Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 91–101 | Cite as

Knowledge and information needs of adaptation policy-makers: a European study

  • Susanne Hanger
  • Stefan Pfenninger
  • Magali Dreyfus
  • Anthony Patt
Original Article


Across Europe, national governments have started to strategically plan adaptation to climate change. Making adaptation decisions is difficult in the light of uncertainties and the complexity of adaptation problems. Already large amounts of research results on climate impacts and adaptive measures are available, and more are produced and need to be mediated across the boundary between science and policy. Both researchers and policy-makers have started to intensify efforts to coproduce knowledge that is valuable to both communities, particularly in the context of climate change adaptation. In this paper, we present results from a study of adaptation governance and information needs, comparing eight European countries. We identify sources and means for the retrieval of information as well as gaps and problems with the knowledge provided by scientists and analyzed whether these appear to be contingent on the point in the policy-making cycle where countries are. We find that in this early phase of adaptation planning, the quality of the definition of needs, the way uncertainty is dealt with, and the quality of science–policy interaction are indeed contingent on the stage of adaptation planning, while information needs and sources are not. We conclude that a well-developed science–policy interface is of key importance for effective decision-making for adaptation.


Adaptation Boundary organization Europe Policy cycle Public policy Science–policy interface 



This work was funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Program through the project Methodology for Effective Decision-making on Impacts and AdaptaTION (MEDIATION) coordinated by Prof. Rob Swart at the University of Wageningen. An earlier and longer version of these results can be found in Deliverable 1.1 of that project. We wish to thank the co-authors on that deliverable Anna Dubel, Nuria Hernández-Mora, Paloma Esteve, Consuelo Varela-Ortega and Paul Watkiss, and numerous other project colleagues, all of whom provided valuable insights in framing our questions and interviewing stakeholders. We would also like to thank all the interviewees who provided us with data for this study and two reviewers, one of whom stood out with particular useful and concrete comments that helped improving this article. Any remaining errors of fact or interpretation are our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne Hanger
    • 1
  • Stefan Pfenninger
    • 1
  • Magali Dreyfus
    • 2
  • Anthony Patt
    • 1
  1. 1.International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)LaxenburgAustria
  2. 2.United Nations University—Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), 6F, International Organizations Centre Pacifico-YokohamaYokohamaJapan

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