TableĀ 2.

Different types of policy problems give rise to different relationships between science and policy.

typologykey issuesexamplesrelationship between science and policy
problem is well-structured: policy issues are knownpolicy has already set clear questions to be answered. Cause and effect are clearly defined and can be anticipatedusing indicators of water quality to determine regulatory breaches by a plastics manufacturerscience leads policy by establishing best practice guidelines, giving policy a clear steer on what to do
problem is moderately structured: policy issues are knowablepolicy has set clear questions, but cause and effect have not yet been firmly established so there is no agreement on the best way to answer themdeveloping indicators of marine pollution by man-made plastics such as the OSPAR Ecological Quality Objective relating to plastic debris in the stomachs of fulmars (Noordzeeloket 2007)
developing resource-efficient methods for cracking low-quality plastics into monomers that can subsequently be reprocessed
policy identifies a clear need for science, which uses research and expert advice to provide answers. It may lead to the formulation of best practice guidance and regulations, or to an understanding that the problem is in fact more complex than anticipated
problem is unstructured. Policy issues are complexpolicy has set the question (how can we make plastics more sustainable?) but there is no consensus around what that actually means. Cause and effect are only visible in retrospect, once consensus has emergedplasticizersā€”there is no policy consensus about how to weigh up the economic, environmental and human health impacts of plasticizers
improving household recycling of plastics, which relies on knowledge of personal consumption and disposal behaviours and how to influence them
science is one of many voices in the emerging debate: over-reliance on science will lead to poor policy choices. Policymakers need to negotiate competing values and interests of different stakeholders. Consensus may emerge, or the issue may die away of its own accord. It is only really possible to fully define the problem in retrospect
problem is badly structured. Policy issues are chaoticcause and effect cannot be determined: information emerges rapidly from many sources. Goals are largely symbolic or set in response to a crisisnovel materials such as nanomaterials: there may be a great deal of science, but social and ethical debates have not had time to catch up with science, so the wider implications are poorly challenges policy, but the future direction of the technology is unclear, its social and ethical impacts are unexplored and public attitudes are unfixed (Gavelin et al. 2007). Policy can help coalesce debate around key questions or values