Realising the knowledge architecture for the wise governance of sustainability transitions

Past Event
18 January 2022 15:45 (GMT)
18 January 2022 17:15 (GMT)

The need for sustainability transitions is widely recognised, along with a concurrent need for the evolution of knowledge systems to inform more effective policy action. Although there are many new policy targets relating to net zero emissions and other sustainability challenges, cities, regional and national governments are still struggling to rapidly develop transformational policies to achieve them.  In this session we propose to share and extend insights from a previous academic-practitioner collaboration related to our work at the science-policy interface.  The collaboration included researchers working directly within government agencies of European Environment Agency (EEA), the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Natural England, and members of scientific advisory committees for these bodies.  Through this collaboration, particularly in the development of the EEA’s landmark document The European environment — state and outlook 2020, we have identified specific knowledge and competency needs for governing sustainability transitions related to the interlinked phases of envisioning, implementing and evaluating. In short, we argue that coordinated reforms of both policy and knowledge systems are urgently needed to address the speed and scale of sustainability challenges. These include embedding systems thinking literacy, mainstreaming participatory policy making, expanding the capacity to undertake transdisciplinary research, more adaptive governance and continuous organisational learning. These processes must guide further knowledge development, uptake and use as part of an iterative and holistic process. Such deep-seated change in policy-knowledge systems will be disruptive and presents challenges for traditional organisational models of knowledge delivery but is essential for successful sustainability transformations.

Ref: #12

Conceptualisation of innovation for transformative change


Gary Kass
Gary Kass is a professional environmental scientist and knowledge broker, with 35 years’ practice in the public and private sectors, working at the interface of science and policy. He champions forward-looking, systemic and interdisciplinary approaches to using science and evidence to tackle critical environmental and sustainability challenges. After a period of consulting, Gary joined the public sector in 1995 as Head of the Environment and Energy programme at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology and then Head of Public Engagement with Science and Technology within the UK Government. Gary joined Natural England in 2007 as Principal Specialist in Strategy and Environmental Futures and became Deputy Chief Scientist in 2014. Gary has served on academic panels and boards including the Natural Environment Research Council’s Innovation Advisory Board and the Research Excellence Framework. Gary is a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Surrey where he supports development of key competencies for sustainability. Gary held a Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy Fellowship, 2011-2013 and was Council member and then Chair of Institution of Environmental Sciences from 2014 until 2021. Gary is a Chartered Scientist and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Tom Oliver
Tom Oliver is Professor of Applied Ecology at the University of Reading UK. He spent four years as leader of their Ecology and Evolution research division and is now a senior Fellow with the UK government (Defra) advising on the set up of a new Systems Research Programme. This has involved advising on the design of environmental targets for the UK Environment Bill, and land use policy to achieve net zero and other outcomes. Tom has provided advice for UK funding councils and spent four years on the European Environment Agency scientific committee as a ‘socioecological systems expert’. His primary research focuses involves developing methods and tools to better quantify and communicate environmental risk to support environmental decision-making. He has published more than 90 scientific papers in world-leading interdisciplinary journals. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Independent and BBC Science Focus and he is author of the critically acclaimed book ‘The Self Delusion: The Surprising Science of Our Connection to Each Other and the Natural World’.