Keywords: complexity, integration, interdiscipline, science, systems, sustainable development, policy
Generating, sharing and using science to improve and integrate policy
This paper discusses some of the new challenges that the quest for sustainable development poses to scientific research and the interface between science and policy. One of the issues fundamental to both science and policy is that of integration. Integration of scientific research requires a systemic approach, an interdisciplinary research style, and the consideration not only of the relevant quantitative data but also the relevant qualitative information. Appropriate mechanisms for making science available to policy-makers must include team-based approaches; some successful models are identified. A number of factors that impinge on the likelihood of success of interdisciplinary research are identified. However, it is recognised that it will also be necessary to move beyond that towards true inter-paradigmatic dialogues. The fact that the high complexity of natural and societal systems implies a degree of irreducible uncertainty should not lead to policy paralysis. The precautionary principle gives prudent guidance, but it is not always possible to follow it. On the other hand, scientific uncertainty should not be interpreted as total ignorance and a licence for 'anything goes' in the policy realm. Adaptive (active and passive) approaches are necessary for the management of complex systems. Adaptive approaches contrast with command-and-control approaches. In many cases, scientific research does not produce the kind of understanding usable by policy-makers. One way of dealing wth this is to involve policy-makers in the scientific enterprise. Innovative experiments on how to generate a dialogue between science and policy are needed. The paper ends with a simple checklist of things to do or take into account by groups dealing with science in support of policy.