GR (Robbert) Biesbroek PhD

GR (Robbert) Biesbroek PhD

Associate Professor

Robbert Biesbroek is Associate Professor at the Public Administration and Policy group at Wageningen University. His research interests include mechanisms of complex decision making, dynamics of policy (dis)integration of cross-cutting societal issues, and the political and bureaucratic responses to climate change adaptation. In 2014 he co-founded TRAC3 an international collaboration for developing conceptual, methodological, and empirical approaches for tracking adaptation across scales and contexts ( and he is one of the leads in the Adaptation Tracking Collaborative (2016-2018). He is recipient of a Dutch NWO-VENI research grant (2018-2022) and (co)authored over 75 scientific articles on climate change adaptation policy. Dr. Biesbroek currently serves as Editor for the scientific journal Regional Environmental Change (IF: 2.9). He is selected as Coordinating Lead Author for the IPCC AR6 report on Impacts Vulnerability and Adaptation, chapter 13: Europe (2018-2022).



Three key publications (scholar google account):

  1. Biesbroek, G.R. Berrang-Ford, L, Lesnikowski, A., Austin S., and J.D. Ford, (2018) Data, concepts and methods for large-n comparative climate change adaptation policy research: a systematic literature review. Wiley interdisciplinary science: climate change
  2. Biesbroek, G.R., Lesnikowski, A., Berrang-Ford, L., Vink, M., and Ford, J., (2018) Do administrative traditions matter for climate change adaptation policy? A comparative analysis of 32 Annex I countries, Review of Policy Research
  3. Biesbroek, G.R., Dupuis, J. and A. Wellstead (2017) Explaining through Causal Mechanisms: Resilience and Governance of Social-Ecological Systems. Current opinion in Environmental Sustainability 28:64–70

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.