This thesis explores the role of research in policy processes in competing claims contexts.Competing claims often arise in the field of natural resource management. Competing claims contexts are characterised by the involvement of a multiplicity of stakeholders. Furthermore, competing claims problems are often embedded in dynamics that exceed different scales and policy levels, are multidimensional, highly complex and surrounded by uncertainty. Although research is often initiated to support policy processes, practice shows thatmany research outcomes do not reach the policy arena, arrivein fundamentally different ways than intended, or are used strategically or selectively by stakeholders as ammunition to legitimise political positions.The objective of this thesis is to better understand the dynamics that influence the role of research in policy processes in competing claims contexts. The study applies an action-oriented research approach, and combines theories and methods from different scientific disciplines.
The study is based on a sequential case-study approach that consists of two case studies. The first case study on ‘Room for the River’ in the Netherlands is exploratory and based on the reconstruction of the policy process that led to the depoldering of De Noordwaard; an agricultural area in the west of the Netherlands. The study reveals key drivers and sensitising issues that influence the ‘space’ that research can create in policy processes. These key drivers were studied in more detail during the second case study on the policy debate on biofuel sustainability in Mozambique.
The second case study consists of two stages. The first stage describes and explains biofuel developments in Mozambique, and explores what research questions, methods and/or theories can generate research that is perceived credible, legitimate and salient for different stakeholder groups in policy processes. The second stage of the case study explores the dynamics of researchers’ roles and interactions between research and stakeholders in policy processes when they are contributing to exploring and designing solutions in a multi-stakeholder policy context.
To create awareness and stimulate reflexive thinking among researchers, this thesis introduces a tool for dynamic research configurations. The tool shows the key drivers or layers that influence the role of research in policy processes in competing claims contexts,such as phases in the policy process, stakeholder dynamics, interactions between different scales and levels, packaging of research, the types of collaborations between research and stakeholders in the policy process, and the roles that researchers can fulfil in policy processes in competing claims contexts.The tool can contribute to more flexible and action-oriented research approaches that can enable researchers to adapt research approaches to align with the changing policy contexts and changing stakeholder configurations in the policy process. The thesis also concludes that similar flexible and adaptive approaches are needed in policy processes. Furthermore, it concludes that the academic system should attribute more value to the societal impact of research in order to further stimulate action-oriented research.