Pressure ridges

Ice formations along the pressure ridges, Scott Base, 2019. Photo: Natasha Gardiner

Antarctic science-policy knowledge exchange practices in New Zealand

18 March 2024

Antarctic environmental change is accelerating, which has broad scale implications for both New Zealand and the globe. Robust evidence-informed policy is needed to address the increasing pressures on fragile Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments.

The Antarctic Science Platform aims to understand the implications and impacts of climate and environmental change in Antarctica and to produce policy-relevant knowledge that can inform decision-making, policy development and planning at multiple scales. Achieving this goal requires effective knowledge exchange practices at the science-policy interface. Yet, studies on the efficacy of Antarctic science-policy dialogues at the domestic level remain limited.

Led by PhD Student Natasha Gardiner, researchers have examined stakeholder perspectives on Antarctic science-policy knowledge exchange in New Zealand (read this recent publication for more information). The study reports on the findings from two workshops involving over 60 of New Zealand’s Antarctic stakeholders. The workshops aimed to explore New Zealand’s Antarctic science-policy interface and identify barriers and drivers for success (the workshop reports can be downloaded here).

Connecting Antarctic Science and Policy Workshop

Workshop 1 ‘Connecting Antarctic Science and Policy’ at the NZ Antarctic Science Conference, 2021. Photo: Natasha Gardiner

This PhD research found that New Zealand’s Antarctic science-policy interactions were largely seen as linear. Researchers and policymakers are primarily working in separate spheres, and science-policy engagement occurs at the beginning or the end of research projects, with limited two-way dialogues facilitated throughout. The linear model sees scientists as the ‘producers’ of knowledge, with information delivered in a linear direction towards policymakers, who are largely viewed as the passive ‘end-users’ of scientific information.

Furthermore, while New Zealand’s Antarctic policy community is small, the study found that only a few stakeholders felt well connected and engaged in science-policy dialogues. Several challenges were found to likely contribute to these issues, including (among others):

  • Unclear connections between key Antarctic research and policy entities in New Zealand
  • Mismatched funding, Antarctic logistics and policy timelines
  • A lack of incentives for practitioners to engage at the science-policy interface
  • Few metrics for success.

The study recognises that the Antarctic science-policy interface is complex, but that there are opportunities to develop new and improved ways of working. For instance, the New Zealand Antarctic stakeholder community demonstrated a strong desire to shift away from linear knowledge exchange practices towards co-production (see figure below), which embraces more collaborative and participatory approaches.

Rather than seeing the science-policy interface as a pathway for knowledge delivery, co-production sees knowledge exchange as a process of joint knowledge production among both policymakers and researchers. Co-production practices are on the rise as a means to effectively address the complex socio-ecological issues of the twenty-first century. This research suggests greater consideration (and resourcing) is required to explore the potential benefits of co-production practices for New Zealand’s research and policy communities.

Science policy arrangements situated along a continuum

Science-policy arrangements situated along a continuum. Source: Gardiner et al, 2023.

Overall, the study contributes to our understanding of domestic knowledge exchange practices and offers new guidance on several key elements for consideration when aiming to understand or improve the Antarctic science-policy interface in New Zealand.

Future opportunities identified by the research include:

  1. Capacity-building among both research and policy communities; for example, embedding researchers (particularly early-career researchers) within policymaking settings through secondment schemes or other initiatives.
  2. Clarifying the knowledge exchange mandates, roles and responsibilities for relevant organisations, and the connections between them.
  3. Incentivising meaningful efforts to interact and exchange knowledge, beyond traditional measures of impact.
  4. Creating greater access and communication by way of targeted stakeholder workshops that bring together policymakers and scientists to co-produce knowledge and identify policy options on key issues of concern.
  5. Further social-science research on New Zealand’s Antarctic science-policy interface to, among other things, identify and share lessons learned, identify indicators for measuring success, and ensure that science-policy knowledge exchange practices are informed by theory.

If you have any questions about this research, contact Natasha Gardiner.