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The potential of systematic reviews in environmental social science: an analysis of its use to evaluate and inform policy
Umeå universitet, Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen.ORCID-id: 0000-0002-6902-6415
2020 (Engelska)Doktorsavhandling, sammanläggning (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract [en]

There is common agreement that public policy should be formulated based onknowledge of how it works and makes impact. Both scientific knowledge andevaluations can contribute to environmental decision-making and play animportant role to inform policy development. Over the past two decades,systematic review (SR) methods have been proposed to contribute to thispurpose. SRs are literature reviews, using explicit methods for selecting andanalysing empirical data. This dissertation explores the opportunities andchallenges occurring when introducing SR methods into environmental socialscience. Two main research questions are answered: 1) What are theopportunities and challenges of applying SR methods to investigate policy issuesin general, and environmental policy issues in particular?; 2) How have SRs(process and product) been used to inform decision makers, how can they be usedand how can we understand such use?

To this end, I examine how other researchers have used the SR methods (articleI); how project managers, researchers and stakeholders view the usefulness of themethods (article II); I apply a specific SR method to a policy issue (article III);and discuss the relevance of the SR methods in general to political science (articleIV). Multiple methods and materials were used, including an overview ofliterature, a realist review and interviews with project managers, researchers, andstakeholders.

The findings can be summarised into four main points. Firstly, SR methods canbe used to evaluate environmental policy, but the challenges in applying themethods to social science policy research should be kept in mind. SR methodsprovide guidelines for how to make a literature review that is rigorous andmethodologically robust, with a number of benefits such as contributing with newempirical results and developing theory, methods and research design. At the same time, a number of challenges arise when they are to be applied to complexissues, heterogeneous research methods and data.

Secondly, methodological pluralism should be applied in SR. Given how socialscience research is conducted (with many different methods, both qualitative andquantitative) and which issues are examined (often complex), I advocatemethodological pluralism regarding what should be considered an SR method. Itshould include both qualitative and quantitative methods, without any hierarchybetween them.

Thirdly, there is need to nuance the theoretical understanding of how SRs areused and how they can be expected to be used. The findings suggest that bothvaggregative and configurative SRs will be used in different ways, including forinstrumental, conceptual and legitimising purposes. A more positive view oflegitimising use than what is often considered was revealed by the interviews,suggesting that legitimising use can also be helpful to inform policy.

Fourthly, two additional benefits of SR methods can be added in relation to whatresearchers can derive from these. This includes more systematic identificationof knowledge gaps and showing where the evidence is weak or contradictory. Bysearching for all available research and then applying strict criteria for whichstudies to include, SR can provide a clearer picture of what research is availableand not. Furthermore, the very process of conducting an SR means that theresearcher who performs it must be confronted with a wider range of literatureand be forced to study the quality of the studies in a way that is rarely done. Thiscan provide insights into the consequences of different method choices as well asto literature beyond the researchers’ own disciplinary focus.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
Umeå: Umeå University , 2020. , s. 73
Serie
Statsvetenskapliga institutionens skriftserie, ISSN 0349-0831 ; 2020:2
Nyckelord [en]
Public policy evaluation, Environmental public policy, Systematic review methodology, Systematic review methods, Realist review; Evidence-based policy; Knowledge use, Inform policy making, Methodological pluralism, Voluntary agreements
Nationell ämneskategori
Statsvetenskap
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-174930ISBN: 978-91-7855-359-4 (tryckt)ISBN: 978-91-7855-360-0 (digital)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-174930DiVA, id: diva2:1466314
Disputation
2020-10-09, Aula Biologica, Biologihuset, Umeå, 13:15 (Engelska)
Opponent
Handledare
Tillgänglig från: 2020-09-18 Skapad: 2020-09-11 Senast uppdaterad: 2020-09-30Bibliografiskt granskad
Delarbeten
1. Using systematic review methods to evaluate environmental public policy: methodological challenges and potential usefulness
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Using systematic review methods to evaluate environmental public policy: methodological challenges and potential usefulness
2020 (Engelska)Ingår i: Environmental Science and Policy, ISSN 1462-9011, E-ISSN 1873-6416, Vol. 105, s. 47-55Artikel, forskningsöversikt (Refereegranskat) Published
Abstract [en]

