On 23-24 June 2015, BiodivERsA organized a ‘Project Clustering’ Workshop with as main goals to provide a space for dialogue between relevant policy makers and researchers from BiodivERsA funded projects in order to promote the development of policy briefs based on clustered results from several BiodivERsA projects addressing current policy needs.
As more and more urgent issues regarding biodiversity and ecosystem services are coming on top of the policy agenda (e.g. pollinator health, invasive species, sustainable use, synthetic biology), there is a crucial need for policy makers to access to the best available knowledge in order to make well-informed decisions. This is where the concept of the science-policy interface (SPI) comes into play referring to “the many ways in which scientists, policy makers and others link up to communicate, exchange ideas, and jointly develop knowledge for enriching policy and decision making processes and/or research. They involve exchange of information and knowledge leading to learning, and ultimately to changed behaviour” (see: FP7-project SPIRAL). An SPI can also refer to activities developed by research projects to improve interactions between the project, policy–makers and other stakeholders and ways in which project results are communicated to policy actors. In this context, communication strategies and tools are critical and need to go beyond the usual one-way communication “Science speaks to Policy”.
The BiodivERsA ERA-net has explored for several years how its funded projects could best engage with their stakeholders throughout the research development process (from co-design, over implementation, to dissemination of project outputs) and has also promoted the production of policy briefs linking results from BiodivERsA funded projects to major EU policies. So far, BiodivERsA policy briefs have been developed on the successful results of individual projects. Yet, in some cases, communication building on clustered results of several related projects, and engaging in a more pro-active interaction with relevant policy makers might be more appropriate. This will be particularly relevant for implementing BiodivERsA’s third phase, during which a new series of policy briefs will be produced using the results of projects funded by the past (2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014) and forthcoming calls (2015).
On 23-24 June 2015, BiodivERsA therefore organized a ‘Project Clustering’ Workshop with as main goals to provide a space for dialogue between relevant policy makers and researchers from BiodivERsA funded projects in order to build relationships and common understanding; and to promote the development of policy briefs based on clustered results from several BiodivERsA projects addressing current policy needs. Specific objectives were to:
- Identify current policy needs/hot topics for which BiodivERsA funded projects could contribute valuable information and support decision making;
- Co-build (with researchers and policy makers) clear, relevant and manageable policy questions that could be addressed by a policy brief compiling results from several related BiodivERsA projects;
- Start putting together teams of projects and think of preliminary schemes for “clustered” policy briefs identifying contributing projects, key ideas and target audiences; and
- Help BiodivERsA-supported researchers to network and generate potential future collaborations among them.
The workshop was attended by 32 scientists from 27 BiodivERsA funded projects, a few professional knowledge brokers and some ten policy makers from regional/national and EU levels. It kicked-off with framing presentations (see below) on science policy interfaces, stakeholder engagement, strengths and weaknesses of policy briefs, and current research priorities at EU level. In addition, each BiodivERsA-funded project present at the meeting gave a flash presentation to provide key information on the project current or future results and give an overview before the working groups to help identify the potential clusters of projects. The second session was based on facilitated group discussions on 4 topics (1. Multifunctional Landscape Management; 2. Invasive Alien Species; 3. Resilience, Tipping points, Scenarios; 4. Ecosystem Services: from Valuation to Management). Finally, a third session was organized to explore other potential collaborations among project scientists.
Participants were able to identify a wide range of potential issues/questions that could be tackled by putting results of several projects together (full report will soon be available). However, rather few policy makers attended the workshop and it will be necessary for each of these questions to be again discussed with additional relevant policy makers and with professional knowledge brokers to make sure the wording and the expectations are appropriate. Continuous collaboration and feedback between BiodivERsA scientists, policy makers and the knowledge broker will be the key to the production of relevant, credible and attractive policy briefs.
Clearly, this workshop will ultimately increase the impact of BiodivERsA project results by building a common evidence base relevant to policy needs. It also provided an opportunity for BiodivERsA researchers to network and generate potential future collaborations among researchers, and between researchers and policy makers for a long-term improved SPI.