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From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering: the Shift from ‘Science Push’ to ‘Policy Pull’



Traditional (big C) communications in large organizations usually serve to ensure consistent over-arching messaging internally, and to the public at large. To deliver on their public-good mandate, science-based governmental institutions must do more than broadcast the department’s position. They must communicate not only broad policy directions, but also raw data, leading-edge science, general and informed layperson interpretations, and advice for action and behaviour change. Different sectors prefer to receive information and use knowledge in different ways. Science departments must engage with diverse audiences—for example, science users and decision makers, the scientific community, public organizations, and individual citizens—in ways tailored for each audience. This means paying greater attention to the changing contexts in which information is received and used, and consequently the mechanisms and relationships required to produce and transfer scientific information. For policy audiences in particular, the relevance of the science to the issues of the day, and the crucial importance of timing, underline the need for interactive knowledge brokering approaches that can deliver synergistic combinations of ‘science push’ and ‘policy pull’. The authors draw on examples from Environment Canada, as well as from the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Land & Water Australia, to show how dedicated (little c) science and technology communications and knowledge brokering activities are growing in importance. The need for investment in specialized approaches, mechanisms and skill sets for knowledge transfer at the interface of science and policy is also explored, particularly in relation to the field of environmental sustainability.
D. Cheng et al. (eds.) Communicating Science in Social Contexts, 201
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008
Chapter 12
From Science Communication to Knowledge
Brokering: the Shift from ‘Science Push’
to ‘Policy Pull’
Alex T. Bielak
*(*ü ), Andrew Campbell
, Shealagh Pope
, Karl Schaefer
and Louise Shaxson
Abstract Traditional (big C) communications in large organizations usually serve
to ensure consistent over-arching messaging internally, and to the public at large.
To deliver on their public-good mandate, science-based governmental institutions
must do more than broadcast the department’s position. They must communicate
not only broad policy directions, but also raw data, leading-edge science, general and
informed layperson interpretations, and advice for action and behaviour change.
Different sectors prefer to receive information and use knowledge in different ways.
Science departments must engage with diverse audiences—for example, science
users and decision makers, the scientific community, public organizations, and
individual citizens—in ways tailored for each audience. This means paying greater
attention to the changing contexts in which information is received and used, and
consequently the mechanisms and relationships required to produce and transfer
scientific information. For policy audiences in particular, the relevance of the sci-
ence to the issues of the day, and the crucial importance of timing, underline the
need for interactive knowledge brokering approaches that can deliver synergistic
combinations of ‘science push’ and ‘policy pull’. The authors draw on examples
from Environment Canada, as well as from the UK Department for the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs, and Land & Water Australia, to show how dedicated (little
c) science and technology communications and knowledge brokering activities
are growing in importance. The need for investment in specialized approaches, mecha-
S&T Branch, Environment Canada, PO Box 5050, Burlington, Ontario L7R 4A6, Canada
Triple Helix Consulting Pty Ltd, Queanbeyan, Australia, Web:
S&T Branch, Environment Canada, Arctic Science Policy, Northern Affairs Organization,
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 10th floor, 15 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada,
K1A 0H4 Phone: (819) 934-9405, E-mail
Independent consultant, Dorset, UK. E-mail:
Phone: 1 905 336 4503, Fax: 1 905 336 4420, E-mail:
Phone: 1 905 336 4884, Fax: 1 905 336 4420, E-mail:
202 A.T. Bielak et al.
nisms and skill sets for knowledge transfer at the interface of science and policy is
also explored, particularly in relation to the field of environmental sustainability.
Keywordsbic C’ and ‘little c’ science communication, DEFRA, Environment Canada
and Land & Water Australia, environmental sustainability, knowledge brokers and
brokering, knowledge transfer and translation, science communication, science–
policy linkages, science push and policy pull
12.1 Introduction
In the not too distant past, researchers toiled in ivory towers, presenting findings at
meetings of learned societies and publishing in obscure journals, often entombing
information. As the need for stakeholder and public accountability grew, public
relations and ‘big C’ communications departments flourished. They trumpeted the
scientific discoveries of their institutions to demonstrate the excellence or relevance
of their research and, of course, to generate more funding.
In government settings, in particular, their role evolved from broadcasting or
‘pushing’ the scientific advances of their parent organizations to creating and ensuring
consistent, overarching messaging about those institutions—both internally and to
the public at large. This resulted in ‘closing down’ the science communications
process, effectively burying uncertainty and staving off debate. One result was a
loss of trust in government science: a poll in the UK showed that, while levels of
trust in science itself remained stable, government (and industry) scientists were
less trusted than their university or not-for-profit sector counterparts (MORI 2004).
In this chapter, we argue that the emphasis on science communication as broad-
casting and the drive for consistency and simplicity in messaging do not well serve
the needs of either science-based governmental organizations, or the public at large,
when dealing with messy, contested issues such as sustainability. These sorts of
issues require not only new modes of conducting science, but also new modes of
(‘little c’) science communication.
We have seen an increasing realization that complex, contested, contextual issues
like sustainability can rarely be ‘solved’ by traditional, hard, empirical, reductionist,
positivist (‘Mode 1’) science. In the sustainability domain, challenges to the tradi-
tional positivist epistemology such as those of Funtowicz and Ravetz (1993), Pretty
and Chambers (1993) and Gibbons et al. (1994) have been influential. A new sort of
science for tackling contemporary problems was popularized by Michael Gibbons
and colleagues in their proposition of the need to move from Mode 1 to Mode 2
science, or ‘science in the context of its application’ (Gibbons et al. 1994).
It is no longer tenable to rely on the notion of a linear progression through an
orderly research process driven by scientists, to a dissemination phase driven by
communication specialists, to an adoption phase in which end users (whether in
policy or management) presumably apply research findings directly in their every-
day activities. Rather, science must be socially distributed, application-oriented,
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 203
transdisciplinary, and subject to multiple accountabilities. From a one-way linear
process, science is evolving to a multi-party, recursive dialogue.
Coincident with the evolution in science, we are seeing an evolution in science
communication. Traditional, big C broadcast models of ‘pushing’ science to
undefined audiences are losing ground to more nuanced approaches. Typically,
these recognize that different players prefer to receive science information in
different ways. In fact, receptivity to new information may be more than a preference
(Nisbitt and Mooney 2007)—given which, the framing, mode of communication
and character of the communicator of the message have considerable influence on
whether it gets through and is acted on.
Communicating science, therefore, has expanded to include knowledge translation
in which science information is packaged to the preferences, channels and times-
cales of particular audiences, and knowledge brokering in which intermediaries
(knowledge brokers) link the producers and users of knowledge to strengthen the
generation, dissemination and eventual use of that knowledge. Effective science
communication now includes the full spectrum of approaches from broadcast to
iterative dialogue. In our contribution, we address the importance of dialogue—of
linking producer and user—in ensuring that the right science gets done, that the
science information gets out, and that it gets used.
The focus in this chapter is on dialogue with one particular user community—
policymakers. Given the role of science in understanding environmental issues and in
developing and evaluating possible solutions, policymakers constitute a key target
audience for environmental science. A challenge for spanning the science–policy
divide, however, is the fact that science provides one narrow window on the world,
whereas policy must view the world through multiple lenses. Science is but one stream
of evidence that policymakers must obtain and weigh in evaluating future courses of
action. Those communicating the science need to be mindful of the crowded evidence
and option space into which they are providing scientific information.
There is a vast literature in both agricultural and development extension on the
adoption behaviour of farmers (see Gonsalves et al. 2005, Pannell et al. 2006).
The literature on the diffusion of innovation is also well established (Rogers 2003).