This article provides an overview of how systematic review (SR) methods have been used to evaluate public policy. It argues that these methods can be applied to the evaluation of environmental public policy, but that certain challenges need to be addressed in order to fulfil the SR methods potential. The article reflects upon two methodological challenges confronting systematic reviewers: how data from the articles should be synthesised; and how to take societal contexts into account. Analysing how these challenges have been addressed in practice contributes to the theoretical discussion about the usefulness of different synthesis methods, and the role of context. Three lessons are drawn as to how systematic review methods can become useful when applied to the evaluation of environmental public policy, namely: (1) to anticipate the heterogeneity in the literature from the beginning in terms of both research design and operationalisation of key concepts; (2) to consider the purpose of the review when deciding whether to take a single- or multi-context approach; and (3) to be methodologically innovative when applying the systematic review methods to complex policies.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
Elsevier, 2020
Nyckelord
Public policy evaluation, Environmental public policy, Systematic review methodology, Synthesis methods, Context
Nationell ämneskategori
Studier av offentlig förvaltning Miljövetenskap
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-168833 (URN)10.1016/j.envsci.2019.12.008 (DOI)000513988400005 ()2-s2.0-85076686386 (Scopus ID)
Forskningsfinansiär
Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien, 4 150501-18043
Tillgänglig från: 2020-03-19 Skapad: 2020-03-19 Senast uppdaterad: 2023-03-23Bibliografiskt granskad
2. Using systematic reviews to inform environmental policy-making
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Using systematic reviews to inform environmental policy-making
(Engelska)Manuskript (preprint) (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Nationell ämneskategori
Statsvetenskap
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-174924 (URN)
Tillgänglig från: 2020-09-11 Skapad: 2020-09-11 Senast uppdaterad: 2020-09-14
3. Voluntary agreements to protect private forests: a realist review
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Voluntary agreements to protect private forests: a realist review
Visa övriga...
2021 (Engelska)Ingår i: Forest Policy and Economics, ISSN 1389-9341, E-ISSN 1872-7050, Vol. 128, artikel-id 102457Artikel, forskningsöversikt (Refereegranskat) Published
Abstract [en]

There is increasing political interest in the use of voluntary agreements (VA) as a policy instrument. The attraction has grown also in environmental policy, VAs are expected to be less costly, more effective and more cost-efficient than regulation. Using a realist review methodology, our analysis focuses on the effect of contextual factors and mechanisms on private forest owners' willingness to enter into formal voluntary nature conservation agreements. The framework we use to analyse the effects includes: forest owner characteristics, forest attributes, institutional context and process, advisors and other forest owners, and contract design, for contextual factors – and economic attitudes, environmental attitudes, sense of autonomy, sense of justice and fairness, trust as well as knowledge, for mechanisms. The analysis allowed merging findings from different types of VAs in varying contexts in a systematized way, and consolidating evidence of how the mechanisms influence the programme implementation process, and its outcome. 43 reviewed articles, from an originally retrieved set of 2231 papers, provide evidence for environmental attitudes supporting willingness to enter into an agreement. Environmental attitudes are strengthened by forest owners' wishes to protect a heritage, suggesting considerable influence through personal, emotional attachment to the forest. This finding shows the central role played by sense of autonomy, with economic compensation also importantly affecting the willingness to enter a VA. Along with these results, the developed comprehensive analytical framework shows how VAs can become more effective if tailored for different contexts and types of forest owners.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
Elsevier, 2021
Nyckelord
Realist review, Voluntary conservation agreements, Private forest owners
Nationell ämneskategori
Statsvetenskap
Forskningsämne
statskunskap
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-174927 (URN)10.1016/j.forpol.2021.102457 (DOI)000651357000014 ()2-s2.0-85104060842 (Scopus ID)
Forskningsfinansiär
Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien, 150501-18043Mistra - Stiftelsen för miljöstrategisk forskning
Anmärkning

Previously included in thesis in manuscript form, with title: "Voluntary agreements to protect private forests"

Tillgänglig från: 2020-09-11 Skapad: 2020-09-11 Senast uppdaterad: 2023-09-05Bibliografiskt granskad
4. What political scientists can learn from systematic reviews
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>What political scientists can learn from systematic reviews
(Engelska)Manuskript (preprint) (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Nationell ämneskategori
Statsvetenskap
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-174928 (URN)
Tillgänglig från: 2020-09-11 Skapad: 2020-09-11 Senast uppdaterad: 2020-09-14

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