Innovation, sustainability and public policy

The relationship between science and decision-making is central to any effort to progress sustainable development. Indeed, recent science-policy debates have emphasized a growing role for science in helping to address some of society's most pressing environmental challenges. However, improving scientific input into the development of public policy represents a significant and complex challenge. Much of the recent literature on this topic suggests that key to addressing this challenge is to identify ways to improve engagement between scientists, communities and decision-makers through communication and collaboration, ultimately making science more democratic and relevant to policy-making.  This research stream questions the ways we approach complex and adaptive environmental challenges; how we collaborate, co-learn, and integrate knowledge to innovate for sustainable development outcomes.

Current Research Projects


Innovation, science and trans-boundary environmental governance: Using social capital to enhance collaboration and co-learning in the management of the Great Lakes fisheries.

A. Song (Postdoctoral Fellow) with G.M. Hickey

Funded by:Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) (2014-19).


From ecological modeling to the collective design of sustainable agro-ecosystems

E. Berthet (Postdoctoral Fellow) with G.M. Hickey

Funded by: French Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA) and McGill University (2015-17).


How can institutions better govern knowledge to foster the adoption of agricultural innovations for enhanced food security in semi-arid Kenya?

C. Eidt (Ph.D. Student) with G.M. Hickey

Funded by: International Development Research Center (IDRC) and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) (2011-14).


Improving food security and nutrition in the Caribbean: Factors affecting the adoption and application of sustainable agricultural technologies in the strategies of end users.

A. Saint Ville (Ph.D. Student) with G.M. Hickey.

Funded by: International Development Research Center (IDRC) and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) (2011-14).


 

Completed Research Projects


Examining the role of trust and informal communication on mutual learning in government: The case of climate change

Owen Temby (Postdoctoral Fellow); Jean Sandall (Postdoctoral Fellow) with G.M. Hickey

Natural resource and environmental agencies are charged with transferring and integrating science based knowledge across institutional boundaries In theory, this should provide them with the knowledge they need to work together to address the key environmental challenges of our time, such as climate change. In practice, the hierarchical design of government agencies creates organizational silos that can limit their capacity share knowledge and work collaboratively to this end. Social capital is thought to be critical in enabling agencies to bridge such silos. This research explores the patterns of social capital among government agencies in the province of British Columbia, Canada, the state of Victoria, Australia, and the state of New York, USA. It involves an on-line survey of the communication pathways, working relationships and transfer of science-based knowledge among agencies charged with working together to address climate change. The findings provide valuable insights into the patterns of social capital that have already been established among agencies and the practical opportunities that they present for enhancing the transfer and integration of science-based knowledge across institutional boundaries.

Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) (2011-14) and IBM Center for the Business of Government, Washington DC (2011-15).


Enhancing ecologically resilient food security through innovative farming systems in the semi-arid midlands of Kenya

B. Pelletier (Project Manager, Research Associate), L. Brownhill (Research Associate), K. Bothi (Postdoctoral Fellow) with G.M. Hickey.

Funded by: International Development Research Center (IDRC) and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) (2011-14).


Understanding the institutional framework for sustainable food security in Kenya: An international partnership initiative.

L. Brownhill (Postdoctoral Fellow), B. Pelletier (Research Associate) with G.M. Hickey.

Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) International Opportunities Fund (2010-11).


Assessing stakeholder participation in northern scientific research

N. Brunet (Ph.D.) with G.M. Hickey

Funded by:Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) (2014-12).


Institutional Impacts on the State of the Environment: Provincial and National Experiences in Setting Environmental Policy in Westminster-based Systems of Government.

B.M. Lalor (Postdoctoral Fellow) with G.M. Hickey

This research highlighted the processes that exist to mobilize environment-related science into public policy and the outcomes that emerge from these processes in government based on interviews with a large sample of former Ministers of the Environment and Deputy Ministers/Department Secretaries in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Ireland. 

Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) (2008-12).


Institutional Impacts on the State of the Environment: A Series of Policy-oriented Roundtables with Representatives from Provincial and Federal Government Agencies.

P. Forest (Postdoctoral Fellow) with G.M. Hickey

This Outreach Project engaged senior bureaucrats from various agencies involved in environmental regulation and policy-making at federal and provincial levels of government in Canada and Australia. Working with postdoctoral fellows Briony Lalor (2009-11), Jean Sandall (2010-11) and Patrick Forest (2010-11) we organized a series of inter-departmental workshops entitled “Strengthening the Environmental Science & Public Policy Nexus”.  Four workshops were held (Melbourne, Australia; Victoria, British Columbia; Montreal, Quebec; and Ottawa, Ontario) with 62 senior bureaucrats from across government. The workshop series produced many open and constructive discussions and identified key aspects of the government’s knowledge mobilization processes that need improvement.

Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) (2010).


The Sustainable Forest Management Network of Centres of Excellence (1995-2009): A multifaceted investigation into its ‘lessons learned’ and legacies.

N.L. Klenk (Postdoctoral Fellow) with G.M. Hickey

In order to better understand the complexity associated with designing, building, managing and promoting networked approaches to natural resource science, postdoctoral fellow Nicole Klenk and I conducted a multi-faceted evaluation of the Sustainable Forest Management Network of Centres of Excellence. Drawing on integrated research techniques that are common in programme and research evaluation, eight research components were undertaken: 1) An organizational historical narrative analysis to document the perceived legacies of the Network; 2) A survey of administrative communication efficacy within the Network; 3) A Social Network Analysis examining the social capital accrued to researchers in the Network and its impact on research productivity; 4) A Concept Mapping Policy Delphi exercise used to evaluate the organizational design of the Network and propose recommendations for any future cross-sector network in natural resources; 5) A general survey of the member’s experiences with the Network, including administrative staff, partners, Principal Investigators, and collaborators; and 6) A bibliometric analysis of the Network’s impact in the social sciences, as well as two policy-related studies examining: 7) The influence of SFMN-funded research in forest policy; and 8) Knowledge utilization patterns in forest policy-making in Canada.  This research has resulted in nine distinct manuscripts that offer new and innovative insights for managing cross-sector research networks dealing with sustainable natural resource management issues.

Funded by: Tri-Council (NSERC-Sustainable Forest Management Network (SFM - NCE)) (2008-2009).


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