Venue: Graduate Institute, Geneva

How to generate policy-relevant evidence and ensure its effective translation into decisions?

This was the central question of this event organized by EGAP in collaboration with the Graduate Institute Geneva and the Geneva Science-Policy Interface. It gathered about 50 participants from within and outside of Geneva, coming from academia, international organisations and NGOs.

A roundtable kick-started the event with introductory remarks by Prof. Simone Dietrich (UNIGE) and representatives from the U.N., academia and NGOs. Based on their remarks and interactive exchanges with the audience, there seemed to be consensus that early engagement between science, policy practitioners and agencies was key to maximize the impact of research looking towards future implementation. Clear calls were made for further efforts in terms of joint agenda formulation and for researchers to articulate, as much as possible, clear policy recommendations as part of the evidence they produce.

As one participant in the audience highlighted: “We don’t need better ways of doing one-way knowledge transfer between science and policy; what we need is more co-creation between the two”.

Debates around policy-relevance and how to define quality of the research (in particular from a practitioner perspective) led to fruitful discussions on both the production and translation of research. Examples were given where the impact of smaller, more interactive pieces of research had more echo with implementers than longer, in-depth studies over large datasets.

Following the opening roundtable, two tracks on conflict and migration enabled researchers to present insights of their research and their implications for policy and practice. After each presentations, practitioners provided a response about the usefulness, policy-relevance and quality of the research, which led to discussions on both the production and translation of research.

As stressed by one participant: “We all have to deal with uncertainty. For decision-makers to change what to do, they need clear indications despite high uncertainty. The implementation itself can also help figure out what works and what does not. We need to understand that implementation is also an opportunity to produce information and learn.

A wrap-up session concluded the event with the insights from two of the event’s rapporteurs and from GSPI Executive Director, Nicolas Seidler, who emphasized the importance, yet challenge, of undertaking effective connections and collaborations between science and policy. He stressed the need for people with a new skillset – among scientists, policy actors but also among new players at their interface – to help translate needs, expertise and enable vital connections to promote the type of science-policy engagement that are needed to address complex 21st century challenges. Offering the GSPI’s services to help overcome barriers to such collaborations, he invited the EGAP network and others in the audience to reach out to explore future collaborations.

As we further build our network with professionals involved at the interface of science and policy, we were strongly encouraged by the nature and substance of discussions between scientific and policy actors present, in Geneva and beyond. It also offered a strong confirmation of the unique skills, change of mindsets and practices that are needed to enable impactful science-policy collaborations that can address some of the most urgent challenges our societies are facing, and where the GSPI could play a useful role as facilitator.