Eleven enablers of science thought leadership to facilitate knowledge exchange in environmental regulation

Stefan Kaufman, Anthony Boxshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Evidence informed environmental policy and decision-making remains aspirational. Knowledge exchange literature indicates neccessary supportive elements and activities but acknowledges a gap in understanding of interpersonal and relational aspects. Inquiry is particularly lacking into the roles and potential of internal expert advice, especially in the micro-level instrumental decisions regulators make daily. We identify these characteristics as ‘science thought leadership’ (STL) and explore their role in experiences of successful decision support in environmental regulation. Forty-four cases in Victoria, Australia, and Florida, USA, were identified and analysed via appreciative inquiry methods. The cases prioritized in this process highlight environmental regulatory decisions, administrative in nature yet part of the policy cycle, as important sites of STL. STL is a set of characteristics and capabilities underpinning effective knowledge exchange, leading to better evidence-informed decisions. It is a series of 11 inter-related personal, professional and organisational enablers pivotal in cases when problem definition is contested, and legitimacy must be demonstrated. Integration, expertise and decisiveness in uncertainty is present when organisations and management value science and experts, and are externally accountable to justify decisions. Based on the findings, we present a conceptual model of STL and a checklist for its presence to assist both government and universities to recognize, work with and support STLs as crucial facilitators of evidence informed decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-348
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Appreciative inquiry
  • Environmental regulation
  • Internal experts
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Knowledge translation

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