Policy impact assessment – a venue for the science policy interface

Katharina Helming, Aranka Podhora, Hannes König


Policy making aims to align agricultural production with multifunctional services such as environmental conservation, rural development, and economic competitiveness. Policies counteract or reinforce external driving forces such as climate change, global economic developments, demography, consumption patterns. They considerably affect decision making of farmers. Because of the interaction and non-linear feedback loops with socio-economic and geophysical processes of the land use systems, policies are difficult to design, and their impacts are difficult to anticipate.

The policy making community articulates an emerging demand for science based evidence in support of the policy process. Ex-ante impact assessment of policy making provides the legal basis to fuel scientific evidence into the policy process. For researchers, impact assessment is a means to structure the analysis of human-environment interactions. For policy makers, impact assessment is a means to better target policy decisions towards sustainable development. The integration of both requires a mutual understanding of the respective objectives and operational restrictions within the scientific and policy-making domains.

This paper provides insight into the process of policy impact assessment and how research based methods and tools can best feed into it. Three aspects are outlined: the co-design of the assessment between policy makers and researchers; the integration of quantitative analysis with participatory valuation methods; and the robustness and transparency of the analytical methods.

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