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Forging the missing links between science & policy

Forging the missing links between science and policy

Long-term alliances between scientists and environmental policy makers, regular reviews of government’s science capacity, and regular reports on the state of our environment are among the key recommendations in a report issued today by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr J.Morgan Williams.

The 120-page report, “Missing Links: Connecting Science With Environmental Policy”, draws on international and New Zealand case studies as it investigates how science can best be used to tackle environmental issues ranging from climate change to genetic modification.

“Science is essential if we are to learn to live within our planet’s physical limits,” says Dr Williams, “and we must use it in new ways to help resolve the complex environmental issues that policy makers grapple with.”

The report outlines practices to deal with the ‘clash of cultures’ that can emerge between scientists and policy makers. While scientists are used to dealing with complexity, uncertainty and long timeframes, policy makers are often under pressure to provide instant and definitive answers.

Dr Williams says the links between environmental science and policy need re-building following the science reforms of the 1990s. He proposes that mediating bodies, or ‘boundary organisations’, be used to forge the links and improve the flow of information between the public, scientists, and policy makers.

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