Scientific Concepts and Their Policy Affordances: How a Focus on Compatibility Can Improve Science-Policy Interaction and Outcomes

in Nature and Culture

We develop a twofold approach to the development and utilization of policy-relevant knowledge. First, we propose that moving beyond competition to focus on compatibility may promote more effective interdisciplinary collaborations in the context of complex social-ecological problems. Second, we propose that attention to the policy affordances of a set of compatible hypotheses may inform the development of a more holistic and robust set of policy options. This twofold approach is modeled in our methodological approach, in which we have sought to discover how the concepts each of us have been developing are compatible with each other, and what affordances they might offer for improving translation across the science-policy boundary. We illustrate and apply our approach to the complex milieu surrounding the issue of lead paint toxicity. In addition, we draw on findings from focus groups with researchers involved in collaborations at the science-policy boundary to develop recommendations for productive and policy-relevant interdisciplinary collaboration.