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SPIRAL Newsletter 1

In this Newsletter

Introducing Spiral

Biodiversity is essential for human life and well-being. However, we have not yet achieved policy targets to halt its loss and safeguard the ecosystem services it provides. Knowing and deciding exactly what to do in practice remains a challenge after 2010. One crucial step, in all efforts towards more effective policy-making, is fostering appropriate connections between the diverse insights and perspectives of scientists and other knowledge holders, and the needs and interests of policy-makers – the science-policy interface.
The existence of well-functioning science-policy interfaces is a necessary condition of effective environmental governance. SPIRAL will enhance the connectivity between biodiversity research and policy making in order to improve the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.


SPIRAL is going to gain insight into how biodiversity research is connected to policy making processes in order to identify additional actions needed and good practices for the development of science-policy interfaces. This will be achieved by taking stock of experience with biodiversity science-policy interfaces at various levels and in various contexts and by exploring the factors facilitating or hindering their effectiveness.
Science-policy interfaces for biodiversity issues exist at all levels, in very different contexts, and have a variety of purposes, functions and forms. To get an overview of the different approaches to science-policy interfaces, we will start our work with a study to map the landscape – mainly on the European scale, but also, as a complementary insight, at international and national levels. We want to learn from as many different and contrasting experiences as possible, including experiences in newer Member States, resulting in the development of a map and categorization of science-policy interfaces.
The main aim of a number of case studies is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different practices in relation to their actual and/or perceived impact on policy processes, including stakeholder involvement and feedback into the formulation of research strategies, the organisation of research and the policy process itself. This will help develop recommendations, and we expect that engagement with biodiversity science-policy interfaces will, of itself, increase interaction between them and promote their development.
We will produce a synthesis report on lessons learnt, hindering and enabling factors for effective biodiversity science-policy interfaces, and overall results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Constraining and Facilitating Communication Factors

photo Adam VanbergenThe overall aim of the second phase of the project is to improve understanding of the science-policy dialogue with regards to the role of biodiversity in underpinning livelihoods and ecosystem services. This will be achieved by identifying the factors that constrain or facilitate communication on this issue between scientists and policy-makers, and recommending steps to improve this exchange in Europe and elsewhere.
This step will assess the ways scientific knowledge on the underpinning role of biodiversity in livelihoods and ecosystem services is communicated and negotiated between science and policy. It will particularly focus on the question of if and how such knowledge is directly or indirectly taken up to inform policy, and the factors that facilitate or hamper such processes.
Through interviews we will identify and provide background information for major areas of decision-making in which knowledge on the relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem services and livelihoods is considered particularly relevant, but where, from the viewpoint of scientists, scientific knowledge appears to be taken up in an unsatisfactory way. We will also look at cases where policy-makers feel that scientists have not delivered the necessary knowledge. Although the amount of knowledge on the role of biodiversity with regard to livelihoods and ecosystem services is substantial, there are many gaps and uncertainties.
Next we will focus on a selection of cases and issues that allows us to explore the factors that constrain or facilitate communication in more depth.
The results will be synthesized to produce recommendations on steps to improve communication between scientists and policy-makers. These will be discussed in a workshop with stakeholders and decision-makers and final recommendations produced, including generic recommendations relevant to science-policy and science-society interfaces.

Positive Instruments

Next we will consider the different ways in which the science-policy interface influences human behaviour with an impact on biodiversity and ecosystems.
We will examine the ways in which different arguments and instruments (including biodiversity targets and indicators, scenarios, ecosystem service concepts, incentive measures, policy appraisal and risk assessment methods) can be used to influence behaviour.
We will conduct a literature review capitalising on existing knowledge on the use of various instruments for encouraging social behaviour to reduce negative human impact on biodiversity. It will examine how the instruments can improve the ways in which scientific, economic, ethical, moral and stewardship principles are integrated into policy making. It will also assess the ways in which research addresses its own role in supporting different instruments in affecting social behaviour.
Particular attention will be paid to ways in which the potential for affecting social behaviour to reduce negative human impact on biodiversity is considered in the science-policy dialogue. Analysis will assess the ways in which scientific, economic, ethical, moral and stewardship principles are integrated in policy making.
Next we will extend the results of the above analyses, and draw on stakeholder expertise via interviews and two focused workshops. We will develop two matrix reporting frameworks, for instruments and for interfaces, and produce a fact sheet for each instrument and each interface. The fact sheets will include recording evaluations for each criterion in each context, highlighting synergies/conflicts, and a brief summary of actual experience. A final workshop will refine and validate the fact sheets, allowing for the reporting of convergent or divergent stakeholder opinions under each category.
A synthesis will be produced of the complete process of research in the preceding work, drawing in particular on the results of the stakeholder consultation. The synthesis will be used to justify recommendations for improvements in the science-policy process, including generic recommendations relevant to science-policy interfaces.

Supporting Science-Policy Interfaces in Practice

In this phase of the project, we aim to contribute to the design, implementation and testing of science-policy interfaces for biodiversity in order to improve the effectiveness of science-policy interfaces regarding the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Our list of test cases includes amongst others: IPBES, Afriseb, the future EU Mechanism of Expertise on Biodiversity, and a series of more issue-specific or national-level initiatives.

