Possibilities for collaborative learning through the establishment of an informal science-policy community - Science-policy collaboration in the case of social assessment exercise in Hungary
Environmental Sciences and Policy Central European University Budapest, Hungary
Water management and nature protection measures may often not reach their original goals due to the attitude and behaviour of local resource users. Social assessment (SA) techniques can play a key role in exploring the background of unexpected land use conflicts by eliciting the knowledge and preferences of local resource users. Participatory research theory suggests that the involvement of policy-makers in such participatory processes can facilitate mutual learning, resulting in policy that considers local knowledge and preferences and a greater acceptance of the policy by resource users.
The paper examines the collaboration process between science and policy as represented by the involvement of policy makers in a SA exercise focusing on the elicitation of knowledge and the articulation of values local people attach to ecosystem services. The research drawing upon this exercise evaluates the extent to which policy involvement in the case of the SA process can be an essential tool for science-policy integration through the establishment of an informal science-policy community. It studies whether and under what conditions collaborative learning can appear. It also examines the way in which such science-policy collaboration (SPC) could contribute to the design and implementation land use change measures. Also, it explores the impact that the assessment exercise has on exploring and managing conflicts emerging between nature conservationists and local resource users.
The SPC research can be conceptualised as mutual learning between local, scientific and policy perspectives through SCP, where bi-directional knowledge flow, knowledge interface and sharing can be present. The SPC research follows the methodological approach of action research with the goal of reaching social change in a narrow segment of the Hungarian scientific and policy community. It uses participatory techniques to involve national, regional and local policy-makers. Both individual and group assessment techniques are applied to study the attitude of policy-makers following and commenting on SA.
The paper discusses the advantages and the disadvantages of policy involvement, the expectations and the difficulties faced, and give some reflections on the process. It presents the opportunities for SCP and their contribution to science-policy integration, social learning and conflict resolution by consensus building in detail.