United Nations
Environment Programme

Recommendations on Strengthening the Science Policy Interface

Bridging the gap between science and the policy is still considered one of the main challenges of our era.  Governments, international organizations and the wide range of stakeholders involved along the chain which connects the information production and its use in the decision making process at different scales, have raised this issue many years ago, pushing the international agenda to take concrete action to implement an effective and inclusive science-policy interface. This issue is even more prominent when we talk about the environment with a holistic approach. To date, especially if focusing at national level, decision making process is still based on anectodal evidence more than on empirical one. This situation derives from several conditions, some more concrete, others more abstract.

A big challenge still concerns an existing data gap. Despite great progresses have been made by scientists to fill the gap in the environment statistical knowledge, many areas still remain incomplete and broad/free access to this information represents an utopist concept. 

Information transmission and communication represents also an issue. Integrated environmental assessments, considered as the main tool to inform decision makers, have often been criticized for lacking empirical evidence and to use a technical language clearly understandable only to professionals. 

Existing advisory bodies, without a common strategy and regulated according to various procedures, have often failed in being effective to bridge the gap between science and policy.

More than that, in many cases, the distance between the science and policy intervention spheres, stems from more profound reasons linked to the education system, culture and history of a particular geographic area. 

Finally, when focusing at the policy level, examples of policies encouraging or imposing the use of evidence based in the decision making process still represent an exception. 

In this context resolution 1/ 4 adopted during UNEA 1 and resolution 2/5 on “Delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted during UNEA 2 have confirmed the need to enforce the Science-Policy interface and the key role UNEP and UNEA should play in this sense, encouraging not only the compilation of high-quality, internationally comparable data for monitoring the state of the environment, progress toward MEAs and to inform environmental assessments but, also in promoting the use of evidenced-based national planning processes, which should include environment data monitoring frameworks that cover the environment in all relevant national, sectorial and local plans.  

In this sense, during the first 2 editions of the United Nations Environment Assembly, it has been required to UNEP to conduct “a gap analysis report on environmental data, information and assessments as well as recommendations on policy instruments for a strengthened science-policy interface" .