Impact Assessment (IA) has the potential for delivering more sustainable development as well as enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of political decision making. Policies aiming at sustainable development need a solid foundation trough IA using a variety of IA tools. Impact Assessment aiming at the realisation of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy requires a broad, two-way exchange of knowledge and information between IA developers and users. However, existing research points out that the full potential of IA is not being realised. Many tools to support IA have been developed, but are not yet being fully employed by policy makers. These missed opportunities are symptomatic of a large and deep gap between the two broad communities of IA researchers and IA practitioners. Practitioners tend to look for tools that are simple and transparent while the researchers are more interested in the sophistication, normative ideals and innovative aspects of assessment tools.
The EU project LIAISE – Linking Impact Assessment Instruments to Sustainable Expertise – is a European Network of Excellence with 15 internationally renowned partners from eight countries. The project is funded within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) by the European Commission, DG Research. The main purpose of LIAISE is to identify and exploit opportunities to bridge between science and practical application in a way that leads to an enhanced use of IA tools in policy making. Pooling the expertise of interdisciplinary leading European research centres, availability and utilisation of impact assessments will be improved.
Its centrepiece will be a shared toolbox, simultaneously accessible and useful for policy makers as well as for the research community, supporting IA procedures in the European Union and in the Member States. The LIAISE consortium will unite the multi-disciplinary competences of a number of large European institutes that in turn consolidate the expertise from large FP6 projects such as SEAMLESS, SENSOR, MATISSE, SustainabilityA Test, IQ Tools and EVIA. The consortium will combine researchers that analyse current policy needs and link them in innovative ways (i.e. targeted, co-designed and co-produced IA "test cases") to those who maintain existing and are presently improving existing and developing new tools. The LIAISE consortium will preserve the flexibility to support real life IA processes, informed by a structured dialogue with the IA user community, represented by a high level Policy Advisory Board. Furthermore, of essential meaning is an enhanced dissemination of new research results for applicable real-world solutions. Therefore, capacity building and training components will be developed, tested and implemented to spread the results of research activities to target groups in communities of IA users and IA researchers.
Based on this work, LIAISE will promote research beyond the project consortium by creating the conditions and the experimental environment that the partners need to develop a good mutual understanding and working relation amongst the Network of Excellence partners in the core group. Moreover, it develops collaboration between the core group and the IA users utilising this collaboration as a building block for LIAISE by linking it to external partners in the wider IA research and user communities. LIAISE will build up a roadmap towards a virtual centre of excellence on IA – an internationally visible, integrated and interdisciplinary scientific community providing excellent and applicable research in support of IA operating as the durable hub of existing academic and practitioner networks, also in the post-project period.
UFZ scientists from the Departments of Economics, Groundwater Remediation, and Urban and Environmental Sociology contribute to the network of excellence LIAISE in the following work packages (WP):
"IA for sustainability: policy needs, assessment procedures and governance contexts"
⇒ A focal point of work package 1 is to explore the relationship between IA and wider systems of governance for sustainable development in the European Union and its Member States. UFZ is contributing to this by in particular analysing the situation in Poland and in the Czech Republic.
"Shared toolbox: back-office and improvement of selected IA tools"
⇒ The main aims of WP3 are to improve a selection of IA tools and to increase their usability, including defining standards for good tool development and application and to create new tools in cases where existing tools are not fit for purpose.
"Dissemination and Training"
⇒ LIAISE will promote networking activities to involve the leading academic and policy entities related to IA. Workshops and scientific conferences will contribute to the development of a broader community of IA researchers from universities, research foundations, public institutions and training schools. As a key, WP7 aims to contribute to community-building by drafting, testing and disseminating curricula for training activities targeted to different audiences such as researchers and desk officers. UFZ will contribute a major part to these activities utilising its competences and resources from TASK, the Terra-, Aqua- and Remediation Centre of Competence.