Automatgenererad bild.

14 April 2014

‘Research must tell hard truths — and help policymaking’

Environmental research focuses increasingly on social issues, human behaviour and policy. This emerged at Mistra’s second anniversary seminar in mid-March. This time, the focus was on environmental policy.

Mistra’s policy-oriented programmes were central to discussions during the seminar at Norra Latin, Stockholm, on 18 March. Executive Director Lars-Erik Liljelund started off the day by pointing out that environmental research had changed from being confined to the periodic system to including the social system as well, and becoming more socially oriented.

Contributions to the seminar dealt with the ability to engage in interdisciplinary work and how new programmes are devised. Another question discussed was how research can help politicians and other decision-makers in negotiations and decision processes.

Key decision support

Researchers and participants in Mistra programmes were on the list of speakers. So, too, was a representative of the Government, Gustaf Lind, State Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and departing Chair of the Arctic Council.

Lind emphasised that two kinds of research are needed: the kind that expresses hard truths that hurt politicians to hear, and research that is closer to policy realities and can therefore be used as decision support. He stressed the importance of research documentation in decision-making, and pointed out that negotiations between parties are always easier if they rest on a solid knowledge base.

Lars Anell from the Swedish Research Council described the Entwined programme, which he chairs. Some of its most important results, in his opinion, consisted in the new, boundary-crossing collaborations that have arisen.

Broad palette of social scientists necessary

Carina Keskitalo, a political scientist and scientific programme director of the newly started Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development programme, underlined the importance of social scientists and naturalists cooperating on equal terms in the programmes, and emphasised the need for a wide range of social scientists. She also proposed that research funders should assist by providing contacts with high-level principals. These contacts may be difficult for individual researchers or programme managers to obtain.

The moderator for the seminar was Eva Krutmeijer, a research communicator. The one-day seminar was the second in the series being held to celebrate Mistra’s 20th anniversary. It culminated in a discussion of how programme initiatives can be just as good, or even better, in the future.

Text: Thomas Heldmark, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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