Here comes the sun: young spirit for science policy exchange

[From the floors]

By Verena Müller, NeFo-Team und Yves Zinngrebe, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

For young scientists it’s often difficult to get involved in global science policy processes, such as IPBES. Expert groups and task forces primarily rely on the support of established scientist from renown institutions and long lasting experience are selected. However, according to environmental minister Hendricks in the opening session of IPBES-3, young scientists are essential to the development of IPBES processes. In order to connect and organize ourselves as “early career scientists (ECS)” and to approach the task of engaging in science policy processes, we founded the Biodiversity Science-Policy-Interface Network (BSPIN).

The highlight so far: Our first network meeting in 2015 took place on the UN campus here in Bonn in advance to IPBES-3 thanks to the kindly provision of rooms by the IPBES secretariat. The event was primarily intended to debate our role in participating in the interface between biodiversity science and policy such as IPBES, to get to know each other and to form working groups to turn our ambitious objectives into specific activities.

23 participants that we managed to get on board showed up and were warmly welcomed and supported in their motivations by the IPBES secretariat, represented by their executive director Anne Laurigauderie and Thomas Koetz, as well as Nicola Breier, the national IPBES and CBD focal point from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. Additionally, our members Malte Timte, Daniel Suarez and Katja Heubach provided us with a first hand insight on participatory processes in the IPBES process. Based on this information, we could plan our active participation on IPBES-3. As a second crucial agenda item, each participant could present their experience, research focus and interest in BSPIN and science-policy processes. It was interesting to see that most of our members do interdisciplinary research and exchange perspective on common research interests.

One lively discussed question on this event was to how to link our own research to political interests? On one hand research defines research gaps and gives recommendation to policy. Nevertheless, they largly depend on public research funds. On the other hand, political processes have important issues on their agenda and allocate funds to the investigation of those issues. We discussed how those two processes interact with each other in our daily realities The importance of timing of the publication of relevant results in relation to political developments was highlighted as was the experience that epistemic specificities of different disciplines are often an obstacle to effective communication of scientific results. It was very important and interesting that our participants from the global south could shed light on their difficulties of receiving research grants for independent research projects in their countries.

The event culminated in the discussion of ideas for further activities: Taking into account that we are not yet sponsored and have to dedicate most of our time to our research projects, resources are limited. However, the disposition of participants allowed aiming for the organisation of workshops, summer schools, exchange of information, organisation in regional groups and active participation in Science Policy processes. Processes like our current participation on IPBES-3 where it’s easy to “get lost” if you wouldn’t have reviewing on the floors or after the plenary sessions in the evening.

Besides our activities here around IPBES-3 there have been many actions more: We’ve established diverse links of communication with members such as the google group and facebook page and organized a side event on “How can science really contribute to global biodiversity governance?” on the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) conference in South Korea last autumn.

Thus, all of our events were a real success in many ways, from finding peers in our interests regarding the interface between science and policy, to exchange scientific perspectives or to enrich our understanding by sharing experiences. It is clear that the network lives of the energy that our members put into the process and we want to further encourage young scientists to become engaged. Additionally it would be splendid if the political process would recognise the importance of young scientists by interacting with us, including us in their activities and support us in our budget. We’re already looking forward to further events, especially our summer school in 2016.


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