Ecology, Politics and Policy

The BES Presidential Address by Sir John Lawton has been published on-line by the Journal of Applied Ecology. Sir John examines how ecology has or has not contributed to policy in a number of areas (fisheries, GM crops). Building upon work in the social sciences, he argues that it is wrong to assume that ‘correct’ policies will result from better scientific understanding by politicians. Ecologists can, and do, influence government policy on the environment, but often via complex and iterative interactions. He suggests the BES could focus on providing scientific advice to politicians and policy-makers and to argue the “ecological corner” through:

  • Providing independent, authoritative, in-depth analysis of environmental issues
  • Acting as a ‘knowledge broker’ between primary researchers and policy-makers
  • Acting as a ‘policy entrepreneur’ by taking novel approaches to difficult problems by working in collaboration with other groups
  • Providing a long-term ‘enlightenment function’ by working to change the framework of the debate and seeking ultimately to alter belief systems and deeply entrenched values