The Science-Policy Interface: communication between academic research and governmental dec

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Acosta M. Achirica, Autonomous University of Baja California, Ensenada, Mexico
In México and around the world, there does not exist a clear connection between scientific research and its results (specifically the one developed in academia) and the decision makers who are in charge of the environmental policies. It is a two tier problem: on the one side, academic research generates an important amount of applied-oriented information; on the other, government agencies seek scientifically validated information to support their decisions. In this context, there now exists an area of study known as “science – policy interface”. This area studies the way in which scientists and policy makers can work together. Some of the findings of recent studies regarding this interface are related to the use of scientific language; the problems derived from working under uncertainty; how university research is being used; the difference of goals between governmental agencies and academic research; the lack of mutual trust and acknowledgement; the difference in their perception of time; and the possibility of having a third party (a kind of knowledge broker or mediator) who could contribute to bridge the gaps between policy makers and scientific research. After doing a bibliographic research, holding meetings with relevant agents in both fields, and conducting semi-structured interviews, we propose a methodology for the communication of science focused on policy makers. This project suggests that a change in the use of technical language, the development of different techniques in presenting the results derived from academic research, and the exploration of new ways to get in touch with both spheres, will incentivize further collaborations between them. To achieve this purpose, we chose an ongoing academic research in water management, and a specific policy maker, as the object of our communication strategy. The preliminary results show that it is important to include non-scientific techniques, such as marketing, within the general communication strategy, in order to generate an added incentive to scientific research in terms of its usefulness for policy makers. Another important finding is the need to develop a characterization of the policy makers’ needs, both within the legal framework it must follow, as well as in relation to informal mechanisms (such as lobbying), in order to grasp the specific interests and legal limits that the scientific recommendations must take into account. This dissertation project, studies the way in which scientific findings can be useful to make government agencies be aware of the obstacles and opportunities for the water management participation with the purpose of improving the public participation in Ensenada, Baja California. The idea of reaching scientists and decision makers could sound farfetched, or even impossible, but our research suggests that a labor-oriented approach could lead to informed, well-structured, and environmental friendly decisions.