B7: Flash Talk Session - Exploring the Science-Policy Interface

Adaptive governance and transitions toward ecosystem-based adaptation

Kofi Akamani, Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University

In recent decades, there has been growing realization that conventional adaptation policies that are characterized by a top-down, expert-driven and narrow sectoral approach often lead to maladaptive outcomes. This recognition has triggered the search for more sustainable forms of adaptation that could promote long-term social equity and ecological sustainability. In this regard, the concept of ecosystem-based adaptation has been receiving attention as an integrative framework for maintaining healthy ecosystems with the aim of building the resilience of social and ecological systems against climate change impacts. However, the governance requirements for ecosystem-based adaptation have not received enough attention. There is currently an inadequate understanding of the institutional requirements for the transition toward ecosystem-based adaptation. Moreover, the mechanisms for promoting good governance in climate change adaptation processes are poorly understood. A promising institutional mechanism for addressing these governance challenges is adaptive governance of social-ecological systems, an institutional mechanism that connects actors across multiple levels to manage conflicting values and uncertainties across scales. This session will discuss four ways in which the key attributes of adaptive governance could contribute to enhancing the transition toward ecosystem-based adaptation: (1) creating awareness about climate change through social learning and the integration of diverse sources of knowledge; (2) generating interest for policy change through the provision of economic and noneconomic incentives; (3) creating opportunities for change through the promotion of vertical and horizontal interactions among actors; and (4) building capacities for change through enhanced access to relevant institutions and resources.


Appraisal of Environmental Science Advice

Jennifer Biddle, Assistant Professor, UNCW

In recent years, States have made national headlines for policymaker responses to science advice regarding natural resource management. Scientists and policymakers need each other for legitimacy, but the relationship and its outcomes often frustrate both groups and the public. Decades of scholarly investigation on the role of knowledge in policymaking highlight aspects of the social context that guide usability of information in policymaking and the “expertise barriers” put in place by political interests seeking to define relevant knowledge which may or may not include science. While the esteemed policy analyst Aaron Wildavsky did embolden several generations of policy analysts to attempt their hand at “speaking truth to power,” he also went to great lengths to demonstrate truth as elusive and methodologies as an exercise of power. Policy analysis is as much art as it is craft; to be skeptical of any one concept is to be dogmatic of many others. In the end, analysts are all purveyors of some kind of perceived truth about the way the world works. Thus, instead of the extensive resources put forward towards deciphering what is true, better questions to be had in policy analysis are: How much scientific information is enough? What is the role of truth in the current political context?


This flash talk will describe our analytical focus on the social and decision processes that shape knowledge usability. Doing so resituates scientists and the advice they offer within ongoing political activities and conflicts thereby looking at social processes that make meaning of decisions about how and what information is gathered, disseminated and utilized, or ignored. To strengthen understanding about the outcomes of the science and policy interface, we engage Roger Pielke, Jr.'s (2007) framework that describes four idealized roles scientists (or experts more broadly construed) can choose to take when engaging in the political process of policymaking: 1) Pure Scientist- focuses on research without any consideration for how decision makers use results; 2) Issue Advocate- focuses on how research findings matter for specific political agendas; 3) Science Arbiter- seeks to stay removed from the political process while also providing decision-makers with information; and 4) Honest Broker- clarifies the alternative courses of action available to policymakers by integrating scientific knowledge with specific political interests. Pielke recommends scientists consider two criteria when deciding how they want to engage: 1) the extent of political value conflict and 2) the extent of scientific uncertainty. Value conflict coupled with scientific uncertainty is mutually reinforcing and makes it increasingly difficult for scientists to act in the idealized roles of the Science Arbiter or the Pure Scientist. In these situations, scientists must choose between integrating available scientific knowledge into policymaking by expanding the scope of alternatives available to policymakers, as an Honest Broker, or narrowing the scope of alternatives, as an Issue Advocate. Case studies sourced from main stream news sources will serve as fodder for an interactive discussion exploring the implications of scientists’ role in the policy process and how the public and policymakers value their work.

 

Systems Analysis Application for Environmental Risk Assessment and Decision-Making in Defense Systems

Chitra Rajagopal, Distinguished Scientist & Director General, Defense Research and Development Organization, Government of India

The modern network centric military warfare includes operations of defense systems in a spectrum of aerial, naval, land, cyber, and space domains. Strategic, tactical, and economic needs of a country in a specific geopolitical environment play a significant role in determining defense systems capability development requirements. These systems interact with the environment and have a potential to affect biosphere during design and development process and also during actual operations in military conflicts. In such a scenario, it is imperative to understand the impact of defense systems capability development and operations on environment and application of system analysis for environment decision-making in military domain. Environmental risk management enables identification and quantification of risks to environment and the measures to mitigate it. Quantitative judgment of the environmental risks, which is possible through environmental risk assessments, is a critical element of environmental risk management. Numerous procedural and analytical system analysis tools exist for qualitative and quantitative decision-making from an environmental or sustainability perspectives in a socio-technical and socio-ecological systems. A set of system analysis tools which are used for probabilistic quantification of risks can be applied for quantification of harm to flora and fauna, and to ecosystem integrity; effectively helps in enhancing environmental decision-making in defense systems. This session will identify environmental issues during the development process of critical defense systems and applies system analysis tools and techniques for environment decision-making in a holistic manner.


