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Research themes

The department of Environmental Policy Analysis

The research in the department is broadly organised according to three themes.

Photograph courtesy of IISD/ Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Below an overview

Research themes

  • Governing under complexity

    The theme Governing under Complexity brings together scholars with an interest in studying complex problems and increasingly complex governance approaches to these problems. Rather than conceptualizing governance in terms of discrete instruments (such as certification schemes or public-private partnerships) we start from the assumption that environmental governance (connecting various levels and scales of governing) constitutes a complex system in itself. Consequently, the expected effects of governing can no longer be simply derived from the aggregate effects of each individual governance instrument. Governance outcomes are rather to be understood as emerging properties of complex adaptive systems. Our interest in governing under complexity also includes questions about the adequate type of governance for a range of complex problems.

    This research theme is led by Prof. Philip Pattberg.

  • Governance innovation and institutional change

    The theme Governance Innovation and Institutional Change focuses on the origin, the diffusion, and the effects of changes in the way human societies govern environmental issues. We are particularly interested in the ideational roots of new ideas on governance, the agency in getting such ideas accepted (e.g. by pilots and experiments), and the (international) processes of policy diffusion. Most critically however, we wish to examine whether novel approaches are necessarily also an improvement, for instance from a sustainability perspective or from the perspective of broadly accepted governance principles such as transparency and accountability. The group is particularly strong in analyzing governance innovations in the domain of water and climate, and empirically the focus is often on government policies and (radical) changes therein.

    This research theme is led by Prof. Dave Huitema.

  • Governance evaluation

    The theme Governance Evaluation focuses on effectiveness and broader effects (both intended and unintended as well as negative externalities) of policies and governance instruments across a wide range of governance modes, including public policies, market-based certification systems, disclosure-based governance, and public-private partnerships at various levels of policymaking. We are pursuing a broad conceptualization of evaluation, addressing both empirical and normative questions. Our expertize lie in developing and applying innovative evaluative frameworks for existing and emerging governance arrangements. The theme is also geared towards practical implementation of evaluation frameworks, beyond publishing in academic journals, by leading and participating in evaluation studies for local, national, regional and international public authorities and private stakeholders.