The role of science-policy interface in sustainable urban water transitions: Lessons from Rotterdam

Gemma Dunn, R. R. Brown, J. J. Bos, K. Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates the role of the science-policy interface in leveraging transitions to sustainable urban water management. The paper presents a case study of the Dutch city of Rotterdam, which is increasingly regarded as a global leader in adaptive and resilient urban water management. The analysis reveals that Rotterdam's transition has occurred incrementally over the past 15 years, driven by policy entrepreneurs: largely municipal policy makers and policy practitioners. Strategic use of the science-policy interface (SPI) has facilitated the development of innovative solutions to achieve policy goals and created the enabling conditions necessary for transformative change. The Rotterdam case suggests that an effective SPI requires: (1) compelling water narrative; (2) cross-sectoral collaboration; (3) co-production of knowledge; (4) experiential evidence-based learning; (5) strategic use of trusted scientists; (6) fostering networks; and (7) generating business from science-based innovation. Rotterdam's strategic approach to knowledge and innovation coupled with a new narrative around water sets it apart from many other cities and adds a new dimension to debates regarding enabling factors for advancing sustainable practices. These findings will be of interest to those engaged in urban water management policy and practice, environmental governance, and debates over transitions more broadly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-79
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • Experimentation
  • Networks
  • Science-policy interface
  • Social learning
  • Transitions
  • Urban water

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