WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE TO SWEDEN?
Our society is constantly taking steps to improve the environment. Sometimes, however, not enough is known about the repercussions of the various measures concerned. Are the ongoing management initiatives backed by scientific evidence? Are they cost-effective? Might they even be harmful? The effects of specific environmental impacts or the extent to which changes in the natural environment are due to human activities are not always known either. This lack of knowledge makes it harder to deal adequately with threats to the environment. It also makes efficient use of available resources difficult.
EviEM seeks to promote environmental management that rests on solid foundations of knowledge. The basis for making decisions will improve and the same will, we hope, apply to environmental management. All the reviews we carry out meet explicit needs on the part of public agencies and other decision-makers.
Sif Johansson, Programme Director for EviEM
HOW CAN EviEM HELP SWEDEN TO MEET THE CHALENGE?
The Mistra Council for Evidence-Based Environmental Management (EviEM) works to bring about environmental management that rests on scientific foundations. The aim is, through systematic reviews of a range of environmental questions, to improve documentation for decisions in Swedish environmental work. To survey the scientific documentation on various environmental issues, we use a method known as ‘systematic review’ (or ‘systematic literature review’).
A systematic review involves retrieving, in a meticulously planned and documented way, all scientific publications that may be of interest in the context. Results from the studies that prove useful are then compiled and compared with one another. At this stage, too, very careful documentation of the work takes place. This enables the review and its assessments subsequently to be scrutinised in detail. One fundamental purpose of evidence-based environmental management is to use the resources available as efficiently as possible.
Systematic reviews form the basis of all evidence-based activities, not only those relating to the environment. Mistra EviEM’s work in evidence-based environmental management is virtually unique in Sweden and has few international counterparts. On the other hand, models in other areas — especially medicine — exist.
WHO BENEFITS FROM THE RESULTS?
Mistra EviEM examines and reports on the scientific documentation, but issues no recommendations on how the results should be used. Instead, all the evaluations carried out have clearly defined recipients.
It is usually public agencies, along with other decision-makers and stakeholders in Swedish environmental management, who propose subjects for EviEM’s reviews. These bodies will then be able to benefit from the results and translate them into practical environmental work. The final decisions on which questions are to be reviewed are taken by EviEM’s independent Executive Committee.
“For us at the Ministry of the Environment it’s crucial to know that our environmental measures have scientific support. I believe that EviEM can help us choose the right options.”
Erik Arnberg, in charge of research issues at the Ministry of the Environment.
Every review is conducted in project form by a specially appointed team comprising researchers in the field concerned and a project manager from Mistra EviEM’s Secretariat. The results are published in comprehensive scientific reports, but EviEM will also publish summaries (in Swedish) for the general reader.
Work on the first three reviews started in autumn 2012. Each review will normally take one to two years to complete, and when activities are fully operational EviEM should be able to carry out four or five studies of this kind in parallel.