A recent study published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy (see full citation at end) calls for greater efforts to enhance the use of scientific evidence in environmental policy decisions. The study was conducted by the Environment Research Funders' Forum, which brings together the main UK governmental funders of environmental research. As a result of a series of detailed interviews with both researchers and policy-makers, the authors recommended a means of increasing the integration of science with policy. While there is guidance for incorporation of science into policy-making, the study concluded that the current practice has not yet caught up, and they identify several actions that can be undertaken by the Forum and its members to narrow the gap.
One of the big issues seems to be when science is brought into the policy-making process; they conclude that it usually isn't early enough and that this delay can result in a mismatch between the objectives of policy and those of research. Essentially, scientists may be working on a particular line of research, but that research may then not always address the questions for which policy-makers need answers in order to make decisions. The study concludes that there are some practical steps that can be taken to improve the use of science in policy decisions, including:
- a stronger role for policy makers and their advisers in developing research questions and agendas;
- making it easier to find and access relevant experts and previous research and advice;
- strengthening interpretation capacity across the science-policy interface, systematically developing skills and providing an attractive career path; and
- developing the policy community as more discerning customers for science - providing more "policy pull."
The study can be found at: Holmes, J. and Clark, R. 2008. Enhancing the use of science in environmental policy-making and regulation. Environmental Science & Policy 11:702-711.