Graduate from the LUCID PhD school Mine Islar (pictured), who is now carrying out her post-doctoral research at LUCSUS, was recently nominated by the Turkish government to take part as an expert advisor in the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). To date, this has entailed her involvement in two meetings each lasting a week, in Siegburg and Bonn, in July and September respectively.
The IPBES was established in April 2012 and involves the participation of representatives from 111 governments and is funded under the UN Environmental Program trust fund. Its function, as the by-line Science and policy for people and nature suggests, is to act as an interface between the policy-making and scientific communities in questions relating to the relationship between humans and the eco-systems on which we depend. The platform’s aim is to identify and be responsive to the needs of governments in terms of scientific information. It is to deliver global, regional and thematic assessments, promote the use of policy-relevant tools and methodologies and identify and address capacity building requirements.
Mine was part of an international group of roughly thirty experts, from fields spanning the natural and social sciences and the humanities, with representation from every continent. The group was charged with developing “the diverse conceptualization and assessment of the multiple values of nature and its benefits, including biodiversity and ecosystem” or as Mine puts in her own words, developing a: “comprehensive methodology/tool to signify diverse values of nature” with the more specific aim of overcoming the economic value/non-economic value dichotomy, which requires, amongst other tasks, engaging practically with different knowledge systems, particularly indigenous knowledge.
Amongst the diversity of academic voices represented in the group, Mine saw her particular role stemming from her expertise in interdisciplinary social sciences. Thus, she made representations on the importance of qualitative methodologies and advocated for the linking of discussions on values to issues of rights and relationships of power. The outcome of such discussions was that there would be a section on “power and voice” in the guideline document that was the object of the meetings. This is an oft neglected topic in the current eco-system services approach. Mine will also be the coordinating lead author for a chapter on the practical application of the concepts and tools developed by the group.
In terms of the process, the question of communication was central to navigating the interdisciplinary context, but moreover in attempting to bridge the science policy divide. As with all such situations, Mine reported it was a question of developing, and agreeing on, a workable interdisciplinary language and sympathetic understanding for the institutional norms of the different communities.