Post-normal science in practice: Reflections from scientific experts working on the European agri-food policy nexus

Kerry A. Waylen*, Kirsty L. Blackstock, Keith B. Matthews, Alba Juarez-Bourke, Alice Hague, Dough H. Wardell-Johnson, Dave G. Miller, Zora Kovacic, Thomas Völker, Angela Guimaraes Pereira, Mario Giampietro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Post-Normal Science (PNS) emphasises the need for scientists and policy-makers to iteratively co-analyse and learn together, as part of an extended peer community. However, the roles and implications for scientific experts when interacting with policy-makers are not well understood. Informed by insights from science and technology studies (STS) on modalities of interaction and the multiple potential roles of experts, we reflect on our experiences as scientific experts working on European agricultural policy within the interdisciplinary H2020 MAGIC project. We aimed to analyse and facilitate science-policy dialogue on a variety of European sustainability challenges. Whilst we achieved stimulating interactions on the nexus of issues associated with sustainable agriculture, our experiences did not fully match our deliberative vision. In part this was due to the varied constraints and reactions of policy-makers: many had limited remit for engagement, some expressed scientists should act as ‘fact’ providers in support of current tasks; others contested scientific analyses when these implied policy approaches were insufficient. Our own roles and reactions also varied across the scientific team and over time: from attempting to foster relationships, to emphasising our relevance to their tasks, or making stronger judgements. This dynamic mix was at times personally uncomfortable and challenging. Navigating such processes needs explicit reflection on the potentially plural roles expected of scientific and other experts working on and for sustainability. Meanwhile, the persistent expectations and institutional constraints that underlie and constrain science-policy interactions need more recognition, including by policy institutions themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-167
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Early online date25 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • transdisciplinarity
  • Nexus
  • Science-policy interface
  • Knowledge co-production
  • European policy
  • Scientific ethnography


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