Communication Channels to Provide Evidence to Environmental Decision-Making

Alex Godoy, Director, CiSGER, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad del Desarrollo

Providing scientific information to decision-makers is not an easy task. Although in the "discourse," the role of science is named as something important, they are not including science evidence into environmental decision-making. Our approach has been to call awareness about the implications of our results into the regulation through different communication channels such as media, news, and social media. Those channels have put our results as evidence into the center of the public debate in issues such as water code reform and climate change law and based for the new ministry of science following the "agenda-setting theory." Further, we have communicated the implications of our results on the regulation using graphical visualizations to simplify the understanding because they are the citizens who viralize and convert those topics to issues in the public agenda. We have put focus on drought, water scarcity, cities aging, and sustainable cities mobilizing to decision-makers to talk about them in the public space. Today, those issues are in the public debate.


Expertise in Global Environmental Governance: Science Advice for Implementation

Pia Kohler, M.E.Sc., Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Williams College

This flash talk will present findings from my book, which will be released in late Fall 2019 by Anthem Press. In this book, I examine expert committees established to provide science advice to multilateral environmental agreements. By focusing on how these institutions are sites of co-production of knowledge and policy, this work brings to light the politics of science advice and details how these committees are contributing to an emerging global environmental constitutionalism. Grounded in participant observation, elite interviews, and document analysis, this book uses the lenses of the “body of experts,” “body of knowledge,” and “institutional body” to focus on three features of design. Who are the experts being asked to provide advice? What types of knowledge are considered beyond the bounds of the committee, and how is this determined? What rules and norms are developed to govern how the committee carries out its work? 
 
The empirical chapters lay out three illustrations: controversy over the continued use of methyl bromide despite it being scheduled for a ban under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; a series of votes by the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Review Committee when determining whether the pesticide endosulfan should be banned under the Stockholm Convention on POPs; and a decade of institutional innovation in an effort to revamp the provision of science advice to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. This flash talk will present an overview of the work and discuss key lessons for designing institutions for science advice.

 

Enhancing Environmental Decision-Making through Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science  

Sophia Liu, Innovation Specialist, U.S. Geological Survey

Engagement with the public and other stakeholders in science through crowdsourcing, citizen science prize competitions, and other open innovation techniques has the potential to improve environmental problem-solving and decision-making. These open innovation techniques also have the ability to increase public understanding of environmental issues, foster environmental literacy, and democratize engagement in environmental protection. Open innovation is a paradigm that suggests that organizations can and should solicit contributions from external volunteers, users, and other stakeholders. The ubiquity of internet access, mobile devices, online platforms, and low-cost sensors has enabled anyone to be human sensors, collect and analyze data, and validate scientific models at unprecedented scales. Tapping into the wisdom of the crowd and emerging networks of volunteers, on-the-ground and online, can enhance scientific research, address societal needs, and increase scientific literacy to inform environmental decision-making at much broader scales in more efficient ways. Furthermore, there are now federal policies and curated federal resources, like CitizenScience.gov and Challenge.gov, to accelerate open innovation efforts through public participation and stakeholder engagement across the U.S. government. This flash talk will provide examples of projects using open innovation techniques that have informed environmental decision-making in response to hazards, phenology changes, as well as air and water quality issues.


Negotiating evidence: challenges in consensus-oriented environmental governance

Bertrum MacDonald, Professor of Information Management, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

Over the past three decades, the concept of consensus-oriented environmental governance has received increasing attention by researchers, environmental managers, and decision-makers (Joss & Durant, 1995; Oppenheimer, 2018; Rice, 2016). Many have promoted governance practices that involve relevant stakeholders and citizens because it is believed that such participation will improve public decision-making and, ultimately, environmental outcomes (Chilvers & Kearnes, 2016). However, adoption of this governance model has been challenging and compounded by the seemingly incompatible goal of including diverse stakeholder and citizen voices and multiple forms of knowledge (Montana, 2017). Questions arise regarding the credibility and trustworthiness of the information and evidence brought to bear when many participants contribute to decision-making processes (Macnaghten & Chilvers, 2014; Nowotny, Scott, & Gibbons, 2001; Rowe & Frewer, 2005). This situation begs the question: if decision-making is to become more open to stakeholders and the public generally, how can it be made more effective? To illustrate the challenges of consensus-orientated environmental governance as well as to suggest solutions, this flash talk will present the results of three recent case studies that offer perspectives from local to national to international levels. 
 
