A new function for the SSBD
BioAgora is currently developing and piloting the functions of the Science Service for Biodiversity (SSBD), which, for example, will include Horizon Scanning and Research Prioritization, Building Topical Networks and the Answering Requests function, to encompass in-depth processes of response as well as the possibility to answer to the so called Fast Request. This particular sub-function is developed at the request of the European Commission, in order to have a reliable way to organise participatory processes or consultations on biodiversity-related themes, or to obtain a variety of outputs, like visuals or peer-reviewed knowledge synthesis, in a timely fashion, and thus play a role on identified issues in developing policy processes. This function is also important for the SSBD, so to bring in a broader range of expertise – from different disciplines, different geographic areas, different types of knowledge – to better inform decision-making. Since it is a challenging process with a number of trade-offs, BioAgora will also evaluate how and why fast requests occur and what can be adapted in the future to reduce the need for such fast requests.
Piloting the Fast Request
During the first phase of development of the function, the requests are only accepted from the European Commission through the ticketing system of the KCBD, which is designed to receive requests from all European Commission’s DGs. BioAgora received its first Fast request on 6 March, which focused on the relation between deadwood and fire risk in European forests and led to the publication of our first Knowledge Synthesis for Policy on 20 April. During this tight timeframe, BioAgora organised a scoping phase with the requester, in this case DG ENV, in order to clarify both their question and the type of response that would best suit their needs, launched a call for experts, organised meetings between the experts and the requester and coordinated their work, and finally supervised the reviewing of the document and facilitated a strong implication of the KCBD. Last but not least, BioAgora made sure during the whole process to gather feedback, so to allow its critical assessment and improvement, but also the nurturing of our reflexivity on its implications.
Among the lessons learnt, we could confirm that the scoping is key to ensure that the work will be both scientifically and policy-relevant, even if the implication of the requester didn’t seem self-evident and was rendered difficult due to a low time availability which the speed of the process made even more acute. This also impacted the capacity of the 13 experts who accepted to contribute to the report to actually participate in the meetings and the writing, which reinforced the necessity for having one or two experts chairing the process. Despite that, numerous experts have shown a strong commitment to participate in the report even though they were doing pro-bono, their motivation residing primarily in their scientific interest for the topic and in the opportunity to impact policy. More generally, this process made BioAgora reflect both on the place of knowledge within the negotiations happening between the European Commission and the Member States, as well as on the potential ethical risks that a such a fast process may generate and the types of resources that may be required for it to be sustainable in the future.
Upcoming fast requests are expected to be exclusively issued by the Commission and relate to the topics of BioAgora’s demonstration cases, which are currently focusing on pollination, freshwater, urban nature-based solutions and on marine ecosystems, before being eventually open the possibility for issuing requests to other groups, potentially after a deliberation on the needs which could take place within the working groups of the EU Biodiversity Platform.