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GeoPolicy: How to communicate science to policy officials – tips and tricks from the experts

GeoPolicy: How to communicate science to policy officials – tips and tricks from the experts

The EGU General Assembly was bigger than ever this year. Over 16,500 people attended more than 500 sessions. Although many sessions featured policy-relevant science, the short course entitled ‘Working at the science policy interface‘ focused purely on the role of scientists within the policy landscape. For those of you that couldn’t attend, this month’s GeoPolicy post takes a closer look at what was discussed.

The short course consisted of three panellists; Katja Rosenbohm, Head of Communications at the European Environment Agency (EEA), Panos Panagos, Senior Research Scientist in the Land Resource Unit at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), and Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Head of the IPCC AR6 Working Group 1 (IPCC). Each speaker gave a short presentation, introducing their respective institutions  and how their work connects science to policy. The session concluded with questions taken from the audience. EGU Press Assistant, Hazel Gibson (@iamhazelgibson), live-tweeted the session and a Storify of the tweets can be found here.

 

Katja Rosenbohm & the EEA: assessing if the EU is achieving its policy goals 

The European Environment Agency (EEA) provides independent information on the environment to European and national level policy makers, as well as to the general public. Katja spoke of the EEA’s State of the Environment Reports which are published every 5 years. These reports give ‘a comprehensive assessment of the European environment’s state, trends and prospects, in a global context’ and include analysis of 11 global megatrends, 9 cross-country comparisons, and 25 European environmental briefings. These reports help the EU analyse whether current policy is achieving their desired goals.

The 2015 State of the Environment Report concludes with 4 key messages:

  • Policies have delivered substantial benefits for the environment, economy and people’s well-being; major challenges remain
  • Europe faces persistent and emerging challenges linked to production and consumption systems, and the rapidly changing global context
  • Achieving the 2050 vision requires system transitions, driven by more ambitious actions on policy, knowledge, investments and innovation
  • Doing so presents major opportunities to boost Europe’s economy and employment and put Europe at the frontier of science and innovation

A copy of Katja’s slides can be found here.

 

Panos Panagos & the JRC: the policy cycle & communicating your research

Panos introduced the JRC, the European Commission’s in-house research centre. The JRC has a near-unique position in which all its research directly provides scientific and technical support to policy. As a result, all research at the JRC tries to solve the societal challenges of our time, i.e. food security, energy resources, climate change, innovation and growth etc. Panos explained that scientific evidence can be used to assist policy at all stages of the ‘policy cycle’ (see figure below) but scientists must learn how to present their research so that policy officials can understand.

The Policy Cycle and where scientific evidence can be used. Slide taken from Panos Panagos' talk. Full presentation can be foudn here.

The Policy Cycle and where scientific evidence can be used. Slde taken from Panos Panagos’ talk. Full presentation can be found here.

Factors needed for scientific evidence to inform policy:

  • TRUST because if there is no trust, the evidence will be ignored
  • TIMING / RELEVANCE is vital and should be provided as early as possible in the policy cycle. The speed of scientific response after a specific event is crucial – evidence can be submitted too late, after a policy decision has been made.
  • FORM should not be a 500 page report. It should be concise. Policy makers do not have time to read long reports or interpret data.
  • FORMAT provide policymakers with concise, visual input so that they can quickly understand the main messages – graphs should have a maximum of 3 colours!
  • PRACTICE the science-policy relationship needs to move from being a formal, arms-length, linear relationship, to an iterative one where questions and answers are generated through co-creation by both scientists and policymakers

A copy of Panos’ slides can be found here where you can learn more about the JRC and the projects they have been involved with.

 

Valérie Masson-Delmotte & the IPCC: what’s next after COP21?

Valérie spoke of the IPCC and how these reports inform world leaders and policy officials about climate change. The IPCC is split into three Working Groups (WG):

  • WG1: understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change;
  • WG2: its potential impacts
  • WG3: options for adaptation and mitigation.