As decision-makers become more interested in the advantages of consensus-building governance, environmental nongovernmental organizations (ENGOs) are able to exercise greater influence over policy decisions (Blasiak et al., 2017; Fuller, Schleit, Grant, & Arnold, 2016; Guston, 2001). Because of their ability to build capacity in policy development, and increase the uptake of information, both scientific and nonscientific, in decision-making, ENGOs, and other non-state actors have become increasingly important for governance at national and international scales (Gustafsson & Lidskog, 2018; Miller, 2001). In this case study about the involvement of ENGOs in decision-making processes for marine protected areas on the eastern and western coasts of Canada, the importance of ENGOs as boundary organizations between government, stakeholders, and the public is evident (Bodin, 2018). ENGOs fulfilled various roles in facilitating the flow of information and evidence in decision processes. A question remains, however, of whether ENGOs can maintain the credibility of a politically independent organization, while also working to influence policy from the inside of the political system (Evans & Wellstead, 2017).
 
Social media are increasingly powerful tools for providing citizens with information that they require to participate in consensus-oriented environmental governance. However, science communication via social media can be challenging (Alperin, Gomez, & Haustein, 2018). It is difficult to encourage two-way conversations between science communicators and members of the public, and it can be challenging for citizens to determine what information is credible on social media. As this second case study about the social media strategies of individual and NGO science communicators shows, the application of interpersonal strategies in social media interactions can help science communicators to establish relationships with their audiences, encourage two-way conversations, and build trust/credibility in information, resulting in effective science communication.
 
Governments often employ consultation processes to reach consensus regarding environmental conservation and sustainability (Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 2004; Montana, 2017). In this third case study, about the establishment of a coastal marine protected area (MPA) in Atlantic Canada, stakeholder involvement is particularly important due to the potential impact of the MPA on the coastal communities. Through analysis of the information activity of the diverse members of a government-established advisory committee—their preferences for information sources, the channels by which they receive information, how they reconcile conflicting information or misinformation, and their criteria for identifying trustworthy information—this study highlights how government departments and agencies can maintain credibility while simultaneously increasing transparency and collaboration in an environmental decision-making process.
 
Together, these three case studies offer numerous insights about negotiating evidence. They highlight challenges in presenting credible environmental information to a diversity of stakeholders who should and want to be included in decision-making processes. They also underline the importance of reciprocal learning and the necessity of drawing on multiple forms of knowledge to address complex environmental issues (Arsenault, Diver, McGregor, Witham, & Bourassa, 2018). While recognizing the significance of the challenges occurring at the science-policy interface, by uncovering extensive details of examples of decision activities, the results of this research presents evidence to help to resolve hurdles in consensus-oriented environmental governance.

 

Development Multidisciplinary Environmental Research Ecosystems – Plural Scales

Laura Zanotti, Associate Professor, Associate Director of Purdue's Center for the Environment, Purdue University

Tim Filley, Purdue University

How to cultivate and develop interdisciplinary research with relevant pathways for policy decisions remains an important challenge to bring together teams to address cross-cutting global environmental challenges. The Center for the Environment at Purdue University has developed innovative institutional ecosystems to support synergistic team-based environmental research accompanied by international and external stakeholder collaboration. To continue to back the strength in interdisciplinary cultures of research practice while at the same time providing opportunities for bottom-up and proactive strategies for change, this flash talk highlights five areas of innovation. First, we feature the development of signature areas and signature projects that aggregate thematic areas and sustainability challenges. Second, Purdue University and the Universidad Nacional de San Agustín (UNSA) in Arequipa, Peru, have partnered to create a new cooperative technical alliance program with the launch of the Arequipa Nexus Institute for Food, Water, Energy, and the Environment (Nexus Institute). Third, we discuss an emerging initiative, the Purdue Latin America Network, which leverage Purdue’s long-standing history of collaborative and impactful research, teaching, and engagement with Latin American and Caribbean institutions to provide research and policy advice focused on tackling cross-border sustainability issues. Fourth, new digital tools for team-based data visualization, coordination, and management provide opportunities for integration and collaborative protocols for environmental data integration. Finally, student involvement in these multiple initiatives take different forms of onboarding, exchange, and practice. As a collection, they build a responsive but supportive institutional architecture that responds to not only research grand challenges but their applications in policy worlds.