Environmental Engineering Reference
Case: Interacting with the EC
Allocation of research funding is a way of manifesting political prioritisation and
expanding knowledge in a certain direction. Given the importance attributed to
impact assessment in European policy making it is logical that several large projects
with the task to develop frameworks for modelling tools are presently funded
by EU's Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development
(e.g. SEAMLESS, SENSOR, EFORWOOD). 2 Development of such systems is
clearly in line with the Commission's aim to implement the impact assessment
procedure in the EC and in the Member States.
But also the way work in the funded projects is organised, is part of a political
progression to spread the idea of impact assessment as a political tool. In the research
proposals and in the intermittent evaluations of the projects the importance of user
interaction with potential users at different political levels during the development of
the system has been forcefully underlined. Dissemination and stakeholder interaction
are regular requirements in research funded by the EC, but in the recommendations
to the SEAMLESS project it has been advocated in quite a pronounced way.
It was acknowledged already from the outset of the project that the success of
the framework and its impact on EU policies depended on an efficient implementation
and integration into user organisations. In the project proposal it was thus stipulated
that the program should establish a permanent group of 'advisors' among potential
'users' that could help to develop the framework in - a process of 'co-evolution'. Users
were defined as organisations/individuals that potentially could use SEAMLESS-IF
to support impact assessment processes. For mainly practical reasons the users
were divided into prime users (being DGs like Agriculture and Environment) and
other users like national policy making or implementation agencies and organisation
advocating e.g. agricultural or environmental interests.
Forming a Platform for Interaction
As the aim was to develop a system that could serve the impact assessments work
performed in the Commission, user interaction could very well have been arranged
in such a way that the project from the start had been provided with a reference group
of experienced assessment leaders in the EC. But this was not the case, instead the
researchers in the project had to work their way into the DGs, to establish contact
with officers that we identified as possible potential users, and evoke their interest
for a modelling tool like SEAMLESS-IF.
We wanted to establish a User Forum (UF), with permanent members that were
willing to follow the project during its development of the framework. In search of
the relevant contacts a large number of officers at different DGs of the Commission,
2 SENSOR: Sustainability Impact Assessment Tools for Environmental Social and Economic
Effects of Multifunctional Land Use in European Regions. EFORWOOD: Sustainability Impact
Assessment of the Forestry-Wood Chain.