New work in action research and community-based health is building a base of knowl-
edge on how health users interact with and use health evidence (Canadian Institute for
Health Research, Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, and others). However,
much less has been written about the adoption behaviour of policymakers—the
‘demand’ side of the science–policy interface—and how science can best inform policy.
Not only is the literature underdeveloped on theories about the interactions
between science and policy and on the need to go beyond ‘science push’ to build
‘policy pull’, there are few descriptions of practical examples of that emergent theory
put into practice. In this chapter, we showcase innovative approaches to bridging
the science–policy divide in large institutional settings in Canada, the UK and
Australia, based directly on the experiences of one or more of the authors:
The examples from Canada’s federal environment department focus on the
development of a little c science communications model, questions about whom
204 A.T. Bielak et al.
to engage in strengthening links between science and policy, and some of the
challenges inherent in changing roles and functions to move to Mode 2 science.
A specific example of how to open up the policymaking process and engage a
broader spectrum of participants is discussed in the context of the sustainable
consumption and production goal of the UK Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs.
Lessons learned on building organizational capacity to support ‘knowledge
adoption’ to ensure that the right science is undertaken and used are presented
for a research commissioning organization—Land & Water Australia.
Each of these three major sections provides a perspective on the context in which
the initiatives arose, with the emphasis squarely placed on the challenges and benefits
of practical implementation.
Based on our collective experience, we conclude by making the case for greater
investment in knowledge transfer and brokering, and by proposing some future
avenues for strengthening and consolidating the field.
12.2 The Beginnings of Knowledge Brokering in Canada
Canada’s government has made strong commitments to science and technology
(S&T); however, as with other countries, Canada has had its share of incidents in
which, for various reasons, key policy issues have not been based on robust scien-
tific evidence.
Crises such as the Atlantic cod fishery collapse (Hutchings 1996) and tainted
blood scandal (Krever 1997) led to government-initiated dialogue on how science
informs policy. For example, the Council of Science and Technology Advisors
report Science advice for government effectiveness (CSTA 1999) outlined principles
for the provision of effective science advice. The Government of Canada (2000)
responded by developing the Framework for science and technology advice, and the
Creating common purpose report (CCMD 2002) explored ways to improve the use
of science in the development of federal policy.
A few broad initiatives were developed on the heels of these reports. For
instance, a pilot course on the science–policy interface was developed by several
federal departments but was not continued. In fact, few initiatives appear to have
lasted, the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation
being a notable exception,
perhaps due to its status as an arm’s-length organization chartered specifically to
address better use of evidence in the health sector.
The science–policy interface continues to be explored by groups within
government (e.g. the 2006 Policy Research Initiative water conference
), related
Retrieved 13 October 2007 from = rp_sd_water
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 205
to government (2007 PIPSC science–policy symposium
), and in the non-gov-
ernmental (2007 Pollution Probe water report
) and academic (2007 Canadian
Water Network knowledge translation planning tools
) communities.
Strengthening the science–policy interface remains a concern for many in the
federal government and those who interact with it.
Environment Canada is both a significant environmental science performer and
the responsible federal authority for policy and regulation development, programme
delivery, and enforcement in a range of environmental areas. This being so, the interface
between science and policy is critically important in ensuring effective use of
limited resources to deliver on an extensive mandate.
Environment Canada’s Science plan (EC 2007) notes:
Recognizing that transmitting new scientific knowledge to decision makers is a key role of
government science, the [department’s] S&T Branch will promote more effective commu-
nication between scientists and decision makers.
In this section, we highlight one successfully sustained Environment Canada initiative
that developed into a broad departmental effort to strengthen the science–policy
interface. The initiative focused on freshwater systems, but provided lessons for
other science-based environmental issues.
Fresh water is an Environment Canada priority. A key federal role is providing
scientific knowledge upon which decisions and sound policies and regulations
for safe and secure water for Canadians and ecosystems can be based. A world
leader in freshwater issues for over 30 years, Environment Canada’s National Water
Research Institute (NWRI) has led influential, multipartner, national scientific
assessments of current and emerging threats to water quality, water quantity and aquatic
ecosystem health. That scientific knowledge is used by water policymakers and
decision makers at all levels of government.
12.2.1 The Evolution of ‘Little c’ Science Communication
at the National Water Research Institute
Despite some worthy efforts in the 1990s, communicating the NWRI’s considerable
scientific output was until recently the responsibility of only one or two people.
They engaged in routine internal reporting, with relatively little profile and no
capacity for substantive science communication. In 2001, senior science managers
recognized the increased importance of the Institute not only generating scientific
Retrieved 13 October 2007 from
Retrieved 13 October 2007 from
Retrieved 13 October 2007 from
206 A.T. Bielak et al.
knowledge, but translating and disseminating that knowledge to better inform the
decision-making process, and thereby helping to resolve environmental issues of
regional, national or international significance to Canada.
As a result, and in a first for Environment Canada, a new director position with
equal status to NWRI research directors was filled and the science liaison function
was augmented. An increased contingent of six to seven staff, most with a science
background and with dedicated expertise in science writing and the links between
water science and policy, was assigned to the unit. With this new profile and mandate,
the Science Liaison Branch (SLB) initiated new activities targeted at better informing
a multisector audience of water policy and programme practitioners. These included
writing science summaries, developing internal and external newsletters, profiling
national science assessments, redefining the web presence (, and
undertaking selected science writing tasks in sector newsletters.
The SLB niche was carved out as one of little c science communication, rather
than the traditional work of the far larger departmental Communications Branch. In
addition, the SLB began to develop tools (mostly databases) allowing better organi-
zation of research activities and outputs so knowledge could be quickly accessed
and packaged, both for routine reporting and as input to more significant programme
or policy initiatives.
Quite intentionally, products and tools were developed collaboratively with
NWRI researchers, resulting in raised awareness of the value of the SLB’s function,
greater efficiencies in responding to routine reporting requirements (yielding fewer
requests and interruptions for scientists), and enhanced credibility for SLB-led
products. A level of trust was built based on common goals, after which one further
initiative helped in developing a more rounded knowledge-brokering unit.
12.2.2 The Science–Policy Workshop Series
In response to deaths in Walkerton, Ontario, in 2000 due to contaminated drinking
water, and the resultant expectation of strengthened drinking water-related legislation
and source-water protection rules, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the
Environment (CCME)—composed of federal, provincial and territorial environment
departments—asked the NWRI to broker a series of national workshops on water
science and policy. The intent was to bring leading researchers together with policy
and programme managers to provide recent science to practitioners (the policy and
programme community, in all sectors), identify research needs and develop mecha-
nisms for sustaining dialogue. The logic was that any new policy, regulatory or
programme initiatives would be stronger if informed by the latest aquatic science
knowledge. Because of its unique mandate, the SLB was well positioned to broker
the meetings.
Five issue-specific, invitation-only science–policy workshops were originally
held under the CCME ‘banner’ (for example, groundwater quality, water reuse and
recycling). Subsequent meetings were organized under the lead of the NWRI.
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 207
In addition to supporting face-to-face discussions and networking opportunities,
the SLB led development of various resource materials and workshop reports that
were then more broadly disseminated to selected water research and resource
managers, posted online, and presented at numerous meetings and events.
The anecdotal response was very positive; subsequently, workshop participants
were surveyed to develop a metric of effectiveness for the better linking of water
science with policy and programme initiatives. Ninety per cent of the policy/pro-
gramme managers surveyed stated that the workshops and their products directly
informed decision making about the development of a specific policy, programme,
regulation, guideline, strategy or some other related management decision.
Similarly, 90% of responding scientists and research managers reported that the
workshops had been useful in refining their own organization’s research priorities.
Although feedback suggests that the workshops were successful (Schaefer and
Bielak 2006), participants viewed the sessions only as a first step. There was a clear
sentiment that sustained dialogue and interaction would be essential in ensuring
that science more routinely and significantly informs decision making. On this
point, respondents preferred to stay networked through some form of regular elec-
tronic contact (web link and email lists), with occasional face-to-face meetings as
the science developed.
