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AIRNET Experiences with Science/Policy Interface and Communication. Leendert Van Bree RIVM, Bilthoven ACCENT WORKSHOP Gothenburg, Sweden October 27-28, 2004. AIRNET management team. Bert Brunekreef – Utrecht University(co-ordinator)

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AIRNET Experiences with Science/Policy Interface and Communication

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Airnet experiences with science policy interface and communication

AIRNETExperiences with Science/PolicyInterface and Communication

Leendert Van Bree

RIVM, Bilthoven


Gothenburg, Sweden

October 27-28, 2004

Airnet management team

AIRNET management team

  • Bert Brunekreef – Utrecht University(co-ordinator)

  • Leendert van Bree – RIVM Bilthoven(co-ordinator)

  • Support crew:

    Nicole Janssen(exposure)

    Annike Totlandsdal(toxicology)

    Gerard Hoek(epidemiology)

    Eric Sanderson(health impact)

    Nina Fudge(science-policy)

    Marjan Tewis(assistent)

    Eef van Otterloo(webmaster)

Airnet and its mission

AIRNET and its mission

AIRNET is an EU-wide Thematic Network project on Air Pollution and Health

Mission statement

  • To help to create a widely supported basis for public health policy related to improving air quality in Europe and regulatory needs to achieve that goal

    AIRNET also seeks

  • To improve interaction with stakeholders in the interpretation and use of air pollution and health information

  • To act as a network with policy makers, industry, and NGO’s from the environment and public health sectors

Objectives of airnet

To develop an overarching, Europe-wide framework for air pollution and health research

To collect and synthesize scientific information from individual research projects (FP4, FP5, and nationally-funded studies)

To draw policy-relevant recommendations

To communicate the outcome

To find ways to improve the science-policy-stakeholder interaction

Objectives of AIRNET

The life of airnet

The life of AIRNET

AIRNET began life in 2002 and is funded until the end of 2004

Years 1 and 2 were focused on collection,interpretation, and synthesis of air pollution and health data

Year 3 focus is on dissemination and communication of information

QLRT-2001-00441, Key Action 4, Environment and Health

Airnet s deliverables

AIRNET’s deliverables

  • Six Work Group Reports

  • Three Annual Conferences (London, Rome, Prague)

  • AIRNET Alert (web-based information tool)

  • AIRNET Newsletters

  • Internet website (

  • Stakeholder Survey in Europe (“What info, which form?”)

  • AIRNET Communication Strategy

  • National/local AIR-NETwork days across Europe (communication model)

    (AIRNET identified as a key project for the CAFE)

Causality chain translated into airnet disciplines

Causality chaintranslated into AIRNET disciplines

Who is in airnet

Who is in AIRNET ?

Communication Agency

Science Journalists

Contractors in airnet

Contractors in AIRNET

  • Utrecht University B. Brunekreef

  • RIVM Bilthoven L. van Bree

  • VITO Mol R. Torfs

  • IOM Edinburgh F. Hurley

  • Medical School, University of Athens K. Katsouyanni

  • IIASA M. Amann

  • Environmental Medicine, NIPH Oslo E. Dybing

  • European Federation of Asthma

    and Allergy Associations E. Rameckers

  • International Society of Doctors

    for the Environment P. van den Hazel

  • CONCAWE Association of Oil Companies

    and Refining Capacity J. Urbanus

Airnet experiences with science policy interface and communication

Communication Agency

Science Journalists

Science policy interface and communication

Science/Policy Interface and Communication

  • Science-policy interface and communication is sometimes confused with “talk as long as you have an answer or consensus”

  • Sometimes the outcome is already defined and the interaction is considered as “massage”

  • BUT... real interaction means that

    • pay substantial attention to preparatory phase of discussion of issues

    • agree on the various possibilities and analyses routes

    • agree on the rational choices to be made

    • accept, explain, and communicate the outcome

      Korbee & Hovelynck communication consultants

Is a science policy stakeholder interface needed in air pollution and health

Substantial investment is needed for further emission reductions to decrease exposure and health risks

Interface becomes therefore more important, BUT… often functions poorly

A better interface needs:

communication of information to those who need it, ask for it, or have the right to know

understanding of end-users needs

develop views on what the interface should be (not only on content but also on process and mechanism)

Is a science-policy-stakeholder interface needed in air pollution and health?

The ideal science policy interface

The ideal science-policy interface

  • Open, two-way communication of facts and figures, methods of analysis, decision principles, outcomes and values between scientists, policy makers and stakeholders

  • Exchange of reliable information is key to effective policy

  • Good communication is essential (What info, which form, which mechanism?)

