Objective 7.7 - Improve the Science-Policy interface in biodiversity and promote actor participation.
The existing interfaces between policy and research, with not enough research being policy-relevant, and insufficient application of existing knowledge in policy‑making, should be strengthened. This will require efforts at different levels: not only from the scientific to the policy level, but also the other way round.
The recent establishment of an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) creates an appropriate stage for the improvement of the science-policy interface. Belgium plays an active role in the operationalization of the Platform through its membership and through national networks of scientific and policy experts in support of the IPBES, such as the BEES Community of Practice or the Belgian Community of Practice on Biodiversity and Health (COPBH). Belgium also has a platform dedicated to science-policy interfacing (i.e. the Belgian Biodiversity Platform), hosting the national focal points for GBIF, IPBES and IUCN – and coordinating several communities of practice as the ones mentioned above.
Previous and ongoing research and science communication programmes could be valorised as useful models for bringing together different experts, generalists, and other stakeholders driven by the need to deliver a response to a complex problem. They could also contribute to translating research outcomes into policy advice, developing policy support tools, and promoting policy-relevant research.
Innovative solutions and methodologies are required to optimise the links between research and policy and promote actor’s participation in the development and implementation of new policies. The fragmentation of the institutional framework in Belgium often brings many people together in discussions on biodiversity, which does not always lead to an efficient work. Creative solutions should be proposed to install a mechanism and institutional arrangements aiming to simplify procedures and ensure participation (a.o. participation and consultation methods, effective communication models, etc.). The positive and negative impacts of socio-cultural and economic factors (a.o. recreation) must also be assessed.
An important aspect of linking research to policy is effective communication. Training courses and materials could be developed to help researchers communicate more effectively, not only the results of their research but also the process of research, in order to better highlight the way research is planned and executed. Decision-makers could also beneficiate from training in using and requesting scientific advice (e.g. how to ask the right questions) and in the identification of suitable sources of information.
The ability of administrations to make use of scientific information could be enhanced by encouraging secondments from universities and scientific institutions, into government. Secondments the other way – of officials taking a sabbatical in a university or in a scientific institution – might also help develop expertise and networks.