About the spider web

In learning about what works to catalyze change, we at the Leopold Leadership Program were inspired by Integrating Science and Policy: Vulnerability and Resilience in Global Environmental Change (2011), edited by Roger E. Kasperson and Mimi Berberian of Clark University. Before reading the book, we had only seen the connection between science and policy described as a straight line — usually as a “pipeline” of information from science to policy. This model didn’t fit with what we heard from fellows about their interactions with policy makers, which often continued over time and involved many stakeholders.

Kasperson, Berberian, and their colleagues gave us a new metaphor for thinking about science-policy linkages: a spider web. They proposed this image because it evokes the complexity and instability of networks engaged in science-policy discussions and “suggests the wide range of intermediaries involved: media, lobbyists, bloggers, NGOs, industry trade groups, and policy brokers.”

This idea resonated with us, along with another insight that arises from it for the authors: “How to build and maintain social trust across the diverse actors in the spider web is a major need in producing an effective relationship between science and practice.”

This blog is dedicated to helping our fellows and others learn from each other about what’s working in building the networks and trust that will bring science and practice together in solving our most pressing sustainability challenges.

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