The Interdisciplinary Research and Education Fund (INREF) and the Knowledge Base (KB) Programme on Food Security and Valuing Water, both part of Wageningen University & Research (WUR), jointly organised an international science-policy event in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Looking back on day 1
While awe-ing the new dialogue centre ‘Omnia’ at Wageningen Campus the 100+plus participants of WIFI came to business. The science policy interface was the central topic on the first day of the event. Prof Dirk-Jan Koch, chief Science Officer of the ministry underlined the importance of a good interface. Challenges like differences in language, time-scales, and instruments were all discussed. Some success stories on science policy were shared in the publication ‘crossing borders’ which Prof Arthur Mol presented. The publication shares 10 years of experience from 17 INREF programmes.
In a panel with representatives from government, industry, civil society, science and youth views on the best way forward were exchanged, whereby the panellists stressed the importance of longer term collaborations, building trust and a joint language, for sustained change. A first copy of the book ‘A journey into the world’s food systems in search of losses, waste and ways to solve them’ was presented to Casper Holl, representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
At the day’s closure Prof Anita Hardon added a view from the funders perspective, which also underlined the need for more flexible and longer-term funding, but also more clarity on what is realistic to expect in terms of impact of science. In the end we can conclude that there is no silver bullet; effective science-policy interface requires time and investment from all stakeholders, to build trust, to build relations, and to strengthen collaboration.
Looking back on day 2
The second day took another angle and aimed to deepen the insights of effective approaches of inter- and transdisciplinary research and education. It is not easy for disciplinary trained researchers to conduct inter- let alone transdisciplinary research, as Prof Wouter Hendriks explained by examples from the worlds of sport and IT. (Lack of) mutual understanding and intrinsic motivation are just a few of the challenges. Prof Lindiwe Sibanda (University of Pretoria) stressed the importance of involving and building local capacity, African history has a rich base to source from for sustainable solutions for their current problems. Prof Laurette Dubé (McGill University) presented the concept of convergence innovation. During the parallel sessions experiences were exchanged from various programmes, ranging from how to manage interdisciplinary research at organisational level, to how to integrate scientific and non-scientific knowledge, to how to effectively engage with stakeholders. Two members of the International Association of students in Agricultural and related Sciences (IAAS) provided feedback to the participants. It became clear that inter and transdisciplinary has an important role to play in tackling the complex challenges and wicked problems we face. The discussion also showed there is some ground to be covered in managing inter- and transdisciplinary research and equipping the next generation of researchers with the right skills and tools. It is key that sciences reaches out to social actors (including policy) to tackle the problems.
The days were experienced as a worthwhile contribution to the initiating programs. In fact, there is much enthusiasm to organize an annually recurring event on research on SDG’s. Such an event helps to facilitate the exchanges between programmes such as INREF, KB and others, to enhance science-policy interface and to stimulate inter- and transdisciplinary research.