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Governance of Complex Socio-Environmental Risks: The Case of Hazardous Chemicals in the Baltic Sea
Sodertorn University.
Sodertorn University.
Linköping University, The Tema Institute. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2011 (English)In: AMBIO, ISSN 0044-7447, Vol. 40, no 2, 144-157 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Complex socio-environmental risks challenge society. In response to scientific uncertainty and socio-political controversies, environmental governance, precaution, and the ecosystem approach to management are held forward as complements to governmental risk-based sector-restricted regulation. We analyze this development for hazardous substances in the Baltic Sea. Based on interviews and policy analysis, we study informal governance and, in particular, four central EU and international policies, and investigate how present governance relates to risks and objectives at hand. While showing emergence of broader governance approaches, we conclude that central objectives will not likely be met. Furthermore, we question the quest for broad environmental governance and emphasize the value of command and control regulation, if it implements precaution. These findings contribute to the theorizing on environmental (risk) governance. Finally, we provide some ideas that could help development and implementation of risk policies for hazardous chemicals in the Baltic Sea as well as other complex risks.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences , 2011. Vol. 40, no 2, 144-157 p.
Keyword [en]
Ecosystem approach, HELCOM, Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Precaution, REACH, Water Framework Directive
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-66153DOI: 10.1007/s13280-010-0126-0ISI: 000286933300005OAI: diva2:401894
Available from: 2011-03-04 Created: 2011-03-04 Last updated: 2014-05-13
In thesis
1. Science-policy interaction in the governance of complex socioecological risks: The case of chemicals management in the Baltic Sea
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Science-policy interaction in the governance of complex socioecological risks: The case of chemicals management in the Baltic Sea
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this thesis, I examine knowledge production and science-policy interaction associated with the management of chemical substances in the Baltic Sea under conditions of uncertainty and complexity. The thesis is primarily based on a qualitative analysis of policy documents and reports produced by the European Union (EU), the Helsinki Commission, the Swedish Chemicals Agency, and Gothenburg municipality, as well as 30 semi-structured interviews with scientific experts, policy makers, and government officials with knowledge and working experience in the relevant policy arenas.

I identify and examine key challenges of science-policy interaction associated with the management of chemical substances in the Baltic Sea, such as lack of data, uncertainty, and complexity (Article I). I further argue that the current model of science-policy interaction fails to adequately handle and account for these challenges (e.g. uncertainty in Article II).

Scientists and policy makers have made substantial (and sometimes successful) efforts to understand and counteract negative environmental trends in the Baltic Sea. However, on the basis of this empirical analysis, I conclude that the uncertainties tied to the complex chemical risks in the Baltic Sea region are too large and multifaceted to be adequately addressed by the “modern science-policy model” underpinning most contemporary risk assessments. Linked to this analysis, I identify several possible ways to improve the situation, for example new tools and methods for handling uncertainty as well as alternative models for science-policy interaction.

As a consequence, I explore the potential of alternative models of science-policy interaction, giving particular attention to the participatory model and the associated idea of post-normal science. The results highlight the substantial amount of rhetoric in EU sources about recommending wider public involvement in policies, but also reveal that there is a different situation in practice. The introduction of more radical approaches (such as post-normal science) to knowledge co-production and participation would require epistemological, institutional, and constitutional changes that are not feasible in the foreseeable future – at least for the case of chemical substances (Article III).

Improvements (methodological, institutional and so on) in the current modern model of science-policy interaction are just as important as the development of alternative modes of science-policy interaction (Article IV). However, the general conclusion of this thesis is that there is a need to rethink current science-policy interaction and in the process “break through” the widespread institutional denial of irreducible uncertainties.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. 64 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 623
Risk, Uncertainty, MSFD, HELCOM, REACH, post-normal science, precautionary, participation
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-106583 (URN)978-91-7519-307-6 (print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-06-04, Temcas, House T, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:00 (English)

This thesis is a part of the Environmental Risk Governance of the Baltic Sea (RISKGOV) project which is an interdisciplinary research project performed in collaboration with Södertörn University College, Sweden; Åbo Akademi University, Finland; DIALOGIK, Germany; and Gdansk University, Poland. The aim of the project is to improve understanding of the structuresand processes that shape the governance of environmental risks, and to suggest a normative framework for improving environmental risk governance in the Baltic Sea.More information is available at

Available from: 2014-05-13 Created: 2014-05-13 Last updated: 2014-05-13Bibliographically approved

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Udovyk, Oksana
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