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Interests Influencing Information? Analyzing interest group contribution to information flows in EU Common Fisheries Policy
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6255-2335
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1913-5197
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7780-1039
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Information and knowledge is important for sustainably managing natural resources. Uncertainty and lack of information can lead to inability to identify and manage complex social-ecological feedbacks and slow change. However scientific information and knowledge, even when present, does not always find its way to policy and when it does – may fail to make any impact. Public policy researchers often stress the ever-present ambiguity, time constraints, lack of access and issue framing as some of the reasons why policy-relevant information may be misinterpreted or ignored. Resilience research recognizes the importance of participation of the broad diversity of stakeholders in the policy process for allowing a broader diversity of knowledge to influence decision-making and better detect and respond to environmental change. Organizing to influence policy, stakeholders may form interest groups that often engage in supplying information to policymakers as one of the ways to influence policy outcomes. Although interest groups undoubtedly contribute to the information flow within the policy process, it is unclear whether they contribute to the diversity of available information or are able to strengthen the link between scientific information and decision-making. Previous empirical research shows that agencies with own capacity to generate own information may ignore organized interests, while the quality and diversity of information provided by interest groups may vary significantly. This paper looks at the case of 2013 EU Common Fisheries Policy reform in order to find how interest group actors have contributed to the flow of issue-relevant information supplied to policymakers during the critical stages of the reform. It analyses interest group position papers, letters and briefings as well as interviews with interest group representatives and policymakers in order to assess the type of information supplied, its source, framing and recipients, aiming to get a broader picture of interest groups’ contribution. The paper finds that interest groups have been using informational lobbying as one of their main strategies during the reform process. Most interest groups have frequently used scientific information, already available to policymakers, in order to support their own framing of the issue.

National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-155106OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-155106DiVA, id: diva2:1197077
Available from: 2018-04-11 Created: 2018-04-11 Last updated: 2018-04-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Understanding interest politics in social-ecological systems: Mechanisms behind emergent policy responses to environmental change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Understanding interest politics in social-ecological systems: Mechanisms behind emergent policy responses to environmental change
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Environmental policymaking is embedded in social-ecological systems (SES) that continuously evolve and change, often in unexpected and non-linear ways. Such challenges call for responsive policymaking that adjusts policy when new information and knowledge about social-ecological change is available. However, policy adaptation can be difficult as policies often emerge as an outcome of multiple interactions between state and non-state actors that pursue their different interests, aim to achieve their individual and shared goals and make sense of information and knowledge. Complexities inherent in SES can be better captured through diverse types of information and knowledge, while adaptation to social-ecological change can occur through innovation and learning. Research has emphasized the contribution of non-state actors or interest groups in realizing such processes in policymaking. However, interest group participation can also be a source of conflict or result in dominance of powerful interests and resistance to learning and policy change. This thesis aims to shed light on the dynamics of the policy process in social-ecological systems to better understand some of the mechanisms that drive its responsiveness to social-ecological change. It focuses on interest groups and their properties as well as the social and ecological conditions of their participation in the policy process to investigate how responsive and sustainable policies can emerge out of the “messy” political struggle. The thesis first explores the case of 2013 EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform to trace the mechanism of interest group influence and identify their contribution to the flow of information from SES. Further it applies the empirical mechanism in an agent-based model to: 1) test the scope conditions of the mechanism; 2) extend it to include interest group responses to change in the managed SES. Paper I of the thesis analyses theoretical frameworks of the policy process originating in public policy research to assess their suitability for capturing political complexity in SES governance research. Paper II looks at the CFP reform case, using process tracing to understand how interest groups have been able to achieve influence on the reform.  Paper III further investigates the case to find the role of interest groups in shaping information flows within the policy process. Paper IV uses empirical findings in Papers II and III, along with frameworks analyzed in Paper I to develop an agent-based model that explores how individual characteristics of political actors in interaction with political conditions and issue characteristics influence the responsiveness of the policy process and result in sustainable outcomes. I find that through interest group participation policies can better respond to change in the managed SES; however structural factors (such as presence of institutional ‘window of opportunity’, issue salience and beliefs of policymakers) can make the response adverse or weaken it. Interest groups also engage in transmitting and interpreting diverse information about policy impacts, social and ecological context of the issue and use framing to convey information that better supports their proposals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2018
Keywords
Social-ecological system, policy process, interest group, agent-based modelling, process tracing, adaptive governance
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-155110 (URN)978-91-7797-270-9 (ISBN)978-91-7797-271-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-05-29, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2018-05-04 Created: 2018-04-11 Last updated: 2018-04-27Bibliographically approved

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