Background and Relevance
The main objective of this workshop is to discuss the major options on how to produce and govern global environmental assessments. The idea of this research project goes back to the IMoSeb workshop in October 2006 at Leipzig. At this workshop, a group of highly experienced scientists, practitioners, representatives of national and international institutions and civil society organisations agreed on recommendations on how to improve the relationship between scientists and policy-actors and called for a necessary turn away from a monolithic, centralized and hierarchical epistemic community to more pluralistic, decentralized and heterogeneous ways of interaction that we call nested networks. The Leipzig Recommendations constitute a major milestone in the consultations setting up a science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services by highlighting the specifics of such a mechanism with regard to its mandate, internal process as well as its outputs and outcomes.
The 2011 workshop aims at deepening these discussions. Since 2006, major developments have been taking place that highlight the relevance of such a discussion: 2010 has been a challenging period for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that had enjoyed a pristine reputation and had even advanced to become a role model for biodiversity and food security assessments. Efforts to establish an IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), often called an ‘IPCC-like mechanism for biodiversity’, culminated in June 2010.
These events reveal the challenges involved in generating authoritative, policy-relevant knowledge in the context of global environmental politics. The IAC review of the IPCC demonstrates that the scientific assessment of a complex problem such as climate change or biodiversity loss is a tremendously difficult task: It involves thousands of people with different expertise, cultures, interests, and expectations. The available information is extensive, multidisciplinary, multinational and multicultural; extends across multiple spatial and temporal scales; is subject to different interpretations and has a wide range of uncertainties. The IAC also highlights that the magnitude and complexity of the assessment task has increased while the governance and management of such an endeavour have received very little attention. Not least because scientists are highly exposed to public scrutiny and work under the public microscope, assessments have to be responsive to the processes and structures in which scientific knowledge is validated for public use.