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Bridge over troubled waters: cooperation crucial to bridge the gap between freshwater science and policy

April 19, 2013

 Cooperation and collaboration between biodiversity science and policy were the themes of day 4 of the BioFresh meeting.

The 4th day of the annual BioFresh meeting was dedicated to a training workshop for BioFresh scientists in the concepts and best practice of Science-Policy interfaces (SPIs).  In the afternoon, we mobilised insights to plan out a freshwater biodiversity SPI symposium in early 2014.

Hard at work at the BioFresh annual meeting

Hard at work at the BioFresh annual meeting

Science-policy interfaces

There is a growing recognition by both scientists and policy makers of the importance of an improved dialogue across the two cultures and the need to better integrate important scientific findings into the relevant policy areas. Identifying and participating in SPIs, spaces where scientists and policy-makers are brought together either in person or in virtual spaces, will be essential in achieving these aims.

But there is also a growing acceptance that policy does not always occur in a linear fashion with science feeding straight into policy. Instead policy creation increasingly happens with and through a various array of networks. Dr. Paul Jepson, leader of the Conservation Governance Lab at the University of Oxford who leads on BioFresh dissemination comments ‘we can’t treat science as separate from the policy context in which it operates’. A much wider range of actors from NGOs, industry groups, journalists, academics and wider publics are involved which produces a messy policy process, but one that can be open for various forms of engagement .

Science-policy interface workshop presentation

Science-policy interface workshop presentation

Connecting with EU water and biodiversity projects

The day also saw several contributions by colleagues from sister EU FP7 projects join the BioFresh meeting and give talks. Dr. Carston Nesshoever from SPIRAL (Interfacing Biodiversity and Policy), an EU project working on biodiversity SPIs, described how they have mapped SPIs  to help scientists navigate the complex policy landscape within which freshwater biodiversity science must interact. ‘Compiling and mapping the policy contacts of project consortium members is key to effective science-policy interfaces’, said Nesshoever.

Following this, Ulf Stein from WaterDiss argued for the need of a greater recognition of the importance and opportunities to link biodiversity science-policy communication with those of wider water science community. BioFresh will be at the WaterDiss stand at the Wasser International in Berlin next week.

Several BioFresh members are also involved in complementary projects. Dr. Eleftheria Kampa from BioFresh partner the Ecologic Institute in Berlin, for example, is also a member of REFORM, an EU river restoration project. Because REFORM looks at the pressures that exist for river ecosystems and BioFresh investigates how those pressures affect the life living in them, there is a lot of scope for cooperation between BioFresh and REFORM, Dr. Kampa argued.

The final guest speaker was Pavel Stoev from Pensoft Publishing and ViBrant, a project consortium supporting biodiversity research communities. Stoev reminded participants about the growing importance of data publishing for both science and policy, an issue directly relevant to the work of BioFresh (see our special feature). Stoev’s presentation prompted the idea of a freshwater biodiversity special edition of where we would publish data papers arising from BioFresh and the data compilation project funded from the BioFresh contingency fund.

Schloss Machern, location of the 4th annual BioFresh meeting

Schloss Machern, location of the 4th annual BioFresh meeting

Freshwater ‘science meets policy’ symposium

A theme that emerge from the day’s discussions was that coordination and partnership between European biodiversity and water projects is vital for effective policy impact. Horizontal networking between projects, coordinating and sharing resources when interfacing with policy, and passing scientific and policy products and assets on to future projects are areas where improvements can be made in this regard. This may require the development of new tools to map the landscape and identify networks of influence.

BioFresh is working to make these links. Another project with complementary aims as BioFresh is REFRESH, a project developing adaptive strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on freshwater ecosystems. An in principle agreement was made to team up with REFRESH to design and host a joint water and biodiversity symposium to bring not only scientists and policy-makers together, but also NGOs, industry representatives and politicians.

Dr. Martin Kernan from UCL, coordinator of REFRESH and a project member of BioFresh, says “the symposium is an exciting opportunity for REFRESH and BioFresh to work together to utilise combined networks and maximise resources to ensure the uptake of research, in line with the recommendations of the recently published Roadmap for Uptake of EU Water Research in Policy and Industry.”

The symposium is planned for late January 2014. Until then, the BioFresh blog will keep you updated and provide you with a more detailed plan in the coming months.

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