Learning from failure at the science–policy interface for climate action in agriculture

Dhanush Dinesh*, Dries Hegger, Joost Vervoort, Bruce M. Campbell, Peter P.J. Driessen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Science–policy engagement efforts to accelerate climate action in agricultural systems are key to enable the sector to contribute to climate and food security goals. However, lessons to improve science–policy engagement efforts in this context mostly come from successful efforts and are limited in terms of empirical scope. Moreover, lessons have not been generated systematically from failed science–policy engagement efforts. Such analysis using lessons from failure management can improve or even transform the efficacy of efforts. To address this knowledge gap, we examined challenges and failures faced in science–policy engagement efforts of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). We developed an explanatory framework inspired by Cash et al.’s criteria for successful knowledge systems for sustainable development: credibility, salience, and legitimacy, complemented with insights from the wider literature. Using this framework in a survey, we identified factors which explain failure. To effectively manage these factors, we propose a novel approach for researchers working at the science–policy interface to fail intelligently, which involves planning for failure, minimizing risks, effective design, making failures visible, and learning from failures. This approach needs to be complemented by actions at the knowledge system level to create an enabling environment for science–policy interfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalMitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2021


  • Adaptation
  • Agriculture
  • Climate change
  • Failure management
  • Mitigation
  • Science–policy interfaces

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