  • Find workable solutions for:

    • Correct “framing” of complex issues

    • Uncertainty analyses (statistical, conceptual)

    • New philosophies to cope more sensibly with (a variety of) risks

Spi report on problem framing

SPI report on “problem framing

Spi report on coping sensibly with risk

SPI report on “coping sensibly with risk”

  • QRA and Cost-Efficiency

  • Risk Weighing and Acceptance

  • Stakeholder Participation and Consensus

  • Weighing Precaution in Policy Domain

End user s needs as a basis in airnet reports and activities

End-user’s needs as a basis in AIRNET reports and activities

  • Stakeholder survey

    • identifying end-user needs (key/FAQ questions, information needs, “WHAT INFORMATION”)

    • knowing how information needs to be presented (“WHICH FORM”)

  • Outcome taken as the main basis for

    • structuring and focussing various Work Group Reports

    • developing short answers to FAQ’s as an effective way to communicate

    • answers need back-up from end-report content

The interface in airnet s deliverables

The interface in AIRNET’s deliverables

  • Work Groups end-reports (focus, FAQ’s, help of science journalists for improved readability)

  • Annual Conferences (science-policy-stakeholder interactions)

  • AIRNET Alert (web-based tool for disseminating non-specialist summaries of research papers)

  • AIRNET Newsletters (exchange of recent findings and highlights)

  • Internet website (

  • Stakeholder Survey in Europe (end-user needs)

  • AIRNET Communication Strategy

  • National/local AIR-NETwork days across Europe (multi-stakeholder communication/interaction model)

How airnet tried to bridge the gap between science and policy

How AIRNET tried to ’bridge the gap’ between science and policy

Science -> <- Policy Makers and Stakeholders

Challenges, experience, and lessons ?

Airnet activities

AIRNET activities

Developing involvement of stakeholders

  • Actively participating in AIRNET work groups and end-reports

  • Presentations on “What stakeholders want” at the 1st Annual Conference (London 2002)

  • Europe-wide stakeholder/end-user survey

  • Interactive communication form at

    • 3rd Annual Conference (Prague 2004)

    • AIR-NETwork days across Europe (NL, S, H, and ESP)

Airnet activities1

AIRNET activities

European-wide stakeholder survey

  • Questionnaire to find out what the needs of stakeholders and end-users are

    • i.e. what information, FAQ’s, which form

  • Survey population

    • all stakeholders within AIRNET

    • members of CAFE steering group

    • members of EU parliament

    • stakeholders from APHEIS

Overall response

rate was ~25%

Airnet experiences with science policy interface and communication

“It is not so much that sources are unavailable to us, it is more that time is in short supply”

(National government agency, UK)

“There is a wealth of information and sources and it is in fact a challenge to keep up with the new information”

(Private sector stakeholder, Belgium)

Airnet activities2

AIRNET activities

Outcome of EU-wide stakeholder survey

  • List of FAQ’s and important issues (“what information”)

  • Preferred information format (“which form”)

    • integrative, short overviews

    • interpreted for stakeholders

    • summaries for informed but non-specialist audience

  • Expectations of AIRNET (“which mechanism”)

    • information exchange and networking

    • identify and consider stakeholder views

    • policy support

      This outcome has focussed and structured further AIRNET activities !

Airnet activities3

AIRNET activities

Five Work Group end-reports

  • development of disciplinary ‘state-of-the-art ‘ reports on air pollution and health

    (exposure, toxicology, epidemiology, health impact, and science-policy interface)

  • written for an informed but non-specialist audience

  • using input from EU stakeholder survey

  • tailored to end-user needs

  • with answers to FAQ’s

  • involvement of science journalists

  • use of non-specialist language

    Draft reports now available; finalized by end of 2004

    Final integrative report for additional input to CAFE

Airnet activities4

AIRNET activities

Developing a communication plan

  • Hiring a communication agency

  • Hiring science journalists

    Various communication-oriented activities

Airnet activities5

AIRNET activities

AIRNET Alert - online database of non-specialist summaries of key scientific papers

Airnet activities6

AIRNET activities

AIRNET NEWS - bi-annual newsletter

Airnet s final activities

AIRNET’s “final” activities

Organisation of four national AIR-NETwork days, spring/summer 2004

  • Multi-stakeholder communication model now tested in four countries

    3rd AIRNET Annual Conference, Prague, October 2004

    …aimed at

  • model for communicating results and needs with stakeholders at (inter)national and local levels

  • bringing together scientists, stakeholders, and policy-makers

  • responsibility for interactive dialogue and communication

  • transfer of knowledge and exchange of needs

  • developing long-term relationships

Air network days communication model

AIR-NETwork days – communication model

Airnet lessons learned

AIRNET - lessons learned

Organisation of an interface network...

  • requires a lot of planning

  • currently no “recipe” available on how to optimally run a interface network

  • knowing WHAT you wish to achieve is not sufficient, you should also know HOW you wish to achieve it

  • difficult to get all “players” actively involved

    (defining a task for each player may help, in AIRNET only the scientists have clear responsibilities)

  • Interface works different at international, national, and local level

To what extent has airnet bridged the gap

To what extent has AIRNET “bridged the gap” ?



Airnet lessons learned1

AIRNET - lessons learned

Science-policy-stakeholder interface...

  • is interpreted differently by the different players

  • is not naturally occurring

  • does not work by itself

  • requires lots of planning, and structure and energy

    (cf. AIR-NETwork days)

Airnet lessons learned2

AIRNET -lessons learned

Dissemination and communication of research findings in a non-specialist way...

  • scientists found it hard to write in a concise and non-specialist way

  • AIRNET provided guidelines and also contracted science journalists to help

  • involvement of communication specialists is crucial (AIRNET has contracted a communication agency)

More information about airnet

More information about AIRNET...


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