, yhtymäkohta] • Science–policy interface: ‘organizations, initiatives or projects that work at the boundary of science, policy and society to enrich decision making, shape their participants’ and audiences’ understandings of problems, and so produce outcomes regarding decisions and behaviours’ (Sarkki et al., 2015: 506). • Designing better SPIs requires the identification of good practices and modes of operation: what models of SPIs exist, in what settings, what works and where, what kinds of challenges are faced… A need to define a typology of science–policy interfaces for sustainable development policies (this has not been done before!) • No single ‘right SPI model’ exists: context is definitive!
  3. 3. Underlying themes Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 3 Return on the endowment capital (12/2015) 5.7% • Complexity: Sustainable development (SD) is a complex affair. No clear answers exist as to what it is or how it is achieved, but what seems clear enough is that it is absolutely necessary. • Science is our best and most educated guess, and should therefore work to support sustainable development policies. But how? • Role of science in SD policies: moving from ’evidence-based’ linear output to co-productive, inclusive and ’socially robust’ knowledge (broad understanding of policy-relevant knowledge). • Evidence-informed input to SD policies is essential, but so is also the social and political applicability, comprehensibility and acceptability of the evidence (and how it is portrayed) • Iteration and balancing: learning from past experiences/foresight. Maintaining right distances (between science/policy, authority/inclusion etc.). Different responses to different levels of complexity!
  4. 4. Finding the Optimal ’Goldilocks Zone’ for Scientific Support Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 4 Scientific support is a constant balancing act between ’too hot’ and ’too cold’. Both drifting too close to governments (or other decision makers) and too far from them has resulted in advisory organisations being abolished. The same applies to being ’too loud’ or ’too quiet’, a ’watchdog’ or a ’lapdog’. Trust and knowledge building mechanisms (e.g. co-production) are required. The big question remains: how does scientific support remain independent, critical and vociferous whilst also being perceived as trustworthy, credible and relevant (and not as a nuisance) by decision makers? Picture: Balancing between Science (S) and Policy (P): finding a common ground? Mutual spaces for interaction (e.g. workshop-style platforms, interpersonal encounters) are required! From a linear model… …to co-production.
  5. 5. Typology of SPIs: The Independent Model Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 5 Return on the endowment capital (12/2015) The Independent Model Independent groups or panels of experts conducting (‘pushing’) scientific advice, assessment and monitoring. The Independent Model has particular strength as an impartial watchdog for governmental SD policies, yet the true impact of their reporting- biased approaches can often be questioned.
  6. 6. Typology of SPIs: The Integrated Model Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 6 Return on the endowment capital (12/2015) The Integrated Model Groups of experts integrated into the governmental sphere, consisting not only of scientific experts but also of parliamentarians, political decision-makers and other stakeholders. Whilst integrated SPIs often succeed particularly in gathering a diverse variety of experts and stakeholders who operate in close proximity with government officials, experiences signify that outside and unwelcome voices are often silenced. + avoiding stakeholder dominance over scientific experts!
  7. 7. Typology of SPIs: The Assignment Model Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 7 The Assignment Model Cases where demand-driven scientific support is provided for policymakers by task forces when required. Assignment SPIs, often embodied by, for example, think tanks and consultancies, offer short-term solutions when most needed, but generally lack the comprehensiveness to act as major interfaces in SD concerns.
  8. 8. Typology of SPIs: The Nested Model Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 8 The Nested Model Cases where scientific support is organised for policymakers via thoroughly institutionalised arrangements of nested expert hierarchies. Nested Model SPIs are especially successful in combining independent scientific rigour with high-level impact on policymakers, yet find particular challenges in co-ordination.
  9. 9. Typology of SPIs: The Adviser Model Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 9 The Adviser Model Scientific advisers directly informing the highest political actors, often aided by secretaries and advisory offices. The Adviser SPI is an oft-criticised model, particularly due to its systematic lack of transparency and social robustness, and is thus not well suited to complex and often controversial SD issues.
  10. 10. Typology of SPIs: The Platform Model Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 10 The Platform Model Deliberative and co-productive knowledge brokering arenas for science–policy interaction often organised by third parties. These SPIs offer (face to face or online) fora for policy co-creation and design for those who might not else interact, yet are sometimes too short-lived to provide the longevity which SD-related SPIs require.
  11. 11. Locating Finnish SD Related SPIs in the Typology Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 11 + ’Mixed’ Models, e.g. Expert Panel on Sustainable Development (Independent and Integrated with some Platform activities) How should these SPIs cooperate and exchange good practices in order to best complement each other’s weaknesses and promote the development of a comprehensively sustainable Finland? Independent • Ilmastopaneeli • Talouspolitiikan arviointineuvosto • Luontopaneeli Assignment • TEAS • STN • Ajatushautomot Integrated • Kestävän kehityksen toimikunta • Biotalouspaneeli • TIN • IPCC-työryhmä Adviser • N/A (suggested by Raivio, 2014) Nested • Sitra • SYKE • LUKE • Suomen Akatemia • Helsinki Sust. Sci. Center + Ympäristöjärjestöt Platform • Ympäristötiedon foorumi • Future Earth Suomi • Tiedeakatemiain neuvottelukunta • Baltic 21 • Kansallinen ennakointiverkosto
  12. 12. Conclusions Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 12 • In a complex environment, the variety of responses both within SPIs and between SPIs has to be diverse ( increased resilience) Need for a variety of flexible/adaptive SPIs. Different models can complement each other’s weaknesses. Hybrid models can/do exist. Different working contexts/levels of complexity might call for different approaches (e.g. ‘static’ panels complemented by ‘dynamic’ working groups; ‘watchdogs’ complemented by more deliberative platforms…) • Diversity in SPIs is richness, but only if networking/cooperation is successful! (c.f. Finland, where almost all models of SPIs exist) The big challenge is to piece this puzzle of Finnish SPI models together!
  13. 13. Conclusions Sitra • Roope Kaaronen • 13 • SD related SPIs are still dominated by a natural scientific environmental outlook  need for integrative expert groups who also take into account the social and economic dimensions of SD • Most SD SPIs rely on a linear or knowledge deficit model (speaking scientific ‘truth’ to people in ‘power’, who just ‘don’t know enough’). Need for socially robust knowledge (= not only scientifically valid but also taken up in social and political context). • Merely compiling and disseminating reports is not enough! • Scientific support for SD policies is endangered and vulnerable to political turbulence – support should not be taken for granted, and should be designed particularly with resilience in mind
  14. 14. Building a successful Finland for tomorrow @SitraFund Roope Kaaronen