Frequently Asked Questions

The Basics

The Geneva Science-Policy Interface (GSPI) is an initiative launched by the University of Geneva in 2018 with the support of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. It offers an independent, neutral platform that strives to enhance scientific engagement with global governance actors within the Geneva ecosystem.

The GSPI is neither an association, a foundation, nor a for-profit organisation. The GSPI is affiliated to the University of Geneva, which acts as the GSPI’s main partner, offering administrative and financial support to the GSPI. In addition to the University of Geneva, the GSPI Governing Board constitutes of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), the League of European Research Universities (LERU), CERN, the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

The GSPI’s mission is to facilitate impactful collaborations between policy and implementation actors from the International Geneva ecosystem and the academic world, with a view to generating impactful solutions to global challenges.

The GSPI fulfils this mission by creating opportunities for and supporting the design and implementation of impactful collaborations between science, policy and implementation communities, by brokering actionable scientific knowledge for decision-makers, and by contributing to the advancement, professionalisation and recognition of the science-policy field in Geneva and beyond.

The GSPI was announced in January 2018 at the World Economic Forum in Davos and started its operations in October that same year, with the appointment of its Executive Director.

The challenges that society faces are becoming increasingly complex. Science and technology can help address these multifaceted issues and contribute to the emergence of evidence-based policy and practice. Yet one-way information transfer is not sufficient in itself.

As it is, communicating scientific knowledge to policy actors is not straightforward and evidence-based approaches are not necessarily the norm. Differences in mindset and ways of thinking; lack of high-quality research synthesis and cause-specificity; time and attention; language and jargon; context and cost – these are among the many barriers to the effective transmission of knowledge between science and policy actors.

Engaging the scientific community in producing evidence and knowledge at the pace and scale to instigate change requires specific engagement mechanisms and incentives. At the same time, ensuring that policy actors integrate evidence into their processes requires specific outreach and relationship-building. The GSPI was thus established to fulfil a need and demand for a specialised, full-time, neutral platform to solve the bottlenecks in engaging science and policy actors, in order to facilitate better and more impactful collaborations between the two spheres.

We envision International Geneva as a hub for global governance, where:

  1. Collaboration between the leading academic institutions, policy and implementation actors are frequent and sustainable;
  2. These collaborations lead to fresh insights on pressing global problems as well as to the design and implementation of impactful, evidence-based policies and practices.

Within the Geneva landscape and beyond, the GSPI strives to be recognised as an expert in science-policy-practice interface dynamics. The GSPI aims to be the entry point connecting the scientific community and policy-makers to facilitate the emergence of effective science-policy collaborations through knowledge brokering, collaboration brokering, or building up the field of science-policy.

The exceptional density of global governance stakeholders in Geneva forms a unique ecosystem which enables the cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches, across a variety of fields: humanitarian action, human rights, migration, environment, sustainability, climate change, global health, peace, security, disarmament, education, and technological governance, to name a few. This makes Geneva a key location to test and improve collaborative science-policy models and projects.

The GSPI has a governing board, a steering committee and an executive team.

The GSPI’s governing board is in charge of the strategic governance and overall oversight of the GSPI’s operations. It is responsible for steering the organization towards meeting its mission and ensuring it has sound and sustainable finances. The board is composed of leaders from the University of Geneva, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the League of European Research Universities (LERU), CERN, the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

The University of Geneva acts as the GSPI’s main partner and offers administrative and financial support to the GSPI. It is envisioned that key representatives from International Geneva will join the governing board as observers.

The GSPI’s steering committee is composed of the Board’s representatives. It is the operational branch of the Governing Board, with individuals designated by the Governing Board to interact at a more regular and operational level with the GSPI Executive Team.

The GSPI executive team manages the day-to-day operations of the GSPI within the context of the mission, strategies, policies, processes, and procedures that have been validated by the Governing Board.

