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What's in a Claim? Ought'nt Evidence from Social Science be just as Sweet?

Governance
Green Politics
Global
Policy Change
Jessica Duncan
Wageningen University and Research Center
Jessica Duncan
Wageningen University and Research Center
M. Jahi Chappell
Coventry University

Abstract

Pressure on scientists to produce policy-relevant research (i.e., science for impact) is increasing. While certainly welcome, such shifts in the culture of science and policy should not go unscrutinised. There are deep, potentially hidden, implications for science, policy and society that require further consideration, evaluation and debate. To advance understanding of the impact-turn in scientific research, we set out to analyse the agroecology policy-science interface. What makes agroecology a particularly interesting entry point for this research is that it is a science, a set of practices, and a movement. Agroecology remains a contested concept, but is often defined as the science of applying ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable food systems. Within the field of global food governance, increasing attention is being paid to agroecology. The result is the emerging groundwork for an agroecology governance architecture, led by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. In this Paper we analyse the relationship between scientific method and conclusions. More specifically, we ask: is there a tendency in natural science agroecology research to make social science claims? To do this we use a random selection of academic presentations aimed at contributing to policy recommendations on agroecology, notably presentations given at the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition (2015) and three proceeding regional meetings. Our analysis uncovers disconnects between the scientific methods employed by the researchers, and the conclusions delivered to policy makers. To conclude the paper we reflect on the implications of this trend agroecology and beyond, and conclude with recommendations for a critical and transparent multidisciplinary approach to the organisation of the agroecology science-policy interface.