Last year, Valérie was appointed co-chair of the WG1 for the next set of IPCC reports (AR6) which will be published in 2022/3. In her talk, Valérie stressed that ‘the IPCC should be policy relevant but not policy proscriptive’. Scientists should not over-step their mark and become advocates of their research, they must remain unbiased and present their research professionally.

Scientists can indirectly assist policy by contributing to these IPCC reports; either through their academic papers or by becoming co-authors or editors. Three more-focused special reports will be published over the next few years. These are:

  • In the context of the Paris Agreement, special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways;
  • A special report on climate change and oceans and the cryosphere;
  • A special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems, considering challenges and opportunities both for adaptation and mitigation.

In addition a methodological report on greenhouse gas inventories has also be scheduled for early 2019.

If you can communicate your science to high school students, you are at the right level for policy makers!

When asked about how scientists should communicate their research to policy officials, Valérie suggested that scientists ‘practice’ communicating with teenagers. A 15 year old will quickly tell you if you are making sense or not and you will be able to clarify your meaning.

A copy of Valérie’s slides can be found here.

 

Discussions

The session concluded with a panel discussion and audience members were invited to ask questions. General themes encompassed science communication, science funding, and the division between science and politics.

A couple of the Q&As are listed below.

  • Is there a lack of knowledge in scientists about policy and how can we change that?

Yes but this can be reduced through the creation of networks and collaborations to encourage increasing participation from scientists to policy (bottom up communications). Perhaps an early career scientist and policy worker pairing scheme could help engagement soon rather than later?

  • Is there a fundamental problem with politicians being more accountable to financial interests than good science?

Politicians can use any excuse to get rid of something costly and research is expensive. It is the role of the scientist to explain the value of our research to stop this from happening.

Further discussions are covered in the Storify post created from this session. More general information about science policy can be found on the EGU policy resources website: http://www.egu.eu/policy/resources/

Communicate Your Science Competition Winner Announced!

Congratulations to Beatriz Gaite, the winner of the Communicate Your Science Video Competition 2016. Beatriz is a researcher at the department of Earth’s Structure and Dynamics and Crystallography at the Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra Jaume Almera (ICTJA-CSIC), in Spain.

Want to communicate your research to a wider audience and try your hand at video production? Early career scientists  who pre-registered for the 2017 EGU General Assembly are invited to take part in the EGU’s Communicate Your Science Video Competition! Find out more – importantly, when to submit your entries – about the competition!

What’s on in Vienna this weekend

What’s on in Vienna this weekend

The General Assembly is coming to an end, with only one full day left to go. Many of the participants will make their way home over the weekend, but if you’ve chosen to stay on for a little longer, then this list of cultural activities and things to do in Vienna might just be the ticket!

Vienna Blues Spring Festival What’s on this weekend

What better way to relax after a long week of exciting science than with a beer and some blues. Tap your feet to the beat with Vienna’s blues festival this weekend. Find out more about what’s on offer and get yourself some tickets here.

The Long Night of Research

From science in the conference centre to science in the city. Bridge the gap between science and society with Vienna’s long night of research this evening. The Long Night of Research is a free event where science will be shared all over the city in innovative and entertaining ways! Check out what’s on the event website.

Wine tasting in Vienna’s vineyards

One of the best ways to see Vienna is by bike – and there’s no shortage of tours on offer. One of our favourites combines the beauty of the city with the region’s famous vineyards. Take a tour along the Danube to a delicious destination and unwind after the week’s excitement. Here’s where to get your guide.

One of Austria’s many vineyards. Credit: Verita, Wikimedia Commons.

One of Austria’s many vineyards. Credit: Verita, Wikimedia Commons.

Walk in the woods

Take a breath of fresh air and stretch your legs outside the city in a wonderful woodland. Wienerwald is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. Rolling hills, lush vegetation and incredible biodiversity, what’s not to like?

Meet me at the Prater!