The GSPI is guided by a Governing Board made up of members from various leading research institutions:

The GSPI’s steering committee members are as follows:

The GSPI is currently comprised of four people:

  • Nicolas Seidler, Executive Director
  • Frédérique Guérin, Executive Officer
  • Maxime Stauffer, Science-Policy Officer
  • Chiara Gerosa, Programme Associate

You can find out more about their various backgrounds here.

The GSPI currently benefits from funding by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the University of Geneva to support its operations and programmes. Partners contribute with cash and in-kind contributions around specific activities and projects.

Role

The GSPI has three core functions:

  1. Knowledge brokering: The GSPI works with experts to synthesise rigorous knowledge into digestible and actionable insights targeted at policy and implementation actors.
  2. Collaboration brokering: The GSPI supports impactful collaborations involving scientific, policy and implementation actors through grants, network mobilization and targeted advice.
  3. Field-building: The GSPI contributes to the advancement, professionalisation and recognition of the science-policy field in Geneva and beyond by contributing knowledge, tools and capacity for successful science-policy engagement.

The GSPI works to facilitate impactful collaborations between the global scientific community and policy and implementation actors from the international Geneva ecosystem. To carry out this mission, the GSPI works both with researchers from leading institutions around the world and decision-makers from international organisations and institutions based in and around Geneva. This kind of facilitation can take the shape of, but is not limited to:

  • Kick-starting, boosting, scaling-up, and/or sustaining projects that aim to bridge science, policy and practice;
  • Working with recognised academic institutions to provide digestible, concise and rigorous policy briefs that address pressing challenges relevant to International Geneva actors;
  • Strengthening the field by producing think pieces or leading workshops on key topics and/or elements of science-policy.

Take a look at our core functions for more information about how the GSPI carries out its mission

  • We are a full-time science-policy platform: the GSPI is a full-time actor that works to solve the bottlenecks that prevent collaboration between science, policy and implementation actors.
  • We specialise in science-policy: the GSPI is a specialised actor that works explicitly to improve the quality and quantity of science-policy collaborations.
  • We are topic-agnostic: we foster collaboration between science and policy actors to ensure policies are effective – this can be in any cause or in any field, as long as such collaborations seek to engage science and policy actors and generate impact.
  • We work with the scientific community at large: we define science as the systematic investigation of reality. This means we consider science to include both the natural and the social sciences. Consequently, we work with researchers and scientists from across the scientific community.
  • We work through the entire policy cycle: the policy cycle features multiple stages. Science adds value at all stages, whether that is problem definition, scenario exploration, impact assessment, mindset changes or continuous information supply. The GSPI aims to work with diplomatic, policy and practice actors to support all stages of the policy cycle.
  • We are a network bridge: we focus on collaboration brokering and knowledge brokering to create sustainable, impactful science-policy engagement, as opposed to simple one-way knowledge transfer.
  • We have an evidence-based approach to science-policy: numerous options and uncertainty affect the impact potential of our work. Thus, the GSPI’s strategy is continuously refined in light of lessons learned from past experiences and advances in scientific literature on science-policy.

We prioritize our projects based on:

  1. Impact potential, which is a function of the importance and urgency of the project’s subject; the project’s marginal value, scale and lasting potential; the project’s feasibility; and the GSPI’s and partners’ fit to undertake the project.
  2. Science-policy interface excellence, which we evaluate based on whether the project responds to policy needs in a timely manner; whether the project delivers actionable outputs; and whether the project relies on or produces rigorous, scientific knowledge.
  3. Learning value, which is the extent to which the project helps us improve our understanding of science-policy needs and how to build relevant mechanisms.
  4. Multiplier effect, which reflects the potential of an activity to scale, sustain over time and generate network connections.

No. The GSPI fosters collaboration between science and policy actors to ensure policies are effective – this can be in any cause or in any field, as long as such collaborations seek to engage science and policy actors and generate impact.

