EKLIPSE project: working to improve the science-policy interface

Dr Juliette Young tells us more about the CEH-coordinated EKLIPSE project, a four-year European Union project which has just published its first report looking at how nature-based solutions could promote climate resilience in urban areas.

EKLIPSE expert working group report 1The new EKLIPSE report on developing an impact evaluation framework for nature-based solutions promoting climate resilience in urban areas is a major achievement, not only in the content of the report (it’s a great report written by leading researchers from across Europe), but also in what the report itself represents.

The report is a result of many years of reflection, and a fair bit of frustration, on how the science-policy interface works. All the partners in the EKLIPSE consortium have long been involved in understanding and trying to improve the interface between science and policy. A number of challenges have been identified. The information produced by scientists is often not suited to policy making: it is produced too late, not understandable by anyone outside academia, or based on questions scientists thought should be policy-relevant but were actually not on the policy agenda. In addition, it is not always the best scientists who contribute to policy-making, but those who happen to be in the right place at the right time.

So, we have a situation where we have a wealth of excellent scientific information produced by excellent, willing scientists, but no way of getting those scientists and their knowledge to answer pressing policy needs, in a timely and robust way.

Cue EKLIPSE!

In the EKLIPSE project, we are a small group of nine partners from across the EU, who aim to facilitate the link between science, policy and society. Using the example of our first major report, here is how it works:

  • A policy need is put to us - in this case by the European Commission’s Research and Innovation Directorate General, but it can be anyone from policy to NGOs and other societal actors (we have calls for requests every 6 months);
  • We discussed this request with our policy colleagues, framing it so that we knew exactly what they needed, what we could provide, by when, for what purposes (be they practical outputs, or wider societal impacts). This discussion, or scoping, was essential and resulted in quite a different request from the one they initially put to us;
  • We put out a call for experts. Building on the huge range of scientific networks across Europe, we encouraged all scientists and practitioners with in-depth knowledge on Nature-Based Solutions and climate resilience in urban areas to apply to be part of the expert group that would respond to the policy need.
  • We received 127 applications, and selected 15 from different disciplinary backgrounds, sectors, and areas of expertise to join the group.
  • The expert group came together, developed a protocol (how they were going to address the policy need), which went through open peer review, and then worked on a report, a draft of which also went through open peer review. This double peer-review process was important to ensure an even more credible output.
  • The final report was then submitted to the requester, and is now being disseminated broadly.

Whilst this is only the first report from the EKLIPSE project, we are already working on scoping five further requests, which we will facilitate over this coming year.

There are still many challenges to address, but the project is 'learning by doing' and we hope that by the time we hand over this mechanism to the wider community in three years’ time, some of the challenges will have been addressed.

So, while we cannot for a second hope that we have nailed the science-policy interface, it is great to see that an approach we have thought about for so long has come together for this report! We hope you enjoy the report, and are happy to keep you posted on all our future activities.

Dr Juliette Young

Additional information

CEH news story (21 Feb 2017): CEH-led €3million EKLIPSE project supporting policy on Europe's biodiversity and ecosystem services

Staff page of Dr Juliette Young, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

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