These kinds of knowledge-brokering activities also received attention internally.
In 2006, Environment Canada’s Assistant Deputy Minister
of Science and
Technology tasked the newly named S&T Liaison Division to broaden its mandate
beyond its roots in water S&T to represent the full breadth of Environment Canada’s
S&T and enhance knowledge transfer within and beyond the S&T Branch.
Like many other major research organizations described in this chapter, the
NWRI has made a concerted effort in the past few years to better communicate its
science to targeted decision-making audiences. In some cases, bringing the science
and policy communities together has been a direct and very positive experience.
Nevertheless, the science–policy divide often remains, and greater effort needs to
go into bridging it. One of the ways Environment Canada has sought to address the
gap internally has been to understand where people actively work as intermediaries
between science and policy, focusing particularly on policy analysts and their roles
as translators or interpreters between the two worlds.
12.2.3 The In-between World of Policy Analysts
Until recently, considerations of the science–policy interface at Environment
Canada focused largely on the role of scientists. Researchers were concerned that
policy development did not make adequate use of relevant science, and often voiced
See Environment Canada Organizational Chart; retrieved on 10 December 2007 from http//:
208 A.T. Bielak et al.
frustration at the lack of feedback on how their science had been used to inform
policy. Training in science communications (see, for example, STAB 2000, Bielak
et al. 2002) and the science–policy interface was considered, developed and taken
up positively in Environment Canada’s science community. However, funding
proved intermittent and insufficient: training the department’s large science work-
force to work more effectively at the science–policy interface is perhaps unrealistic,
at least in the short term.
Over the longer term, Environment Canada and government departments around
the world may find that new hires are better equipped to act at the science–policy
interface as universities and professional societies react to the need, especially in
environment-related fields, for graduate students skilled not only in research but
also in collaboration, communications and negotiation. Initiatives such as the Aldo
Leopold Leadership Program in the US are beginning to address the need for
scientists to be better communicators and leaders.
However, they are currently
doing so at the rate of 20 fellows per year. A recently introduced bill in the US
House of Representatives
seeks to provide training in communications skills for
US-trained scientists to ensure that they are better prepared to engage in dialogue
on technical topics with policymakers and business leaders. However, it has yet to
be approved and implemented.
At Environment Canada, we (AB, SP and KS) wondered if there was another
point of influence that might allow improvements in the shorter term. At the other side
of the science–policy interface are policymakers: if training scientists to better
‘push’ their research into the system is too slow, might training their policy coun-
terparts be more effective? In the Canadian Government, at least, senior policy and
other decision makers (such as politicians) generally do not have scientific back-
grounds, and science is but one of myriad streams of evidence and opinion they
must weigh in making decisions. Thus, it might be even more challenging to train
policymakers and other decision makers to be good clients for science
than to train
scientists to be better communicators.
How is it, then, that any science crosses the great divide into policy in
Environment Canada? At an internal workshop on the science–policy interface in
See the bill to create the Scientific Communications Act of 2007 (introduced in US House of
Representatives) [H.R.1453.IH]). Retrieved on 11 December 2007 from
An interesting initiative in this regard is the EXTRA programme run by the Canadian Health
Services Research Foundation ( EXTRA trains 24 health
care managers each year to be better users of research evidence. However, the programme’s tar-
get population includes nurse, physician and other health administration executives, who may
have higher scientific literacy than senior policymakers and decision makers in the Canadian
Because of the ever-increasing S&T component in modern decision-making, it may be valuable
for scientists to develop expertise in the policy domain and move directly into decision-making
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 209
March 2005, staff suggested an important but, they felt, unacknowledged role for
policy analysts as ‘bridgers’ between the two ‘solitudes’ of science and policy in
the department. An international workshop was convened in December 2005 to
consider whether ‘policy analysts’ might be the missing link between science and
policy. Experts from a wide range of disciplines (including environmental science,
science communication, public management, planning, knowledge management,
public understanding of science, and science policy) endorsed the assessment that
by bridging the ‘two solitudes’ policy analysts and other intermediaries performed
a critical but under-studied role in the science–policy interface.
An attempt was initiated to better understand who carries out these intermediary
roles within Environment Canada, and their background, work, challenges and
place in the department. In 2007, narrative interviews were commissioned with 65
science and policy staff who were thought to perform linking or bridging functions
within Environment Canada. Two workshops to analyse and validate the results
from the interviews were subsequently held with other science and policy staff who
were thought to be functioning in brokering roles. Participants confirmed that,
despite some good practices throughout the department, the science–policy interface
could still be considerably strengthened to better support environmental
A key finding from this research was that a set of people in Environment Canada
clearly identify themselves as working in the intermediary role. Although their
official job titles rarely acknowledge that function, they see a core role for them-
selves as operating at the boundary between science and policy. One of the significant
outcomes from the workshops was the formation of a nascent community of practice
of intermediaries within Environment Canada.
In addition to clearly identifying this role as important to Environment Canada,
participants flagged key factors affecting their ability to carry out the role. From the
vantage point of the science or policy unit in which they were housed, they stressed
that information on the activities and priorities of the other side was difficult to
obtain. Those intermediaries based in science units reiterated frustrations expressed
previously by the science community that there is little feedback about how science
input to the policy process is used. Those in the policy domain struggled to know
where, among Environment Canada’s 4,000 or so S&T staff, to direct a particular
science question. Given the stated preference of participants and interviewees—
and, according to the literature, their counterparts in other organizations—for
consulting an expert over consulting published sources, the capacity to find the
right expert is critical.
All noted that good working relationships are key for an effective interface.
Policy analysis involves working with people as well as with information and so
requires both relational and informational work. However, competencies such as
facilitation and relationship building, both critical for creating trust, are important
skills not often emphasized when training or hiring policy analysts.
In Environment Canada, relationships across the science–policy divide are some-
times deliberately fostered through bridging or brokering groups within science
units that cultivate good ‘client’ relations. Sometimes, they result from serendipity
210 A.T. Bielak et al.
—chance encounters at workshops, exchanges at bus stops.
Often, tenure in the
department is a good measure of people’s networks. This factor favours intermedi-
aries and brokers rising up through Environment Canada’s science units, where
tenure has typically been quite stable. In contrast, the policymaking community
within the Canadian Government—like government departmental staff elsewhere—
are highly mobile. Turnover in the policy ranks remains a significant challenge to
strengthening the science–policy interface at Environment Canada.
In responding to the issues raised through the interviews and workshops, it is
important to be mindful of the need to address both systems and people issues.
Knowledge of current Environment Canada priorities and activities, and of where
expertise lies, can be improved through better information systems (such as expertise
inventories, databases of plain-language research summaries, and maps that align
research activities with desired departmental outcomes).
Building brokering capacity will require Environment Canada to make work
placements, training and mentoring available to budding intermediaries to
strengthen their skills (for example, in communications, facilitation and negotiation)
and to help them build effective networks on which they can draw. It might also
require changing the hiring profiles of policy analysts to bring in people who
already have such skills and the right mix of technical and policy backgrounds.
To drive such a shift in hiring would require increased recognition that brokering
is an important role in a department, such as Environment Canada, that works in the
highly complex and contested world of environmental policy. This brings us full
circle to the cri de coeur of policy analysts at the March 2005 workshop: that their
work was not acknowledged or valued.
Building recognition that brokering is a required function for Environment
Canada is going to take more than exhortations and academic treatises on its value.
A demonstration project to track and evaluate specific contributions of brokering to
its success is currently under consideration. It will build on the learning from the
narrative interviews and subsequent workshops and will use the experience and
expertise of the nascent community of practice of intermediaries across the department.
