Utilization-focused scientific policy advice: a six-point checklist

Sager, Fritz; Mavrot, Céline; Hinterleitner, Markus; Kaufmann, David; Grosjean, Martin; Stocker, Thomas (2020). Utilization-focused scientific policy advice: a six-point checklist. Climate policy, 20(10), pp. 1336-1343. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/14693062.2020.1757399

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Knowledge utilization depends on how well the scientific community communicates knowledge to its target audiences’ needs. We argue that policy-relevant science communication can increase the real-life impact of scientific evidence by moving beyond political agenda-setting and providing concrete advice to policy drafters. Agenda-setting seeks to raise politicians’ and the wider public’s awareness of a problem (problem advice). However, for scientific evidence to translate into effective policy interventions, the scientific community and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must also provide policy drafters with advice on policy design and implementation (policy advice). Political attention is volatile, and – except for particularly policy-driven and solution-focused actors – politicians have little incentive to address long-term issues such as climate change if voters do not punish short-term thinking. In contrast, the public administration (government agencies) carries out long-term expert work. Government agencies are therefore the primary recipients of evidence-based knowledge transfer that aims to create concrete policy solutions. We develop hands-on recommendations for tailoring scientific advice to the needs of policy drafters through a six-point checklist. Based on utilization-focused evaluation research, we argue that scientific evidence should not only address the causes of public problems but also the effectiveness of proposed policy solutions and the consequences of policy decisions. We also highlight the need to assess the political feasibility of a given policy proposal (potential oppositions and stumbling blocks) and its practical implementability (likely reaction of the target groups). Ensuring effective policy advice requires transdisciplinary dialogue between natural, social, and policy scientists, as well as dialogue between research and government agencies.

Key policy insights

There is a gap between public and political awareness of climate change issues and effective policy solutions.

Due to their respective roles within the policy process, politicians and government agencies have different knowledge needs.

In addition to providing politicians and the general public with problem advice, a specific form of policy advice, that is, policy-prescriptive evidence-based information, should be developed and provided for policy drafters within government agencies.

Natural, social and policy scientists must team up to provide policy advice that is not only evidence-based but also utilization-focused.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
11 Centers of Competence > KPM Center for Public Management

UniBE Contributor:

Sager, Fritz, Mavrot, Céline Hélène Jeanne, Hinterleitner, Markus, Kaufmann, David, Grosjean, Martin, Stocker, Thomas


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 350 Public administration & military science
500 Science > 530 Physics
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Taylor & Francis




Céline Mavrot

Date Deposited:

19 May 2020 17:14

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:38

Publisher DOI:






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