If you don’t feel like visiting the Prater Park this weekend, why not find out more about this history of this funfair in the middle of the capital at the Wein Museum. From its days as the hunting grounds of the Imperial Hapsburg Court, to a sporting arena and festival ground, this exhibition has objects from over 250 years of socialising at the Prater.

The Apple Strudel Show

If you have enjoyed a delicious strudel this week at the conference, you might want to find out how they’re made – so head over to the Cafe Reidenz to watch, every hour, as a pâtissier hand draws and bakes from scratch a true Viennese strudel.

Scrumptious apple strudel. Credit: Arnold Gatilao, Wikimedia Commons.

Scrumptious apple strudel. Credit: Arnold Gatilao, Wikimedia Commons.

Vienna Imperial Court Music Ensemble at the Hofburg Chapel

If you are interested in a traditional mass, accompanied by a musical ensemble that has been in existence since 1498, you might want to attend the Sunday mass at the chapel in the Hofburg Palace. Experience this beautiful little chapel filled with the music of the internationally renowned Vienna Boys Choir. Find out more here.

Visit Slovakia

You might not realise it, but the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, is approximately an hour’s journey away from Vienna, by bus, train or boat. If you fancy a visit to this intriguing city with its 18th century, pedestrianised old town, it is easily achieved in a day trip from Vienna.

 

By Sara Mynott & Hazel Gibson, Press Assistants at the EGU General Assembly

At the Assembly: Thursday highlights

At the Assembly: Thursday highlights

Welcome to the fourth day of General Assembly excitement! Once again the day is packed with great events for you to attend and here are just some of the sessions on offer. You can find out more about what’s on in EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly – grab a copy on your way in or download it here.

The Union-wide session of the day focuses on deep geofluids as the bringers of change (US2). The physics, chemistry and biology of subsurface fluids will de addresses in a series of talks. Discover more from 15:30­–19:00 in l6.

Thursday sees the final two lectures in the series celebrating this year’s conference theme: Active Planet.  From 13:30, François Forget (Institut Pierre Simon Laplace) will talk about other active worlds in the solar system. (TL5: 13:30 – 15:00 / Room 0.93). Immediately after you can enjoy a talk about The Active Liquid Earth (TL:3: 15:30 – 17:00 / Room 0.93) highlighting the importance of considering temporal and spatial variability of the liquid Earth.

Thursday also sees another interesting Great Debate take place: Public peer review in open access publications, pros and cons (GDB, from 15:30–17:00 in E1). In public peer review, papers submitted to a peer-review journal are first published in a public discussion forum. The aim is to foster scientific discussion by making public review more transparent. But the system has its critics.  Join the debate! Tune into to the session on Twitter using the #EGU16GDB hashtag or online at http://www.egu2016.eu/webstreaming.html.

Today’s interdisciplinary highlights include sessions on…

Take the opportunity to expand your skills in one of today’s short courses and splinter meetings. Be sure to share what you learn on social media using the hashtag #EGU16SC:

A few of last year's awardees with the EGU President and Vice-President at the EGU 2015 Awards Ceremony. (Credit: EGU/Foto Pfluegl)

A few of last year’s awardees with the EGU President and Vice-President at the EGU 2015 Awards Ceremony. (Credit: EGU/Foto Pfluegl)

There’s also a number of Medal Lectures on throughout the day – here’s a sample of what’s on offer:

What have you thought of the Assembly so far? Let us know at www.egu2016.eu/feedback, and share your views on what future EGU meetings should be like!

If you need a change of pace, stop by the Imaggeo Photo Exhibition beside the EGU Booth (Hall X2, basement, Brown Level). You can vote for your favourite finalists there and – while you’re in the area – take the opportunity to meet your Division’s representatives in today’s Meet EGU appointments. While on the subject of competitions, make sure to ‘like’ your favourite  Communicate Your Science Video Competition film on the EGU YouTube channel.

Have a lovely day!

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