The evaluation component will not only document the value of brokering to the
advancement of a particular issue, but also support the transfer of brokering
approaches to other environmental issues that the department manages.
Environment Canada has focused over the past few years on identifying who
needs to be better involved in the effort to improve dialogue between science and
policy. Although the capacity of both policymakers and scientists to engage each
other directly needs to be bolstered, progress is being achieved in the short term by
focusing on intermediaries—those who work in between science and policy,
whether individuals (such as policy analysts) or dedicated little c translation and
brokering units (such as the S&T Liaison Division).
In fact, the authors of this chapter developed their (interagency) relationships through a series of
chance encounters.
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 211
12.3 Communicating into Policy Via the Evidence Base
in the UK
In the UK, a small team at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(DEFRA) experimented with novel ways to create a science–policy dialogue,
designing a technique to open up the policymaking process not only to scientific
evidence, but to an altogether broader array of evidence. This allowed policy teams
to work as knowledge brokers and improve the dialogue at the science–policy
interface. The technique focused on drawing science into policy rather than
communicating it outwards, ensuring that the policy teams developed a better
understanding of science’s contribution to their policy goals.
Many people have attempted to describe the policy process, using analogies
ranging from ‘a constantly shifting jigsaw’ (Levitt 2003: 14) to ‘painting a water
colour picture’ (Kathryn Packer, then an independent consultant to DEFRA, pers.
comm., October 2007). The image explored in this section comes from Parsons’
(2002) critique, From muddling through to muddling up: Evidence-based policy-
making and the modernisation of British Government, particularly the idea that
Parsons draws from Schön (1983: 2), that modern evidence-based policymaking is
predicated on the existence of a ‘firm high ground’ in the ‘swamp’ of policymaking;
and that the task for policy is to ‘map it out and occupy it’ (Parsons 2002). Is this
a better representation of the policy process? Does a high ground really exist? If it
does, is it stable and can we map it? Do such maps have any utility in policymaking?
If they do, what tools should policymakers use to create them, and how should the
maps be read?
Policymakers have limited opportunities to present the fullness of their work to
parliamentary ministers. Their work is complicated by changes in interests and
priorities brought about by the arrival of new ministers, which often have a profound
impact on the work of policy teams.
Can policymakers produce maps that bring
sufficient breadth of evidence to ministerial discussions of the policy landscape and
encourage rigorous analysis of alternative interpretations, when the reality is that
severe time pressures drive them towards narrow channels of problem-specific
We explore these issues using a UK case study, in which ‘lines of argument’
were developed to help formulate the evidence strategy for sustainable consumption
and production (SCP) policy. The study shows why policy’s ‘firm high ground’ is
The focus is on Parsons’ description of Schön’s analysis because of the strength of the imagery,
but the critique holds for other models of the policy process that assume the existence of stable
areas where the supply of evidence and the demand for it are reconciled (see, for example, McNie
2007, Sarewitz and Pielke 2007).
Over the period of this case study (2005 to 2007), three different people occupied the position
of Secretary of State for the Environment in the UK. Each brought a different set of policy priori-
ties, as did the new occupants of the junior ministerial positions, most of whom changed with
each reshuffle.
212 A.T. Bielak et al.
an illusion: a snapshot map of the policy environment will fail to reflect its
constantly changing nature. If more effort can be put into developing tools that
reflect this mutability and can handle contradictions and multiple interpretations,
the evidence base can be used to communicate complex messages from a wide
variety of stakeholders into the policy process.
12.3.1 The Work of the Sustainable Consumption
and Production Evidence Base Team
SCP is one of the four priority areas for action set out in the UK’s strategy for
sustainable development, Securing the future (DEFRA 2005) and is one of
DEFRAs five strategic priorities. Central to its delivery is the vision of more effective
and innovative products that respect environmental limits and leave natural
resources unimpaired for future generations. This requires a major shift to deliver
new products and services with lower environmental impacts across their life
cycles, new business models that meet this challenge while boosting competitiveness,
and new approaches to encouraging consumer behaviour change.
This presents policymakers with particular challenges in developing an evidence
base for SCP. First, the long-term goals of SCP policy (a ‘one planet’ economy,
decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation via better prod-
ucts, production processes and consumer behaviour change) may be far in the
future and thus unclear. Second, there is very little certainty about the scale of the
global impact of UK policies, the environmental limits within which we are
working, or the time horizon over which policy outcomes are delivered. SCP is
largely an influencing rather than a delivery programme; an important aspect of
evidence development is to assess whether the current range of government poli-
cies really delivers the full SCP agenda or whether a wider range of policy instru-
ments is needed.
The SCP team’s task was to design an evidence base that reflected four key issues:
Long-term policy goals that were—and remain—nebulous and contestable, with
different interest groups lobbying for different interpretations of ‘sustainability’
The poor understanding of government’s role in fostering and supporting
innovation (Smith and Stirling 2006), particularly innovations that are changing
the framing of environmental policy (carbon footprinting, life-cycle analysis) or
its focus (wind energy, nanotechnology)
A pan-government focus on the need to maintain analytical rigour to ensure that
policy options were based on robust evidence
A desire to open up the policy process to a wide variety of external stakeholders
rather than close it down (see Rayner 2003, Jasanoff 2005, Stirling 2005)
The evidence-based policymaking movement may still be a peculiarly British concept
(see Solesbury 2001), but it has matured over the past two decades and outgrown its
original home in the world of medicine, moving into the social sciences and—after
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 213
the BSE and foot-and-mouth disease crises in Britain in the early 1990s—into
environment science and S&T studies (see DEFRA 2006, Sorrell 2007). In this proc-
ess, our understanding of the relationship between evidence and policymaking has
moved on from the Schönian perspective: it has adopted the idea that knowledge pro-
duction, particularly in the sciences, is more distributed (see Gibbons et al. 1994).
The SCP team started with the idea that evidence for policy emerges from three
types of information: data, analytical evidence, and stakeholders’ views and opinions.
By engaging with stakeholders in a structured way, which brings rigour to the data
and to analysis, we can establish a ‘line of argument’ between the particular goal
definition of a stakeholder group, the values inherent in that definition, and the
evidence that stakeholders believe will validate their conviction that this is the path
policy should take.
Different stakeholders present different lines of argument, often because they
favour different approaches to the delivery of the same goals (for example, techno-
logical solutions, green taxes or cultural change), and may be selective in their use
of analysis and data to support their case. In addition, stakeholders such as lobby
groups, who have firm views based on a particular value set (and often strong media
skills), need to have their views and the evidence on which they are based set in the
context of the real breadth of evidence that surrounds every policy question.
By encouraging this diversity and presenting stakeholder opinions in a structured
fashion, we begin to map out the existing framings of the potential paths policy
could take. The process of constructing those frames—as lines of argument—allows
a mix of policymakers and external stakeholders to jointly explore the diversity of
values, goals and innovation needs that permeate the complex issue of sustainability,
while ensuring that discussions are based on the best available knowledge.
Lines of argument workshops (held in 2006) drew on the Cynefin knowledge
management framework (Kurtz & Snowden 2003) and the ‘five whys’ problem
interrogation technique.
Backcasting was used to help participants focus on the
SCP policy goal of a ‘one planet economy’ by 2020: they were then asked to think
about what would need to have happened for this goal to be achieved. This helped
draw out the potential richness of the SCP policy goal, allowed alternative views to
emerge, and encouraged participants to think as freely as they could about the dif-
ferent business and policy pathways that were being constructed.
Participants were then allowed to self-organize in small groups on the issues
they deemed important, and asked to discuss and write down answers to five ques-
tions, capturing disagreements and alternative opinions in their answers to allow
different lines of argument to emerge as discussion progressed. The questions were
asked in strict order:
1. ‘Why is this issue important?’
