Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 1049–1062 | Cite as

Toward design principles for joint knowledge production projects: lessons from the deepest polder of The Netherlands

  • Dries Hegger
  • Annemarie Van Zeijl-Rozema
  • Carel Dieperink
Original Article


In various countries, actors try to reconcile climate science and policy through joint knowledge production (JNP). While many conceptual analyses of JNP exist, empirical studies that actually try to assess JNP processes are rare. This paper aims to fill this gap through an empirical analysis of the ‘Hotspot Zuidplaspolder’ project in which scientists, policymakers and other actors collaboratively looked for ways to ‘climate proof’ existing plans for urban development in one of the deepest polders of the Netherlands. The analysis is done by identifying and explaining the credibility and salience of the knowledge produced as well as the perceived legitimacy of the JNP process. Seven success factors derived from existing literature were used in the analysis. Stakeholders appeared to evaluate this project as positive, but the analysis shows that criteria and thresholds regarding success differ between the actors involved. We found three underlying design principles that should be followed to enhance the success of future JNP projects. First, it is necessary to organize several instances for reflection on the project processes. Second, new reward structures are needed to stimulate actors to take new initiatives and come up with creative ideas. Third, projects and programs should provide room to make mistakes and learn from them. This first set of empirical design principles for JNP is useful but should be further refined and nuanced in order to better deal with the social complexity of climate change and other wicked problems.


Joint knowledge production Knowledge Co-production Science–policy interface Climate change adaptation Success factors Land-use planning Regional level 



This paper was prepared with the support of the Dutch National Partnership for Sustainable Earth Research. We thank the interviewees for their collaboration and their feedback on our analysis. We would also like to thank René Kemp, Peter Driessen, Astrid Offermans, Ron Cörvers, Jeanine Schreurs and Harro van Lente for their constructive comments on earlier versions of this paper as well as Clare Barnes and Tina Newstead for their language corrections.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dries Hegger
    • 1
  • Annemarie Van Zeijl-Rozema
    • 2
  • Carel Dieperink
    • 1
  1. 1.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Maastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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