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Strengthening Science-Policy Links: Study Series
The need for robust scientific evidence in policy and decision making and for innovative mechanisms to sustain interaction between science producers and policy/decision makers is well recognized. Such interaction not only improves the uptake and use of research by science users, it also allows the user to inform the research agenda. Linking science with policy/program decisions is not straightforward, however, and challenges must be addressed to maximize information flow between users and science producers.
In 2009-2011, S&T Liaison was involved in a number of initiatives aimed at strengthening links between science knowledge and policy/decision making. The following series highlights these initiatives. For short descriptions of each study, please see below.
The separation between science users and researchers is now well documented. Recent efforts to bridge this gap have centred on the issue of communicating science to specific targeted “science user” audiences, highlighting the importance of knowing your audience. This case study investigates Ontario Conservation Authorities as a target audience to gain insight into their science-seeking behaviour.
This study compares approaches and experiences between Europe and North America in the area of research management and communication, focussing on research programs carried out to inform environmental policy making and regulation.
Focus was on the following five areas:
the planning and management of research projects and programs
the communication of results
the roles of interpreters and intermediaries
engagement with stakeholders
evaluation of the processes of dissemination and implementation
There is little debate that program management and policy making is most effective when informed by science. Nevertheless, there often remains a divide between science producers and science users, such as program managers and policy makers. Potential remedies for bridging the divide are frequently documented, but rarely put into action. Two important aspects are repeatedly mentioned:
The need to customize and target science knowledge to the preferences of user audiences to improve uptake and utility in making decisions.
The need to develop mechanisms for sustained interaction between the two groups to ensure both a push of science knowledge (science push) and opportunity for science to inform the research agenda (policy pull).
Connecting science to policy is an essential function of any science-based organization seeking to ensure a meaningful impact on policies, decisions and programs. Many Canadian science-based federal departments and agencies generate or transfer scientific information as a key component of their mandate. Over time, they have developed valuable strategies and tools for packaging and presenting science information so that it is accessible to and understood by policy and program users.