The interface between land use systems research and policy: Multiple arrangements and leverages

B. Sterk, P. Carberry, C. Leeuwis, M.K. van Ittersum, M. Howden, H.B. Meinke, H. van Keulen, W.A.H. Rossing

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36 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, interest in the policy-informing role of research organisations has grown considerably. It has been argued from within the science domain that the management of land, whether at the field, farm or regional scale, can benefit from computer-based systems analysis. This proposition was examined through 26 semi-structured interviews, by conducting a workshop on modelling support in policy decision-making and investigating 11 European-based cases of policy-oriented modelling research. On basis of these materials, we assess approaches towards policy-oriented modelling within the domain of agricultural production and other environmental services of land. First, we define the boundary arrangements for our field of interest, i.e. computer-based systems analysis of agricultural production and ecosystems services. Such ideotypical classification of boundary arrangements makes explicit the institutional space in which system scientists function. This space enables certain activities, and at the same time constrains other initiatives, dependent on who is perceived to initiate and/or control research activities and to formulate objectives, and whether it is considered appropriate to integrate scientific knowledge development with policy work. Five ideotypical boundary arrangements are proposed: `Civil mandate¿; `Trickle out¿; `Janus face¿; `Critical participant¿; and `Knowledge broker¿. In a second step, a number of critical leverage points are identified based on the 11 cases and these are addressed in relation to the five boundary arrangements. The term `leverage point¿ covers means, conditions and methods that foster use of modelling work that can be changed, and thus may be part of a strategy to increase the chances that a model is used. The leverage points were: reputation of research institute and/or scientists; raising and balancing expectations; communication about and investment in the scientific basis of the modelling work; participation in model development; heterogeneous and extensive social network in policy domain; institute mandate that secures availability of `stepping stones¿. We conceive of two applications of our research for modellers who are interested in the use of their work in the policy sphere. First, the boundary arrangement classification helps to interpret the experiences of others and to assess the relevance of lessons and suggestions for their own context. Secondly, the combination of the boundary arrangement perspective and critical leverage points presents a basis to design an institutional pathway for enhancing impact of modelling research in the policy sphere. For those researchers functioning in a science-domain-oriented environment, the analysis in this paper suggests that there are more options than the frequently proposed `more participation¿ for increasing the likelihood that their policy-oriented work is used. These include establishing contacts with research groups or institutes that are in a position to function as `stepping stones¿, or engaging with others to develop a social network in the policy sphere
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-442
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • natural-resource management
  • decision-support-system
  • south-east asia
  • integrated assessment
  • european-community
  • options
  • models
  • farm
  • scenarios
  • knowledge


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