The need for knowledge-brokers and operational cross-sectorial communication

by Pierre Echaubard and Nicole de Paula, January 17, 2017


Effective public policies require good data and popular outreach. This means that the integration of multi-disciplinary data into analytical frameworks and models requires stakeholders’ engagement from the very beginning to co-design tools for the management of heterogeneous knowledge (e.g., “health GIS”, interdisciplinary databases). The abilities of civil servants, researchers and field operators to conduct field work and to motivate the communities at risk to participate in the monitoring work should be improved, which could lead to a better understanding of zoonoses’ burdens, ecological patterns and cultural, political and socio-economic stakes. However, implementing such multi-sectoral collaborations among agricultural, environmental and health sectors in the current national contexts remain a considerable challenge because they still work in silos.

This gap is also reinforced through the stark divergence between a science domain, characterized by increasing complexity of communicated analytical outputs and a policy domain, which generally remains impelled towards single metric outcomes. These divergence calls for the improved management of the science–policy boundary through innovative devices, techniques and institutions capable of fostering the effective transmission of science and technology between and among the communities of scientists, policy makers and other affected interests.

It is increasingly accepted that these techniques should rely on a participatory process that utilizes methodological innovations created for scientific integration (Smajgl and Ward 2013). Participation may be defined as the practice of consulting and involving relevant stakeholders in the agenda-setting, decision-making, and policy-forming activities of organizations or institutions responsible for policy development. Participatory processes can facilitate system learning by different stakeholders and thereby “implant” a foundational consensual understanding, tailored to solve long term, possibly contested decision arenas.

The Comparison of Participatory Processes (COPP) framework, is a diagnostic framework used for the description and comparative analysis of participatory processes in science to policy contexts, and helping to identify the best steps or methodologies to be implemented in particular settings to enable operational dialogue. This framework has the potential to be sufficiently generic and comprehensive to allow operational science to policy dialogue in the context of the health, biodiversity and the environment. The framework provides several guiding principles that can help design cross-sectoral participatory initiatives for operational science to policy dialogue. These are for instance: 1/ multilevel engagement is more likely to lead to outcomes, 2/specific methods are easily replaceable and the degree of system complexity will erode or compromise the effectiveness of specific methods and 3/ a minimum engagement period of two years, with regular events and local coordination, is more likely to lead to the achievement of project objectives.

This framework, based on complexity-focused system sciences, suggest that tools and methodologies are increasingly available to help foster a science to policy dialogue for transdisciplinarity operationalization and sustainability.

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