GR (Robbert) Biesbroek PhD

GR (Robbert) Biesbroek PhD

Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences, Public Administration and Policy group (since November 2013). I hold an Ph.D. in Political and Environmental Science from Wageningen University (January 2014). I am co-founder of TRAC3, an international collaboration on tracking research on climate change adaptation and Jury member of the Brasz thesis award for best thesis in the Netherlands in the field of Public Administration. 

My research topics of interest include: public policy and governance, complex decision making, neo-institutionalism, policy dynamics, climate change adaptation, social mechanisms of policy change



Three key publications (scholar google account):

  1. Biesbroek G.R., Termeer, C.J.A.M., Klostermann, J.E.M. and P. Kabat (2014) Rethinking barriers to adaptation: mechanism-based explanation of impasses in the governance of an innovative adaptation measure, Global Environmental Change 26, 108118
  2. Dupuis, J. and Biesbroek G.R. (2013) Comparing apples and oranges? The dependent variable problem in comparing and evaluating climate change adaptation policies, Global Environmental Change, 23(6), 1476-1487
  3. Biesbroek, G.R., Swart, R.J., Carter, T.R., Cowan, C., Henrichs, T., Mela, H., Morcecroft, M.D., and D. Rey (2010) Europe Adapts to Climate Change: Comparing National Adaptation Strategies. Global Environmental Change 20(3), 440-450.

My current research can be captured in three major research lines:

  • Tracking adaptation to climate change: This line of research focusses on the questions of how to track and compare adaptation across cases. It focusses on three types of challenges: conceptual (adaptation is often unclear and indistinctive), methodological (what kind of indicators and proxies can be used to construct a baseline for policy analysis) and practical (existing datasets on adaptation are often limited, too broad or insufficiently tailored). Together with colleagues at McGill University (Canada) I have founded the TRAC3 consortium that tries to address these challenges. Specific projects can be found at the project website.


  • Policy dynamics and boundary spanning policy problems: many societal challenges crosscut traditional policy subsystems, including environmental issues like climate change and food security. By their very nature these boundary spanning policy problems require some level of coordination and coherence across subsystems to tackle these issues. In many cases it requires some level of policy innovation. In this research I try to unravel the boundary spanning nature of these problems, to uncover recurring patterns in how different issues are addressed across different country contexts, and identify the key decision dynamics, policy capacities and governance instruments that can facilitate boundary spanning policy.


  • Social mechanisms in environmental policy: Social mechanisms can be understood as the recurring interaction patterns in society that provide the building blocks of social theories. These de-contextualised, processual conceptualisation of decision dynamics can be used to build theories and compare experiences across cases. In this line of research, I continue my dissertation work in search of recurring patterns that help to better understand the challenges in dynamically complex processes of decision making, particularly in the domains of climate change adaptation, water management, and food security.