By supporting the design and implementation of science-policy interfaces operating at the sub-national, national, European and international level and in various contexts, we aim to provide a practical contribution to as wide a range of applications as possible and to learn from what will constitute real-life experiments

The lessons learnt in the test cases will be synthesised and generalised where appropriate to feed in the synthesis. To this aim, a Validation stakeholder workshop will be organized which will review, validate and refine the conclusions and recommendations emerging from the project.


IPBES Established

IPBES – an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – took a major step towards establishment when the United Nations 65th General Assembly (UNGA) approved its creation in December 2010.

IPBES will become a major global science-policy interface for biodiversity and the ecosystem services generated by biodiversity. At an intergovernmental meeting in Busan in 2010 it was agreed that IPBES should, first, “identify and prioritize key scientific information needed for policymakers… and catalyse efforts to generate new knowledge by engaging in dialogue with key scientific organizations, policymakers and funding organizations.” Second, it should “perform regular and timely assessments of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services and their interlinkages”. Third, it should “support policy formulation and implementation by identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies, such as those arising from assessments… and, where necessary, to promote and catalyse their further development.” Fourth, it should “prioritize key capacity-building needs to improve the science-policy interface.”

The concept of IPBES – and IPCC-like body for biodiversity – was first discussed at the Biodiversity: Science and Governance conference in Paris in 2005. This led to IMoSEB, an International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity, which included regional activities such as afriSeb. Subsequently, three intergovernmental meetings took place on IPBES, in Putrajaya, Malaysia in 2008, Nairobi, Kenya in 2009 and Busan, South Korea in 2010. The CBD COP10 conference in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010 provided further support for IPBES.

Following the UNGA decision, UNEP will discuss the next steps for IPBES at its meeting in Nairobi in February.
Meanwhile, interest in IPBES is growing, not least in Africa where afriBES has emerged from afriSeb.

SPIRAL will follow the IPBES process and take a particular interest in afriSeb over the next three years.


Importance of Science-Policy Interface acknowledged by COP10 Nagoya

 The Convention on Biological Diversity’s tenth Conference of Parties (COP 10) meeting in Nagoya in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan in October 2010 ended with a new vision, mission and targets for biodiversity. The vision is that “by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people”. The mission is to “take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity in order to ensure that by 2020 ecosystems are resilient and continue to provide essential services, thereby securing the planet’s variety of life, and contributing to human well-being, and poverty eradication.” The vision and mission are supported by a strategic plan for 2011-2010, which includes 20 “Aichi Biodiversity Targets”, and 46 other decisions.
The role of science, the science-policy interface and society in achieving these ambitious goals is acknowledged by the CBD, particularly through:

  • Target 1 “By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.”
  • Target 17 “By 2015 each Party has developed, adopted as a policy instrument, and has commenced implementing an effective, participatory and updated national biodiversity strategy and action plan”.
  • Target 19 “By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied”.

At a side event on European Union-funded research, the role of SPIRAL in promoting more effective science-policy interactions was presented by Allan Watt.



SPIRAL Partner Profile: The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology


The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) is a component organisation of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is the UK's Centre of Excellence for research in the land and freshwater environmental sciences. The centre has approximately 500 staff across four sites in the UK (Bangor, Edinburgh, Wallingford and Lancaster) with specialist skills in a wide range of environmental disciplines. CEH research is aimed at improving understanding of the environment and the processes that support life on Earth. CEH is particularly interested in the impacts of human activity on the world around us and in developing ready-to-use approaches for achieving environmental sustainability. Its science tackles the environment in a holistic manner, integrating a wide range of scientific disciplines. This combines basic, applied and strategic research. CEH is a major custodian of environmental data, including 20 million records of 12,000 species occurring across Britain and Ireland, as well as records of over 50,000 station years of daily and monthly river flow data.

CEH has three science programmes: Biodiversity, Biogeochemistry and Water. Within the Biodiversity programme, CEH carries out research on all levels of biodiversity, from the smallest scale (the gene) to the largest (whole Earth systems). CEH has coordinated several FP5 and FP6 projects including BioAssess (Biodiversity Assessment Tools), BIOFORUM (European Biodiversity Forum - Implementing the Ecosystem Approach) and ALTER-Net (A Long-Term Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Awareness Research Network) and DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe), and was a major partner in projects such as ALARM (Assessing large-scale risks to biodiversity using tested methods).

CEH and Median coordinate SPIRAL.

SPIRAL Partner Profile: CIRAD


CIRAD is a French research centre working with developing countries to tackle international agricultural and development issues.

CIRAD (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement) is a public industrial and commercial enterprise (EPIC) under the joint authority of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

CIRAD works with the whole range of developing countries to generate and pass on new knowledge, support agricultural development and fuel the debate on the main global issues concerning agriculture.

CIRAD is a targeted research organization, and bases its operations on development needs, from field to laboratory and from a local to a global scale.

CIRAD's activities involve the life sciences, social sciences and engineering sciences, applied to agriculture, food and rural territories.

CIRAD works hand-in-hand with local people and the local environment, on complex, ever-changing issues: food security, ecological intensification, emerging diseases, the future of agriculture in developing countries, etc.

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