Expertise in Biodiversity Governance

October 12th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in an excellent workshop on the role of expertise in biodiversity governance. The workshop was an exercise in the design of a new science-policy organization/institution. The workshop was titled “International Science-Policy Interfaces for Biodiversity Governance” and was held at the UFZ Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany. At the workshop participants produced a set of consensus recommendations for the role of an institution that would provide expert advice in the international arena of biodiversity policy.

The main motivation for the workshop is a current consultation seeking such recommendations, called IMoSEB, organized by the French government. You can find our workshop recommendations here in PDF, and also below in HTML. Your comments on the recommendations and the more general challenge of exert advice in the area of biodiversity would be welcomed.

Leipzig Workshop Recommendations for a Knowledge-Policy Interface for Biodiversity Governance

4 October 2006

This document contributes to ongoing debates, including the IMoSEB consultation process, seeking to identify the optimal niche and conditions for the creation of an independent and effective international knowledge-policy interface1 for biodiversity governance. A knowledge-policy interface is essential to support more effective biodiversity-related decision making and societal responses to the challenges of achieving sustainable development.


• Synthesize and communicate a knowledge base on biodiversity in support of decision making and implementation
• Bring together and acknowledge diverse understandings, perspectives, and values regarding biodiversity loss and change
• Create a mechanism for dialogue and exchange among holders of diverse knowledge and knowledge systems (i.e., all forms of traditional and modern knowledge and science)
• Foster deeper understanding of the ways in which biodiversity loss and change transcend scales (spatial, temporal, etc.) and jurisdictional boundaries
• Through its activities enhance and improve abilities to collect, exchange and disseminate knowledge and information, and promote actions in favor of better biodiversity management at all levels
Outputs and outcomes:
• Scenarios of human futures and biodiversity loss and change, in relation to poverty, food security, economic growth, water security, conflict, human health, energy, climate change, etc. illuminating policy options, choices, and strategies available to diverse actors
• Periodic assessments of:

o existing biodiversity knowledges, including identification of gaps in existing assessments,
o status and trends on biodiversity,
o strategies and options for response,
o policy effectiveness,
o capacity at all levels of decision making
o biodiversity knowledge-policy interfaces, and
o cross-issue linkages (e.g., poverty, food security, economic growth, water security, conflict, human health, energy, climate change)

• Analyses of the causes of biodiversity loss and change, including key aspects of political economies2, and the necessary elements of societal transformation to redress these causes
• Stock-taking and management of biodiversity knowledge, including for global trends, indicators, and monitoring systems

1 We use the phrase “knowledge-policy interface” to acknowledge that information and expertise relevant to policy must include all forms of knowledge.

2 In this context we understand political economy as the analysis of economic and political dynamics, power structures, regulations, policies and dominant ideologies that affect biodiversity and people’s relation to it.

• Comprehensive outreach and communication strategy in support of dialogue and action
• Identification of knowledge gaps and feedback into research policies and priorities
• Identification of gaps in capacity for linking biodiversity knowledge to action at all levels of decision making and implementation
• Creation and dissemination of tools and methodologies for assessments, analyses, and other means of connecting knowledge and policy


• Ongoing, dynamic, and independent process that brings together diverse forms of knowledge, expertise, and science
• Ensure that process is legitimate and has appropriate institutional support and authorizing environment
• Establish secure funding stream from multiple sources
• Engage governments, private sector, civil society, scientific community, indigenous communities, international organizations and conventions, etc., in the design and operation of the mechanism
• Networking process that links and builds upon—and does not reinvent or duplicate—diverse existing networks of biodiversity expertise and policy
• Innovating process that identifies and seeks to fill gaps in existing networks of biodiversity expertise and policy
• Catalyze nested networks and activities at national and sub-global (e.g., local, regional, trans-jurisdictional) levels
• Process that ensures interpretation and translation among relevant languages, cultures, and knowledge traditions
• Provide regular opportunities for appropriate internal and external evaluation and review
• Establish small and effective coordinating mechanism (e.g., governing board) that includes appropriate balance and diversity across geography, sectors, stakeholders, expertise, etc.

Questions requiring further reflection

Participants agreed that future consultations will require careful consideration of the following key questions given the reality of trade-offs among democratization of expertise, stakeholder involvement, political legitimacy and accountability, funding mandates, scientific excellence, trust and credibility, etc.:

• What is the appropriate form of funding, institutional framework, and authorization of the mechanism by governments, international conventions, and the United Nations system while maintaining independence?
• What are the appropriate means for developing the network described above?
• How to link the mechanism to the needs of the various international conventions?

Further information

More information on the Leipzig workshop, including a full report is available at

6 Responses to “Expertise in Biodiversity Governance”

  1. Biopolitical Says:

    “Dialogue and exchange among holders of diverse knowledge and knowledge systems (i.e., all forms of traditional and modern knowledge and science)” All forms? All?

    “We use the phrase “knowledge-policy interface” to acknowledge that information and expertise relevant to policy must include all forms of knowledge.” All?

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  3. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:


    Thanks. What knowledge would you recommend excluding? ;-) I think the sense of our statemnt is that _potentially_ all knowledge is relevant, and we didn’t want to or feel the need to say more than that. Does that make sense? Thanks!

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  5. Biopolitical Says:

    Thank you Roger. No, it doesn’t make sense to me.

    What knowledge would I recommend excluding? Science. It will be abused to advance a political agenda, and I don’t like that.

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  7. Jim Clarke Says:


    Normally, I would not join in a discussion on this topic as it is not one in which I am well versed, however, your comment was so provocative I had to ask some questions. If we should exclude scientific knowledge from the biodiversity decision making process, what kind of knowledge should be included? How will this knowledge NOT be abused to advance a political agenda? Is your statement serious, or are you being sarcastic?

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  9. Biopolitical Says:


    Yes I was being sarcastic :) Science is the only more-or-less reliable “form of knowledge.” I don’t want other “forms of knowledge” – recourse to authority, tradition, religion, the paranormal, and “all” others – to shape or influence policies that are going to affect me. So, if we are going to have public policy, I prefer science, and not “all” the other forms of knowledge, to have a role in it. But…

    There are different scientific opinions on the issue of biodiversity loss and on the potential political actions to tackle it. Unfortunately, an “independent and effective international knowledge-policy interface for biodiversity governance” will be used to advance a single view. I would rather have the public know about the different opinions and not about an artificial consensus.

    More specifically, the “interface” will promote the idea that there is a biodiversity crisis that threatens human well-being on a global scale and that requires a globally coordinated effort of mitigation. That will be “the consensus.” Hundreds of scientists from a hundred countries will contribute to the effort of reaching that consensus. That will be “the” science. Dissenters will become “the biodiversity crisis deniers.” It will be official.

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  11. Kalense Says:

    Have you thought about this, biopolitical? Do you really mean that you don’t want tradition or religion to shape or influence policies that are going to affect you? What would you make of spiritual beliefs in the Casamance, then, which lead to the protection of sacred forests? Or traditional farming practices that maintain a wide specrum of maize in Mexico?