2. ‘Why is change happening?’
3. ‘Why do we need to intervene to change the impact of this change?’
214 A.T. Bielak et al.
4. ‘Why should government intervene?’
Participants summarized the answers into a line of argument that addressed the
overarching question:
5. ‘Why does (or doesn’t) government need a policy on this issue?’
This was then used as the basis for answering the question the team would use to
formulate the evidence base for each potential policy path: ‘What evidence do we
need to develop this policy?’
Although lines of argument are very simple precursors to potential policy
formulations, they allow a real two-way dialogue between the knowledge base and
the policy goals, and help us to focus on the future, look for innovation gaps and
explore changing values. Wind energy is a simple, hypothetical example of this: the
development of cost-effective wind turbines and the rise of the green movement
have contributed to wind energy’s move from being a niche issue 20 years ago to
being well embedded in government policy today.
What might have happened to energy policy in the UK had a broad variety of
stakeholders been involved in this sort of interactive and forward-looking policy
development process 20 years ago? Might different choices have been made along
the way? It is impossible to answer this in retrospect, but the SCP team worked on
the principle that an open approach to developing and presenting lines of argument
responded to the four issues outlined at the beginning of this section. First, it
allowed multiple and often competing definitions of sustainability to coexist, valuing
dissent and alternative interpretation (see Shaxson 2005). Second, the technique
broadened thinking about the full range of innovations that might emerge or be
needed. Third, well-defined processes were used to ensure analytical rigour, piloting
workshop techniques and seeking expert advice on the robustness of the lines of
argument. Fourth, the process opened up the ‘black box’ of policymaking, making
it clear both to policy teams and to external stakeholders that the role of policymakers
is to structure choice for decision makers based on robust evidence and analysis.
An internal evaluation of the technique concluded that it is a cost-effective yet
powerful method of scoping an evidence base for policy, and for communicating pol-
icy questions—rather than research questions—to a wide variety of stakeholders. For
the sustainable food agenda, the lines of argument worked effectively, moving the
policy question from a narrow concentration on biodiversity to a far broader focus on
life-cycle analysis, which allowed a challenge to the prevalent assumptions about the
energy component of food miles (see AEA Technology 2005). Similarly, the team
assessed whether the contested concept of ecofootprinting, on which the One Planet
Living agenda is based,
should be used to underpin DEFRAs sustainable development
policy. A report commissioned after the lines of argument work (RPA Ltd 2007), used
Throughout, it was stressed that evidence fulfils five functions in the policy process: it challenges
received wisdom, enriches our understanding, explains complex issues, confirms what we think
we know, and scopes opportunities for change (see DEFRA, 2005).
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 215
a breadth of evidence to help the SCP team conclude that ‘the ecological footprint
should not, as yet, be used as a headline sustainable development indicator’.
Lines of argument have real value in new policy areas where there is little evidence
or where policymakers need to examine how well available evidence aligns with
new policy goals. They can also be used to check the coverage of the existing
evidence base: even in aspects of SCP policy that had existed for several years, the
team found areas where the evidence was surprisingly sparse. The method can also
be used where there is a need to think more strategically about policies, where there
is a need to engage with stakeholders more effectively and earlier in the policy
process, or where there is uncertainty in the policy environment and the evidence is
contested or open to alternative interpretations. Opening up stakeholder dialogue
in this structured way helps policymakers see that challenge and alternative inter-
pretation are inherent parts of the process of generating evidence and analysis: it
ensures that participation in the policymaking process is not ‘closed down’ by
encouraging consensus where none exists. In doing so, it ensures a real two-way
communication between policy and external stakeholders.
Parsons (2002) makes the point that policymaking needs to be a process of
organizational and public learning, which means understanding the reason for an
alternative interpretation of the evidence: that is, is it because of uncertainty in the
evidence, differing levels of knowledge, or opposing values? While the maps do not
provide answers, they move us away from the situation of ‘knowledge fights’ (van
Buuren and Edelenbos 2004). Even using simple lines of argument to structure
choice for decision makers allows for a good shared understanding to develop about
all the current framings that policy could take and the reasons for the differences
between stakeholder groups, and clarity in the choice of policy options when the
decision is made. The maps serve other purposes—they allow a deeper interro-
gation of the values underlying the different paths, promote a more forward-
thinking approach than government might often take (Bochel and Shaxson 2007),
and provide a robust analytical framework against which we can identify evidence
needs to help decision takers make valid judgements.
At any one time there may be multiple ‘high grounds’ that represent ‘better’
choices for decision makers. With issues such as sustainability there will always be
conflicting understandings of what constitutes ‘better’—and it is for politicians, in
their roles as decision makers, to judge exactly which version of ‘better’ to pursue.
In addition, any innovation or change in values will change the topography in ways
that cannot be precisely anticipated: it may raise new ‘high grounds’, lower existing
ones, drain swamps or reveal paths that were hidden.
Though admittedly in its infancy, the lines of argument technique is able to allow
for all this. It has the potential to bring rigour and sophistication to our maps, forcing
us to think in more detail about the relationship between evidence, policy and the
democratic process.
See = SD0415&M = KWS&V =
footprinting&SCOPE = 0#Docs
216 A.T. Bielak et al.
12.4 Fomenting Synergy between Science
and Policy in Australia
The Canadian and UK case studies describe various methods for improving the
demand-pull on science from policy by using intermediaries and structured dialogue.
The Australian case study shows how it is possible to take these further still.
Improving organizational capacity and allocating resources to knowledge activities,
not just knowledge products, is central to building a robust and reflexive relationship
between science and policy. We need to focus less on ‘communicating science’ and
more on creating a robust and durable relationship between the two communities,
leading to better uptake and greater impact of knowledge more generally.
Over the past decade or so, Australia has seen an evolution in approaches to
science communication that parallels developments in Canada and the UK. This
has been accompanied and stimulated by changes in how the research process itself
is funded, organized and managed.
The focus here is on applied research to inform more sustainable management
of natural resources in Australia. In particular, this section focuses on practical
measures that can be implemented to deliver more effective linkages and interac-
tions between science and policy for complex contemporary issues, such as sustain-
ability. The section draws on experience over the past 15 years within Land &
Water Australia (LWA), an Australian Government research funding authority, in
trying to organize research investments so that they deliver useful and influential
outcomes for policymakers and managers of natural resources.
12.4.1 Science and Policy Down Under
LWA funded dedicated research programmes exploring the adoption of sustainability
measures by landholders from the early 1990s. Yet, despite the all-pervasive
influence of policy settings in determining the relative attractiveness of sustainability
measures across all sectors of the economy (for example, in shaping property rights
or trying to influence behaviour by offering juicier carrots or wielding smarter
sticks), by 2000 LWA had not funded a single research project on the adoption
behaviour of policymakers.
Like most science organizations and research funding bodies, LWA had corporate
and programme-level ‘communication strategies’ overseen by a communication
manager supported by a ‘communication team’ made up of ‘communication officers’.
Until 2000, this effort was modest (around 3% of total expenditure) and consisted
primarily of corporate public relations and publishing research results in a tradi-
tional ‘science-push’ effort.
From 2000, with a new CEO, LWA took a new strategic direction. The 2000–
2005 strategic plan set five corporate objectives: leadership, influence, relevance,
return on investment and accountability. All these implied a close, interactive
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 217
relationship with the corporation’s principal shareholder and main sponsor—the
Australian Government. Given the importance of policy innovation in pursuing
sustainability, the government is also a key client, just as much as the on-ground
managers of natural resources.
Having set such objectives, and having identified policymakers as an adoption
target in the same way that it had previously characterized farmers, it was clear that
LWA also needed a communication strategy for this client group, just as it was
accustomed to preparing for water authorities and farmers. It was equally clear that
this strategy needed to be based on an interactive, knowledge-brokering model,
rather than a traditional science-push communication effort.
