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Dissertation: In between two worlds? Science-policy interaction in Finnish environmental governance

Press release 2020-06-16 at 15:05
According to the doctoral dissertation by Sanna-Riikka Saarela, the interaction of actors in research and environmental policy requires that the researcher should have an understanding of how the scientific knowledge relates to other information that is important from the point of view of policy.

Solving complex societal problems requires interaction between researchers and actors in environmental policy. According to a new doctoral dissertation, this interaction has started to expand in Finland only in the past few years. Sanna-Riikka Saarela, head of unit at the Finnish Environment Institute, writes in her dissertation that the interaction between science and policy should be tailored to suit each individual policy problem and each individual related phase. Saarela will defend her dissertation at the University of Helsinki on Wednesday, 24 June.

“To solve complex problems affecting society it is important to understand how scientific knowledge is produced, how it is utilised in the preparation of environmental policy, and how different actors see their roles”, Sanna-Riikka Saarela says.

The case studies in her dissertation are linked with the evaluation of the impacts on policy, energy and climate policy, urban planning, and forest bioenergy policy.

We need an understanding of the nature of each current policy problem

The dissertation shows that the relationship between researchers and the civil servants who draft policy has begun to develop in a more interactive direction only in recent years in environment governance in Finland. Researchers interviewed for the study said, for example, that thanks to the interaction, their understanding of the multidimensional character of the problems has expanded, which they found to be useful also from the point of view of further research. On the other hand, some of the researchers felt that much time is spent on interaction, which detracts from the actual research work.

”To be capable of planning functional science-policy interaction, researchers and policymakers need an adequate understanding of the nature of the policy problem at hand, factors in the background of the process, and all of the actors who are involved”, explains Sanna-Riikka Saarela. ”This often means that the researcher must do thorough background work, engage in multidisciplinary thought, and have an understanding of how the scientific knowledge relates to other data that is important from the point of view of policy.”

Based on the dissertation, the science-policy interaction should be planned carefully. The interaction should be tailored to correspond to each phase of an individual policy problem. Approaches to interaction should be developed together, and the impacts of the interaction should also be evaluated in retrospect.

Qualitative material based on interviews and observations, as well as documentary material were collected for the dissertation from three Finnish case studies and from one international comparative case study.

Further information:

Sanna-Riikka Saarela, MSc., Head of Unit, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE
tel. +358 295 251 587, firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi

Sanna-Riikka Saarela will defend her doctoral dissertation on 24 June 2020 at 12.00 in the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki. The event will be in English.

Address: University of Helsinki, PII, Yliopistonkatu 4, Helsinki. A limited number of seats are available to the public, and it will also be possible to watch a video stream of the event.
Events of the University of Helsinki

Dissertation: In between two worlds? Science-policy interaction in Finnish environmental governance


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