The Science–Policy Relationship Hierarchy (SPRHi) model of co-production: how climate science organizations have influenced the policy process in Canadian case studies
Can better-functioning science–policy relationships (SPRs) address the seeming discrepancy between the scientific consensus on climate change and the insufficient ensuing policy outcomes? Certain scholarly works on science–policy interfaces and evidence-based policy are optimistic, while the literature on research utilization is pessimistic. The field of science, technology, and society and the concept of co-production advance a broader view, suggesting that more holistic (i.e., institutional or systemic) changes may offer a way forward. This article synthesizes causal claims from such literatures into an analytical framework of potential pathways from co-productive SPR characteristics to policy action. It then investigates, through expert interviews, three climate SPRs in Canada: a municipal-level case between the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium and local communities, a provincial-level case between the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and the Climate Action Secretariat, and a national-level case between the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences and the federal government. In light of the analytical framework, the cases suggest a theoretical hierarchy of function for SPRs: incidental interaction (at the bottom), basic partnership, interactive dialogue, and true co-production (at the top), each of which can be coupled with a supplementary network (to the side). This template is presented as the Science–Policy Relationship Hierarchy model. Collectively, the cases and the model reveal causal pathways that may explain why any given SPR ends up functioning the way it does (e.g., external political conditions are important), implying prescriptions for improvement. Besides the analytical framework and model, the main contribution is the finding that co-productive strategies are unlikely to lead to concrete policy changes on their own, but are crucial for cultivating soft policy influences and side benefits.
KeywordsAdaptation Canada Climate change Co-production Evidence-based policy Research utilization Science–policy interfaces
Funding was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the University of Victoria.
Compliance with ethical standards
The process of recruiting and interviewing participants was approved by the research ethics board of the host university.
Conflict of interest
The author declares no conflict of interest.
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