Implementing post-normal science with or for EU policy actors: using quantitative story-telling

Kirsty L. Blackstock*, Kerry A. Waylen, Keith B. Matthews, Alba Juarez-Bourke, Dave G. Miller, A. Hague, Dough H. Wardell-Johnosn, Mario Giampietro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


There is increasing recognition of the wicked nature of the intertwined climate, biodiversity and economic crises, and the need for adaptive, multi-scale approaches to understanding the complexity of both the problems and potential responses. Most science underpinning policy responses to sustainability issues, however, remains overtly apolitical and focussed on technical innovation; at odds with a critical body of literatures insisting on the recognition of systemic problem framing when supporting policy processes. This paper documents the experience of implementing a mixed method approach called quantitative story-telling (QST) to policy analysis that explicitly recognises this normative dimension, as the methodology is part of a post-normal science (PNS) toolkit. The authors reflect on what was learnt when considering how QST fared as a tool for science–policy interaction, working with European Union (EU) level policy actors interested in sustainable agriculture and sustainable development goal 2. These goals—also known as UN Agenda 2030—are the latest institutionalisation of the pursuit of sustainable development and the EU has positioned itself as taking a lead in its implementation. Thus, the paper illustrates our experience of using PNS as an approach to science policy interfaces in a strategic policy context; and illustrates how the challenges identified in the science–policy literature are amplified when working across multiple policy domains and taking a complex systems approach. Our discussion on lessons learnt may be of interest to researchers seeking to work with policy-makers on complex sustainability issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1235-1250
Number of pages16
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Agriculture
  • European Union
  • Post-normal science
  • Quantitative story-telling
  • Science–policy interactions


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