This workshop brought together the main Geneva-based stakeholders acting in the field of chemicals and waste management in order to harness their perspectives on the Online Tracker approach. The objective is to strengthen the project’s relevance and ensure it contributes in an appropriate way to the specific policy to science communication needs of the MEAs and voluntary framework such as the forthcoming Beyond 2020 Framework on sound management of chemicals and waste.

More information about the project (pdf)

Summary of the consultation

Note: originally posted on Geneva Environment Network website (link)

The Online Tracker approach

The lack of translation of policymakers’ needs back to the scientific community is an important challenge in many governance areas. The Online Tracker for Scientific Needs in International Chemicals and Waste Governance is an initiative to enhance this communication route in the Chemicals and Waste domain. The overall goal of the project is to assess and translate needs for scientific information under the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm (BRS) and Minamata conventions into a set of scientific questions accessible to the international scientific community through an online platform. The project is implemented at ETH Zürich with the support of Geneva Science-Policy Interface (GSPI), and in collaboration with the Secretariats of the BRS conventions and the Minamata convention.

Currently, the project team is reviewing policy needs and translating them into scientific questions. At the same time, the project team is working on establishing an online presence of the tracker. Inputs from the BRS and Minamata Conventions will feed into the process through consultations and reviews. An advisory group of scientists and regulators, covering different disciplines, conventions and regions, has also been established and will be consulted throughout the process. The Online Tracker could be launched at the beginning of the third quarter of this year after beta-testing.

Insights from the stakeholders and discussion

Participants at the consultation welcomed the initiative and its ambition to improve uptake of policy needs by academia in their research. Several thoughts and concerns were also raised, including

  • its role for ensuring uptake of policy questions by the scientific community in a timely manner
  • its contribution to Parties to the conventions, especially developing countries
  • needs for engaging with other stakeholders, most notably industry actors and donors
  • how to deal with a wide variety of interrelated questions with varied time horizons
  • level of questions that could be addressed, in terms of existing or new research
  • potential issues and credibility without an authoritative group to assess the information produced
  • necessity of addressing interlinkages with other clusters such as climate and biodiversity
  • importance of multi-disciplinarity and sectoral considerations within the tracker
  • issues of funding and resources which the scientific community will need to address policy-relevant scientific questions raised through the tracker
  • duration of the project timeline and potential overlap with established bodies
  • project scope – it is a quick-responding tool addressing a very specific issue in the science-policy interface rather than a fully-fledged science-policy interface

The discussion raised a lot of food for thought, which was welcomed by the project leaders. Engagement with stakeholders on specific aspects of the tools will continue in the future.