12.4.2 From ‘Communication’ to Knowledge and Adoption
In the early 2000s, LWA became uneasy with the terminology used in the ‘commu-
nications’ field. Despite its interactive connotations in popular everyday usage, in
the science/extension domain ‘communications’ is associated primarily with one-way
dissemination and promotion of research outputs. Yet in order to demonstrate
leadership, to be influential and relevant, LWA had to be funding good science on
the big important issues. To deliver a good return on investment, knowledge generated
by research had to be adopted by intended users in policy and management spheres.
No matter how elegant or insightful the research project, LWAs interest, as an
applied research investor, was in its uptake and eventual impact.
LWA realized that it was essentially in the business of investing in knowledge
and its adoption, so it dropped ‘communication’ and recruited a new Knowledge
and Adoption Manager. It developed a Knowledge and Adoption Strategy
and a
new team of professionals to implement the strategy, with commitment from the
corporation’s board to quadruple the previous communication budget to around
18% of total expenditure by 2006.
The Knowledge and Adoption Strategy drove LWAs corporate Evaluation
Strategy, because it distilled the three key questions to answer in judging overall
What knowledge assets have we generated?
What do we know about the uptake and application of that knowledge among
target client groups?
What are we assuming or do we know about the impact of the application of that
The second and third of these questions are more complicated and expensive to
answer than the ones that precede them, with increasing attribution difficulties.
218 A.T. Bielak et al.
Nevertheless, there is much value in being as explicit as possible on assumptions
about how an investment in science will make a difference, and then to follow
through to track that application.
The changes at LWA went far deeper than just changing job titles and position
descriptions. With support from Dave Snowden from the then IBM Institute for
Knowledge at Cambridge University and his colleagues, LWA overhauled its whole
approach to managing and evaluating its portfolio of research investments (1,600
projects back to 1990). Some of the manifestations of this work included the
Instead of considering research projects as ‘completed’ when the last research
payment has been acquitted and then archiving the project files, all projects are
now considered to be ‘live’ investments and their knowledge assets to have
potential value regardless of their age, consistent with Snowden’s (2002) notion
of knowledge as a ‘flow’ rather than a ‘thing’. Projects are likely to be evaluated
every several years on an ongoing basis, because as much or more is learned
from evaluating the adoption and impact of 10–15-year-old research projects as
from very recent projects.
Different knowledge domains (for example, local knowledge, Indigenous
knowledge and strategic knowledge) are considered more explicitly in addition
to formal scientific knowledge, and funding is targeted to modes of inquiry that
recognize them and understand their characteristics; for example, Community
Fellowships to help experienced amateurs share their hard-won lessons more
widely (LWA 2006).
The diverse ways in which knowledge is expressed (Snowden 2004a) are also
recognized, and LWA has experimented with different ways of drawing out and
sharing tacit, experiential knowledge among scientists, its own staff and end
users of research, including techniques such as story circles (Snowden 2004b).
The lessons from this experience are discussed in more detail in Campbell (2006),
Campbell and Schofield (2007), and Schofield (2005); however, some key points
relevant to policy audiences are distilled very briefly here.
12.4.3 The Knowledge-Seeking Behaviour of Policymakers
When LWA started to treat policymakers as an adoption target—analogous to
but different from farmers—it realized a need to know more about their
knowledge-seeking behaviour. Several broad findings emerged from reviewing
the knowledge-seeking behaviour of policy professionals in natural resource
management agencies:
They only know what they need to know when they need to know it, and so are
generally poor at defining knowledge needs or research questions.
They tend to be time-poor, information-overloaded people who do not read
anything unless they have to.
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 219
They have a very short term perspective driven by a reactive political context and
are very responsive to parliamentary ministers’ needs (which, in turn, can also
be influenced by science).
They know they need to be able to summarize information in less than a page
for the minister or the minister’s office, and hence tend to be averse to anything
that seems too complicated.
They default to trusted sources, often in-house, even when they know those
sources are out-of-date or incomplete.
They are rarely as skilled in using web-based tools or formal, refereed scientific
sources as amateur community volunteers and non-government organizations;
they tend to simply ring up the departmental library and ask ‘What have we got
on this?’
They often have a jaundiced opinion of science, research, or both, believing that
they are too slow and too expensive, and invariably answer questions that no one
has asked, usually accompanied by requests for more funding.
Against that background, LWA developed a specific engagement strategy for policy
12.4.4 Techniques to Engage Policymakers More Productively
with Science
Word limits preclude a comprehensive explanation of LWAs approaches, but some
of the most successful tools included:
Working out preferred times and places for discussing technical matters (for
example, senior executives favour breakfast briefings for face-to-face interaction,
and they are more likely to read emails with carefully distilled science information
on Sunday night at home)
Careful scoping of research questions with policy people at a very early stage in
the research process
‘Over the horizon’ issues scanning, with a quarterly analysis presented in
distilled form
Development of specific knowledge management tools targeted to the policy-
maker’s daily operating environment (one click on their Windows desktop)
Targeting talent (‘fast-track individuals’ in middle management as well as ‘key
influencers’) with special face-to-face briefings, invitations to events and distilled
Finding out who is in the minister’s ‘kitchen cabinet’ and targeting them as key
influencers (LWA keeps a register of its 100 most important key influencers
constantly updated)
Such as the NRM natural resource management toolbar:
220 A.T. Bielak et al.
Never breaking the ‘no surprises’ rule (while not being party to censorship)—
where research findings are potentially contentious or embarrassing for the
government, key senior executives or political staffers are briefed in advance, so
that they can be better prepared before issues hit the media
The most important aspect in organizing policy-useful research is to get the
research question right. This means investing in specific measures in close consul-
tation with end users to elicit and articulate knowledge needs. Done well, this process
develops understanding of the adoption context and consequently the design of the
research process from the outset. Knowledge and adoption activities should be
hard-wired into the research process throughout.
12.5 Investing in Knowledge Brokering
Knowledge brokering is typically used to refer to processes used by intermediaries
(knowledge brokers) in mediating between sources of knowledge (usually in
research) and users of knowledge. Knowledge brokering is usually applied in an
attempt to help knowledge exchange work better for the benefit of all parties. It
involves bringing people together, helping to build links, identifying gaps and
needs, and sharing ideas. It also includes assisting groups to understand each other’s
abilities and needs, and guiding people to sources of knowledge. This may include
summarizing and synthesizing research and policy into easily understood formats
and translating policy problems into researchable questions.
Knowledge brokers help to ensure relevance; that is, that research is answering
the right questions and that policy stakeholders are engaged in the inquiry process and
have some ownership of its outputs. They can also influence the research process by
providing opportunities for stakeholders to get involved in a meaningful way.
Dedicated (little c) science communications and targeted knowledge-brokering
activities are growing in importance; we are now seeing the genesis of specialized
knowledge-brokering units and job descriptions.
Such groups and individuals must be comfortable in initiating dialogue and
operating in the worlds both of the scientists and of science users, be able to fashion
research outputs into language that can be understood by the users, and help
develop researchable questions from articulated knowledge needs and deliver the
information in timely fashion. They should be trusted, valued and respected by both
communities. The information they provide must be based on robust evidence,
obviating attempts to blindly navigate the science and policy swamps, and thus
reducing transaction costs at the science–policy interface.
To design, develop and deliver these sorts of tools, LWA invested deliberately in
various forms of knowledge brokering. In fact, it now considers knowledge man-
agement and brokering to be one of its three lines of core business. The evident
success of this strategy for the organization (the non-core budget of which has
increased as a result, to the point that around 60% of its total expenditure is third-party
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 221
) should be a powerful incentive for others to understand the importance of
an appropriate balance between science-push and policy-pull and the need to invest
in dedicated mechanisms and people accordingly.
