Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Push for Science in Policy through IPBES: Here's How to Get Started

Part of a series of posts about IPBES (the UN's Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) and an inside look at its processes. More to come.

Perhaps you were compelled by the global biodiversity crisis laid out in the IPBES* Global Assessment, or inspired by its bold call for transformative change. Or maybe you've been impressed by all the news coverage, or the prominent recognition of the importance of diverse ways of knowing. If you are like the Zoom full of people who attended a recent conference session about IPBES**, one way or another you realize that IPBES is every bit as powerful and needed as its older sibling (IPCC***).

And you wonder how to get involved. This post is intended to guide you.

1. Get to know (some of the work of) IPBES. This includes a variety of assessments (Global, Regional, Land Degradation, Pollination), as well as other reports (e.g., about models, scenarios and values). For an introduction to the Global Assessment, its key points, and how to cite different pieces, see this post.

Beyond these technical pieces, though, there are increasingly accessible ways to get to know IPBES. Follow @IPBES on Twitter. Listen to the new IPBES podcast series, Nature Insight. Frequent the website, and read guest articles (like A million threatened species? Thirteen questions and answers and What Is Transformative Change, and How Do We Achieve It?).

2. Review IPBES products. Any researcher or policymaker (including students) can sign up as reviewers. You can review draft chapters, or even scoping reports (which set the stage for future assessments—including the proposed Transformative Change Assessment). To see what's open for review, follow IPBES notifications here. Here are some tips about reviewing:

(a) Don't be afraid to say, "This is confusing". IPBES products are intended to be accessible. If you're interested, and you don't understand, that's a problem (and not your problem).

(b) Think about what's there and what's not (but should be). It's easy to critique the text that's present, but also think about what else should be included.

(c) Evaluate the flow of ideas. These documents are not always easy to follow, but they should be. Many reviewers attend to particular pieces, and not how the whole fits together. The whole is important.

(d) Don't get stuck word-smithing. A little of this is welcome, but the words used are often highly constrained, so much critique here would be a waste of everyone's time.

3. (If you're early-career) Apply to be an IPBES Fellow. This is a superb program, with an international network of brilliant, interesting people.

4. (If you're established in your career) Apply to be an Expert in a scoping or assessment process. As above, see notifications here.

As I note, I started out a skeptic about IPBES. But I've become convinced that it's desperately needed and making crucial contributions to science and policy about nature and people, shining a light on the ecological crisis and possible ways out of it.

*IPBES stands for the UN's Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
**This post synthesizes answers provided by Patty BalvaneraMarla EmeryDoug BeardJeannine Cavender-Bares, and myself at the ESA Annual Meeting in 2020.
***IPCC stands for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.