Report: Building a Science-Policy Interface for tackling the Global Governance of Catastrophic and Existential Risks

20 February 2023
by Clarissa Rios Rojas, Benjamin Payne, Yee Kuang Heng, Adam Fysh, Angela Kane, Jean-Marc Rickli, Kristel Fourie, Paul Ingram, Juan B. García Martínez, Mayleen Cabral, Jake Okechukwu Effoduh

The development of this report was led by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at the University of Cambridge as part of a global, multi-organisation work programme to provide thinking on science and policy issues. Specifically, we have focused on the complex challenge of the multi-region and trans-cultural governance of Global Catastrophic Risks (GCRs) and Existential Risks (X-risks).

As recent literature and reports outlined, achieving action and transformative change from science outputs is often impeded by misalignment across networks and communities of practice. This frequently restricts the advancement of both science-inpolicy and policy-in-science. The complex, cascading, and system issues in the global risk context demand major transformation in mindset and policy implementation. Yet, this is impeded by the scarce communication and reduced accessibility of scientific evidence/ policy ideas between researchers and policymakers.

We need to reinforce more significant synergies between science/knowledge production and policy practice to ensure that research outputs are more relevant to decision-making and support more resilient governance outcomes. Consequently, the CSER Science-Policy Interface (SPI) expert group was created as a multi-organisational collaboration that sought to investigate and better understand how science and policy communities can become more closely aligned. Its main aim is to inform and enhance the co-delivery of policy approaches and recommendations that more actively support global (as well as regional and more localised) governance of GCRs.

This report summarises the collective work of colleagues from more than 30 organisations from different continents (Asia, America, Africa and Europe) from 2021 to 2023. This work started with a scoping exercise (February 2021), followed by establishing the GCR-SPI expert group (July 2021). We then hosted an online workshop (October 2021), monthly meetings (January to May 2022) and an in-person workshop (October 2022) at The University of Cambridge.

As outlined and evaluated in the following report, the CSER-SPI was able to:

  • Increase awareness about GCRs beyond academia through knowledge sharing among members from different backgrounds and disciplines.
  • Foster trust between our members working in academia and policy.
  • Identify critical points in GCR research and policy that can be improved.
  •  Amplify the views from the Global South in regard to GCR management.
  • Produce this report, so the lessons learned can be shared with the broader community.

Thanks to the creation of the GCR-SPI expert group, our members have engaged in various collaborative initiatives. Some include working with various UN offices, collaborations with the World Economic Forum members and wider-reaching regional organisations such as the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research and the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, as well as various universities and professional networks. In addition, our members have supported each other in their work on GCRs, by creating policy guides for academics, offering feedback on new grant proposals or giving feedback on policy efforts like the GCR Policy Ideas database created by one of our members.

To think that creating a Science-Policy Interface alone is the solution to complex global challenges would be naive: this is one tool among many. What an SPI like ours does, above all and very successfully, is to facilitate an environment where new relationships can be fostered, where members can think about aligning agendas, re-think old dogmas, build trust, and inspire each other to innovate in research and policy.

Read Building a Science-Policy Interface for tackling the Global Governance of Catastrophic and Existential Risks Report

Spanish Translation : Construcción de una interfaz ciencia-política para abordar la Gobernanza Global de Catastrófico y
Riesgos existenciales

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