12.6 Conclusions
This chapter describes applications of an emerging model of science communica-
tions on three continents. The model goes beyond the prevalent, traditional science-
push to consider the ‘pull’ for information from those who need it. It is clear from
the literature and from our experiences that there are both a need for and clear
advantages to this new mode of science communication: instead of simply getting
messages across, we provide information that can readily be used in policy. It is
also evident that practical application of the model is far from widespread. We need
to move from theory into practice.
Timing is everything. The Canadian, UK and Australian case studies were
developed separately, but all have been informed to some extent by the work
on knowledge management by Dave Snowden, who frequently makes the point that
knowledge is most useful when it is needed. For the policy environment, in particular,
this means that robust, interactive, ongoing relationships between science and
policy, supported by good knowledge management systems, will be more effective
than traditional science communication approaches in ensuring that policy is based
on the best available knowledge.
The examples we have provided are all from the environmental sustainability
domain—one we have simplistically characterized as ‘messy’ from a policy
perspective, and one where traditional science communications approaches do not
work particularly well because science has no monopoly of sustainability
In a metaphor often used at LWA, we propose that organizations ‘fund the
arrows, not just the boxes’. Typical organizational charts are composed of boxes
connected by lines and arrows, but budgets typically allocate all funds to the boxes.
Good knowledge and adoption activities do not just happen—they have to be
resourced. In other words, money has to be allocated to the arrows as well as to the
boxes. And the arrows should be two-way.
Resilient systems to support knowledge brokering must be put in place to make
such brokering activities possible, while existing staff and new hires with the special-
ized skills to act as brokers will make them happen.
This will allow a shift from a
See LWA 2005–06 annual report, retrieved on 14 October 2007 from http://downloads.lwa2.
The UK’s Chief Science Adviser wrote in a recent article in Nature that ‘for scientific advice
to underpin government action, communications skills must be a much bigger part of scien-
tific training and culture’ (King and Thomas 2007).
222 A.T. Bielak et al.
‘products’ model, to a marketplace of products tailored to specific audiences, to iterative
knowledge brokering based on ongoing, durable relations (working with the users of
information on custom designs, and incorporating domains other than science).
Finally, given the interest in the emerging field of knowledge brokering for
environmental sustainability, and our experience that this is a diffuse domain where
the players are often working with little support, publishing in a multiplicity of
forums, perhaps with few contacts in the field, we consider that it would be very
beneficial to see a broader community of practice established to help bring people
together. We propose the creation of a regular forum dedicated to knowledge brokering,
where the community can meet and exchange information and experiences.
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The Authors
Alex Bielak (
Dr Alex Bielak became Environment Canada’s first-ever Director, S&T Liaison,
after holding senior positions with NGOs and federal and provincial government
departments. A NATO Scholar and alumnus of the Banff Centre’s inaugural Science
Communications Residency, he spearheaded development of a pilot communica-
tions training workshop for scientists, which featured as the only Canadian contri-
bution at an international conference on best practices in public S&T communication.
Alex is a dynamic and widely published speaker, and an authority on science com-
munications, and knowledge translation and brokering. His expertise is sought in
Canada and internationally, and he serves on many boards, including the Canadian
Science Writers’ Association Executive. Recent recognition of his professional and
volunteer activities includes a University of Waterloo ‘Distinguished Alumni
Award’ on the occasion of the university’s 50th anniversary.
12 From Science Communication to Knowledge Brokering 225
Andrew Campbell (
Andrew Campbell is the managing director of Triple Helix Consulting, a sustaina-
bility consultancy firm. He was previously the chief executive officer of Land &
Water Australia, an Australian Government research funding authority, from 2000
to 2006. He drew on that experience to produce The getting of knowledge (with
Nick Schofield) and The Australian natural resource management knowledge
system, published by Land & Water Australia. Before 2000, Andrew was a senior
executive in the Australian Government and Australia’s first National Landcare
Facilitator. He has qualifications in forestry from the University of Melbourne and
in the management of agricultural knowledge systems from Wageningen in The
Netherlands. Andrew’s family has been farming in south-eastern Australia since the
1860s, and he has been managing the family farm with the help of a neighbour
since 1987.
Shealagh Pope (
Now with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Shealagh Pope was a senior science
and technology policy adviser for Environment Canada, where she had been work-
ing to better understand and thereby enhance the linkages between science and
policy for environmental decision-making. She has long been interested in the com-
munication of science and the science–policy interface. Shealagh was one of the
founders of the pioneering online journal Conservation Ecology (now Ecology and
Society—, which sought to improve the dis-
semination and uptake of new research results by making them freely available
through a then-new medium—the internet. Since then, she has continued to
explore the links between knowledge management, post-normal science and evi-
dence-based decision making. Most recently, her work has focused on knowledge
brokering and the role of intermediaries in linking science and policy.
Karl Schaefer (
Karl Schaefer is a senior science policy adviser with Environment Canada’s S&T
Liaison Division in Burlington, Ontario. He has a masters degree in water resources
management and environmental economics from the University of Waterloo. He
was previously an environmental economist and Binational Programs Coordinator
with the Great Lakes Corporate Affairs Office of Environment Canada in Ontario
Region, where he worked on Great Lakes issues. He is a past member of the
International Joint Commission’s Council of Great Lakes Research Managers. At
S&T Liaison, Karl works to strengthen the science–policy link and leads the effort
to bring Environment Canada’s environmental research to a multi-sector policy and
programme community. He is exploring ways in which the science needs of that
community can better inform the development of research priorities.
Louise Shaxson (
Louise Shaxson is an independent consultant specializing in science policy and
strategy in the public sector. A Fulbright Scholar to Cornell University in 1988, she
received her MSc in agricultural economics. She worked in international develop-
ment for 12 years, initially as a micro-economist before managing research projects
226 A.T. Bielak et al.
and programmes with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity and data quality. For the
past four years, Louise has worked with a variety of UK Government departments,
designing and implementing techniques that improve the use of evidence in policy-
making. She is particularly interested in methods of stimulating rigorous dialogue
and opening up stakeholder engagement in the knowledge base for government
policy and strategy.
... As such, the exact approach to knowledge brokerage would be dictated by the specific context in which it is embedded, and must be agile enough to adapt to changing context (Chambers et al. 2021(Chambers et al. , 2022. Having said this, knowledge brokerage is typically facilitated either by an individual (or team of individuals) within academic research institutions, or in separate boundary organisations (Bielak et al. 2008;Cash et al. 2003). While anyone can engage in knowledge brokering (Ward et al. 2009), typically these activities are undertaken by an expert with the capacity and capabilities necessary to support this agenda (referred to as a knowledge broker). ...
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Research funders and managers can play a critical role in supporting the translation of knowledge into action by facilitating the brokering of knowledge and partnerships. We use semi-structured interviews with a research funding agency, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), to explore (i) ways that funders can facilitate knowledge brokering, the (ii) barriers to, and (iii) enablers for, facilitating knowledge brokering, and (iv) the individual skills and attributes for research program funders and managers to be effective brokers. Based on these findings, we generate three considerations for research funders elsewhere, in particular R4D funders, seeking to build capacity for knowledge brokering: (i) formalise the process and practice, (ii) develop shared language and understanding, and (iii) build individual competencies and capabilities. Our findings complement the existing literature with a context specific analysis of how research funders can facilitate knowledge brokering, and by identifying the barriers and enablers in doing so.
... Science-policy interfaces offer opportunities for scientists and policy makers to interact, but active participation of actors requires bringing different groups together for successful knowledge brokering (Bielak et al., 2008). Evidence use in policy making is affected by the ways actors within the process deal with ambiguity around issues and co-construct frames used to discuss issues they want to address (Dewulf et al., 2009). ...
