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Scientific assessments to facilitate deliberative policy learning

Kowarsch, Martin; Garard, Jennifer; Riousset, Pauline; Lenzi, Dominic; Dorsch, Marcel J.; Knopf, Brigitte; Harrs, Jan-Albrecht; Edenhofer, Ottmar

Putting the recently adopted global Sustainable Development Goals or the Paris Agreement on international climate policy into action will require careful policy choices. Appropriately informing decision-makers about longer-term, wicked policy issues remains a considerable challenge for the scientific community. Typically, these vital policy issues are highly uncertain, value-laden and disputed, and affect multiple temporal and spatial scales, governance levels, policy fields, and socioeconomic contexts simultaneously. In light of this, science-policy interfaces should help facilitate learning processes and open deliberation among all actors involved about potentially acceptable policy pathways. For this purpose, science-policy interfaces must strive to foster some enabling conditions: (1) “representation” in terms of engaging with diverse stakeholders (including experts) and acknowledging divergent viewpoints; (2) “empowerment” of underrepresented societal groups by co-developing and integrating policy scenarios that reflect their specific knowledge systems and worldviews; (3) “capacity building” regarding methods and skills for integration and synthesis, as well as through the provision of knowledge synthesis about the policy solution space; and (4) “spaces for deliberation”, facilitating direct interaction between different stakeholders, including governments and scientists. We argue that integrated, multi-stakeholder, scientific assessment processes—particularly the collaborative assessments of policy alternatives and their various implications—offer potential advantages in this regard, compared with alternatives for bridging scientific expertise and public policy. This article is part of a collection on scientific advice to governments.
Published in: Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 10.1057/palcomms.2016.92, Springer Nature