Scientific assessments are processes in which the boundaries between science and policy are constantly negotiated in order to ensure that science and policy have authority in their respective arenas.11 Such negotiations are in fact central to science-policy relationship in general and a way to uphold the boundary between the two spheres and to make sure that the knowledge is generally accepted as valid and useful.12 This is aptly illustrated by the ACIA process in the increasing demarcation of the policy process from the scientific domain. However, the ACIA process also points to the importance of appropriate arenas for the boundary work, including the role of boundary organizations. Boundary organizations answer to both the science and the policy worlds and serve as ways to manage the science-policy hybrids.13
In previous circumpolar assessments, the politically mandated working groups functioned as natural boundary organizations or arenas. However, the ACIA process was a joint project of two working groups (AMAP and CAFF), whereas the Assessment Steering Committee had responsibility not only for the scientific assessment but also for the the overview document that was to communicate the scientific outcome to policy makers. This structure limited the role of the working groups in connecting science to policy needs. These observations point to the lack of boundary organization as one of the potential reasons for the overview document's lack of credibility with some policy makers,
11 Farrell and Jäger, "Overview. Understanding Design Choices," 14.
12 Tora Skodvin and Arild Underdal, "Exploring the Dynamics of the Science-Policy Interaction," in
Science and Politics in International Environmental Regimes, eds. Steinar Andresen, Tora Skodvin, Arild Underdal, and Jorgen Wettestad, 22-34 (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000).
13 Guston, "Boundary Organizations in Environmental Policy and Science: An Introduction"; Clark Miller, "Hybrid Management: Boundary Organizations, Science Policy, and Environmental Governance in the Climate Regime," Science, Technology & Human Values 26, (2001): 478; David W. Cash, William C. Clark, Frank Alcock, Nancy M. Dickson, Noelle Eckley, David H. Guston, Jill Jäger, and Ronald B. Mitchell, "Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Development," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 100, no. 14 (2003): 8086.
particularly within the US State Department. Such a conclusion is in line with results from the Global Environmental Assessment Project, where Mitchell et al. concluded that an assessment's influence flows from the process rather than from its reports and that bridging boundaries between the users and the producers of the assessment is essential for making the assessment effective.14 Thus, if boundary organizations function well, they make the process legitimate in the eyes of both policy makers and scientists. If they do not function well, or are not present or placed at the margin, a lack of hybrid management weakens the direct policy impact of a scientific assessment. This is what happened in the case of ACIA where the policy document does not make any major new commitments.
The lack of new commitments does not mean that the ACIA did not or will not influence policy, but it suggests that any potential influence is likely to be indirect. One potential route of influence is via the US congressional hearing where the ACIA was prominently featured. Another route is through the mass media. The end of the ACIA policy process illustrates the role that media attention played in the United States finally agreeing to a policy document. Media attention can potentially change public opinion consequently effecting what is politically feasible. This study did not follow the media impact of the ACIA, but an indication of impacts is that the ACIA chair has been labeled as the tide-turner in the US climate debate.15
The lack of bridging organizations may have been less important in relation to actors who already agreed on the main messages of the report - that climate change is real and happening here and now. There is at least no sign in the empirical material of other countries questioning the overview document or the assessment process. In this case, the message from the assessment was in line with current climate policies. In fact, if other countries had not pushed so hard for a policy document and if they had not had additional support for their position from the combined effects of indigenous peoples' outreach activities and media, the ACIA may not have had a policy outcome at all or an even weaker one. As an historical note pointing to the critical role of effective boundary organizations, it is worth remembering that when the IPCC was created in the late 1980s, a key driver for its design was to ensure that the process would reflect the views of not only science but also those of governments, in contrast to the Advisory Group of Greenhouse Gases, which was non-governmental in character.16 This has not stopped US actors from calling IPCC's assessment results into question, indicating that even if boundary organizations are essential they are not single-handedly sufficient for science to influence policy. However, the ACIA process indicates that the lack of the formal sites for the co-production of science and policy in the form of boundary organizations can create extra hurdles when scientists want to communicate their knowledge to policy makers.
14 Mitchell, et al. "Information and Influence," 324.
15 The Rolling Stone Magazine, "Warriors and Heroes," http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/8742145/warriors_hereoes/ (Accessed 2 July 2006).
16 Wendy E. F. Torrence, "Science and Salience: Building an Agenda for Climate Change," in Global Environmental Assessments. Information and Influence, eds. Ronald B. Mitchell, William C. Clark, David W. Cash, and Nancy M. Dickson, 29-56 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006).
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