... 'Evidence-based policy'-defined as the 'process of using high-quality information to inform decisions that are made about government policies' 8 -has the potential to improve the efficacy and efficiency of climate policies by helping policymakers use evidence like the scholarship mentioned earlier to identify 'what works' (Davies et al 2000). Although evidence-based policymaking is broadly popular and multiple groups broker knowledge between policymakers and researchers (Bielak et al 2008), a range of barriers to evidence-based policymaking remain. These include fear of the political consequences of evaluation (Goerger et al 2020) and organizational limitations (DellaVigna et al 2022). ...
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Evidence-based policymaking has the potential to improve the efficiency and impact of climate mitigation and adaptation policies, but that promise cannot be fulfilled if policymakers fail to change their minds (update their beliefs) when presented with new evidence. Research suggests that individuals often resist changing their mind, especially on polarized topics like climate action. Here we explore whether an “evidence-based policymaker” intervention can reduce resistance when policymakers interpret new information. We hypothesize that, if policymakers wish to see themselves as "evidence-based", reminding them of that identity can make changing their beliefs more comfortable. This is because belief-updating provides an opportunity to affirm their identity as an evidence-based policymaker. In two survey studies of state and local U.S. policymakers – a neutral policy pilot (n = 152) and a polarizing climate policy experiment (n = 356) – we show that the intervention was effective, even when evidence was incompatible with prior policy beliefs or party ideology. This finding suggests that making evidence-based identities salient when presenting new evidence could increase that information’s impact on climate policymaking.
... Brokers mediate between knowledge seekers and knowledge contributors (Lavis, 2006) and are important in a situation where new knowledge needs to be generated (Turnhout et al., 2013) or where new links need to be built. These individuals actively look for information gaps and find ways to bridge them (Bielak et al., 2008) suggests the important role brokers may play. As extra-team help-seeking activity increases, the value of knowledge brokers potentially increases as well. ...
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Awareness of available expertise in a group directly influences the group's performance. Extensive empirical research on transactive memory systems has demonstrated this link. While there have been numerous research studies of this phenomenon, there is far less known about how interventions designed to increase transactive memory in natural continuing groups may have impacts beyond the groups. I provide an overview of transactive memory research and report on a team intervention designed around transactive memory systems theory. Post-intervention qualitative data was collected through group interviews with participants. The results of these interviews indicate that a significant impact of within-team transactive memory system awareness is in how team members change their interactions across the team. Situated expertise is introduced and defined as the combination of knowledge awareness, help-seeking actions, external benchmarking, and blurred boundaries needed to convert accurate team transactive memory systems into high quality extra-team expertise use.
... The rich body of literature on participatory governance, best practice models for deliberative decision-making and science communication in policy contexts points into the right direction (e.g. Bielak et al., 2008;Jamieson et al., 2017;Levi-Faur, 2012, part VII; for a recent contribution in the context of COVID-19 see Norheim et al., 2021). However, there currently exists no unified model for a truly pluralistic evidence-based policymaking. ...
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We analyse insufficient epistemic pluralism and associated problems in science-based policy advice during the COVID-19 pandemic drawing on specific arguments in Paul Feyerabend’s philosophy. Our goal is twofold: to deepen our understanding of the epistemic shortcomings in science-based policy during the pandemic, and to assess the merits and problems of Feyerabend’s arguments for epistemic pluralism as well as their relevance for policy-making. We discuss opportunities and challenges of integrating a plurality of viewpoints from within and outside science into policy advice thus contributing to discussions about normative issues concerning evidence and expertise in policy-making.
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This chapter explores indirect, text-based knowledge brokering through a study of Swedish governmental reports, known as Statens offentliga utredningar (SOUs). To this end, we endeavor to gauge impact as knowledge uptake in their sources as displayed in their reference lists. Because SOUs are the outcome of commissions, we seek to position this feature of Swedish policymaking culture as an overlooked yet vital enabling condition for productive science–policy interaction where scholars and their knowledge can matter. However, doing so effectively requires a better understanding of the characteristics of impactful knowledge objects and the dynamics required to make them effective. Our analysis shows that the lion’s share of the references cited in the SOUs studied can be classified as gray literature and are published in Swedish. This suggests that scholars wanting to matter in a policy context may consider other routes besides the predominating genre of the peer-reviewed journal article in an English-language journal. Further implications of these findings are discussed vis-à-vis recent conceptualizations of agency in knowledge brokering as a lens through which to view collaborative impact in the future.
Purpose Sustainable development involves companies on an individual, organizational and social level requiring the adoption of business models or innovations capable of privileging the co-creation of mutual value with a view to sustainability. From an organizational perspective, this paper aims to show that knowledge brokers, by making explicit their roles as mediators of interactions and acting on dynamic capabilities (DCs), can generate a proactive approach to the three dimensions of sustainability and specifically allows capabilities to positively impact the propensity toward sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) practices. Design/methodology/approach This study offers an empirical analysis of 200 companies in the agro-food sector participating in a knowledge brokerage system activated by protection consortia. It uses a multiple regression technique that allows for observing relationships between DCs and SSCM. Findings Absorptive, adaptive and innovative capabilities, when understood and brokered, have a positive and direct impact on the SSCM. Originality/value As there have rarely been frameworks developed that correlate knowledge brokerage, DCs and sustainability, this paper suggests that DCs, when adequately valued by the knowledge broker, allow for identifying the requirements of the various stakeholders regarding sustainability and changes in market scenarios to generate sustainability practices along the supply chain.
Being able to operationalize the concepts of inclusion and diversity is now an integral part of change integration and management in UK higher education institutes. With emphasis on the societal impact of education as well as its role in ensuring optimal employability and widening participation for first generation graduates, being able to co-construct academic curricula is now regarded as a desirable norm. Being able to also enhance the concept of student agency also moves co-constructive approaches to curriculum development beyond merely a tokenistic gesture in the uncertain contextual backdrop of politics, culture, and the dynamics of constant change. This chapter provides an insight into curriculum design as an overall holistic structure and a mechanism of extending the context of academic praxis into the social world. The chapter posits the idea that curricula can be a strategic lens through which students' active participation and co-creation can be illuminated and further extended.
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This article critically reviews the approach to evidence based policy-making (EBPM) advanced in the Labour government's modernisation agenda. The article contends that EBPM must be understood as a project focused on enhancing the techniques of managing strategic policy-making as opposed to improving the capacities of the social sciences to influence the ‘practices of democracy’ as envisaged by Lasswell, or facilitating the kind of systems thinking advocated by Schon and by more recent students of ‘complexity’.
Biology and politics have converged today across much of the industrialized world. Debates about genetically modified organisms, cloning, stem cells, animal patenting, and new reproductive technologies crowd media headlines and policy agendas. Less noticed, but no less important, are the rifts that have appeared among leading Western nations about the right way to govern innovation in genetics and biotechnology. These significant differences in law and policy, and in ethical analysis, may in a globalizing world act as obstacles to free trade, scientific inquiry, and shared understandings of human dignity.In this magisterial look at some twenty-five years of scientific and social development, Sheila Jasanoff compares the politics and policy of the life sciences in Britain, Germany, the United States, and in the European Union as a whole. She shows how public and private actors in each setting evaluated new manifestations of biotechnology and tried to reassure themselves about their safety.Three main themes emerge. First, core concepts of democratic theory, such as citizenship, deliberation, and accountability, cannot be understood satisfactorily without taking on board the politics of science and technology. Second, in all three countries, policies for the life sciences have been incorporated into "nation-building" projects that seek to reimagine what the nation stands for. Third, political culture influences democratic politics, and it works through the institutionalized ways in which citizens understand and evaluate public knowledge. These three aspects of contemporary politics, Jasanoff argues, help account not only for policy divergences but also for the perceived legitimacy of state actions.