Activities

Policy briefs fall under the GSPI’s knowledge-brokering function. They are the product of experts or scientists. Our policy briefs aim to:

  1. Support policy actors with rigorous, timely and digestible information about complex, pressing and global challenges, as well as the analytical methods to tackle such challenges. The goal is for policy actors to use policy briefs as a reliable and actionable source of knowledge;
  2. Serve as a potential first point of entry for policy actors and practitioners to reach out to a researcher, which can lead to collaborations that the GSPI can help facilitate.

For example, our policy brief on Behavioral Insights for Climate Action, authored by Professor Tobias Brosch from the University of Geneva draws upon key insights from behavioural and neural science and proposes intervention strategies to encourage climate action through behaviour change.

You can read more about the GSPI policy brief goals and process here.

Think pieces fall under the GSPI’s field building function. They are written by the GSPI and/or other researchers and aimed towards policy actors and scientists. Our think pieces serve to:

  1. Advance the field of science-policy;
  2. Demonstrate the GSPI’s stance on a science-policy-related topic.

For example, our think piece on evidence-based thinking, strategies and challenges details what evidence-based thinking is, the barriers to implementation, and the relevant strategies to promote a culture of evidence and openness in Geneva.

You can read our other think pieces here.

The Impact Collaboration Programme (ICP) aims to foster collaboration between science and policy by providing seed funding and tailored services to kick-start, boost, scale-up, and/or sustain science-policy collaboration projects which explicitly bridge science, policy and implementation in both aims and who participates.

The GSPI offers up to 40,000 CHF per project (4 projects selected in 2020) and in-kind support as needed for projects lasting up to 12 months.

The in-kind support is offered on a needs-basis and may include:

  • Networking opportunities with academic institutions and international organizations and NGOs;
  • Advice around project design and science-policy strategy;
  • Scaling and dissemination support within academic and policy networks.

In 2020, the ICP is giving particular attention to projects that develop or apply methodologies with the aim of fostering data-driven decision-making.

The ICP 2020 call for projects is now closed. The selection phase (pre- and full-proposals) lasted between 17 January 2020 and 11 April 2020.

The next call for projects is slated for early 2021. You can express your interest through this form to stay up-to-date with the latest news on the ICP.

In addition to the Impact Collaboration Program, the GSPI supports other strategic collaboration brokering activities involving scientific, policy and implementation actors. You can get an overview of our past and ongoing projects here.

The GSPI also considers projects on a case-by-case basis and welcomes the expression of needs and opportunities for collaboration from the science, policy and practice communities. We can disseminate relevant information within the GSPI network, provide tailored introductions or strategic advice on science-policy activities. Reach out here to find out more.

Yes. You can find them on our publications page. Here are a few examples:

Evidence-based thinking is the cognitive component of evidence-based policy. Evidence-based thinking can be defined as the process of trying to align our beliefs to the current state of knowledge. It is an approach that helps to filter information, grasp complexity, and make decisions despite uncertainty.

Evidence-based thinking is not the use of evidence to justify pre-existing beliefs – this is motivated reasoning or, in some instances, political instrumentalization of knowledge.

Our think piece on evidence-based thinking, strategies and challenges details what evidence-based thinking is, the barriers to implementation, and the relevant strategies to promote a culture of evidence and openness in Geneva.

Involvement and contacts

Signing up for our newsletter is the best way to stay up-to-date with the GSPI. By signing up, you will receive quarterly updates about our activities, events and publications and learn of opportunities to get involved in collaborative projects.

For real-time updates, you can follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Our activities will be most relevant to researchers, professionals from an international organisation or a global NGO, field actors or anyone interested in science-policy dynamics in the context of the international Geneva ecosystem.

You can contact:

  • Our Executive Director, Nicolas at nicolas.seidler(at)unige.ch for general questions about the GSPI or partnership opportunities;
  • Our Executive Officer, Frédérique at frederique.guerin(at)unige.ch for issues related to network development, past, current and proposed science-policy-practice collaborations;
  • Our Science-Policy Offer, Maxime at maxime.stauffer(at)unige.ch for issues related to policy briefs, the Impact Collaboration Programme process or interest in approaches related to evidence-based decision-making.

Alternatively, you can use our contact form.