Today colleagues and I published a paper that brings together years of thinking and discussion about how to provide environmental managers access to the best available scientific evidence (Dicks et al. 2014). The mainstay of our approach is a ‘4S’ hierarchy. This describes different levels of evidence synthesis, each level more condensed and accessible to decision-makers than the level below. The four Ss are: Studies, Systematic Reviews, Summaries, and Decision Support Systems. OK, we know that the last one’s really a D.
About the BRIDGE project
The Valuing Nature Network BRIDGE project team aims to bridge the gap between knowledge and policy by pulling groups of researchers and decision-makers together, to investigate how natural, social and economic science evidence on the benefits of biodiversity can best the utilised by decision makers to develop more effective biodiversity conservation policies.
BRIDGE is slightly different from the other Valuing Nature Network projects in that it is exploring how scientific evidence can best be used to develop more effective policies. A clear message that we have found during a series of workshops with researchers and decision makers, is that the scientific evidence produced by researchers is not always in a format suitable to help decision makers design policies. Through the BRIDGE project, we hope to be able to find better ways in which we can bring these two communities (researchers and decision makers) together, to ultimately develop better policies in the future.
Background: from values to decisions
The capacity of UK natural resources to deliver ecosystem services has declined dramatically over the last 60 years. This decline is, in, part, because nature is not fully accounted for in decision-making (Defra, 2011; NEA, 2011). Since the 1980s there have been significant developments in environmental valuation methods, while the 1990 Environment White Paper integrated crosscutting systems of environmental policy appraisal into UK central government decision-making. Yet systematic integration of the value of nature into decision-making remains poor, as the growing supply of valuation evidence has seemingly not matched the demands of decision-makers.
Current research suggests that this is in part due to
(1) lack of effective dialogue between researchers and decision-makers on evidence needs (Nilsson et al., 2008; Russel and Jordan, 2007) and
2) shortcomings in valuation to fully account for the complexities of social-ecological systems (Kay, 2008; Spash, 2008).
This project, called BRIDGE, will develop a transdisciplinary Valuing Nature Network hub of researchers and decision-makers to address VNN challenge 4: to improve understanding of, and find ways to, incorporate information on values obtained from the natural sciences, economics and other social sciences into governance and so improve decision-making and the implementation of these decisions.
BRIDGE revolves around a series of transdisciplinary workshops, following an iterative process that will be carefully designed and facilitated to share and synthesise across disciplines and develop a shared theoretical framework, so that a coherent and comprehensive research agenda will be delivered.