Motivations for experts to participate in International Platform assessments: a preliminary report

10th January 2013

A key topic of discussion when IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – meets for its first plenary meeting in Bonn between the 21st and 26th January 2013 will be how it may produce independent, policy-relevant scientific assessments.

The success of these assessments will depend on involving experts  from a wide range of subject areas and geographical backgrounds and critically, from different institutions, including universities, non-governmental organisations and UN agencies.  The unique combination of partner organisations and University of Cambridge departments within CCI contains a range of such institutions who are successfully working together on over 50 collaborative projects.

UNEP-WCMC therefore produced a report for this meeting, on behalf of CCI and the CCI IPBES Liaison Group, which draws on this collective experience to begin to look at factors that would motivate experts to take part in potential IPBES assessments.

The ideas of positive incentives – a benefit of participating in IPBES assessments – and negative incentives – the costs of participation – are used to frame the discussion in this report. The likelihood that these experts participate in IPBES assessments depends on how they, and their employer, perceive the balance between these different incentives. In order to attract the best qualified experts to the process, the right positive incentives need to be offered and these should outweigh any disincentives.

Jamie Gibson from UNEP-WCMC carried out a series of interviews with 15 experts from across Cambridge. The experts made a number of recommendations that would help to formulate positive incentives to participate in future IPBES assessments, including:

  1. Evaluating and communicating the way in which these assessments make a difference to environmental policy-making so as to encourage wide participation in development and delivery of assessments. If experts do not feel that an assessment will have a policy impact they are likely to decline an invitation to participate.
  2. Ensuring that a large and representative network of experts is created and used and that these experts are asked for targeted inputs, related to their specialism as well as finding innovative ways to exchange ideas between academics.
  3. Exploring ways to allow for some sort of financial compensation for intensive time commitments and setting firm, realistic timetables for assessments well in advance of the start dates for work.
  4. Finding ways to translate assessment inputs into academic papers was also seen as important as assessment outputs are not yet valued as much as academic research for university experts.

More details about each of these recommendations and the larger study are included in an Information Document released in advance of the meeting. This can be downloaded from the IPBES website (where it is listed as Information Document 15) or can be accessed from here by following the links within the page.

Throughout the IPBES meeting, the IISD Reporting Service will provide daily digital coverage, reports and a summary and analysis so follow this link for more information. Twitter will also be used to report on events throughout the meeting.