Does Joint Fact-finding work for Water-energy-food Nexus Issues? A Role of Scientific Evidence in Policy Process

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 10:35 AM
Kenshi Baba, Hosei University, Center for Regional Research, Tokyo, Japan
A quite famous phrase in risk management “How safe is enough safe?” implies there exists a framing gap among experts, the general public and stakeholders. Scientific evidence that experts provide usually contains uncertainty, while the public tends to have the other type of qualitative local knowledge. As there is no zero-risk society, we have to build consensus on acceptable level of risk and trade-offs of risks based on expert knowledge and local knowledge. Therefore having a dialogue among them in the early stage of the policy process such as problem definition and agenda setting is essential to cultivate trust and to integrate their knowledge.

To this end, we especially pay attention to Joint Fact-finding (JFF). The tentative definition of JFF is that a promising strategy for experts, decision makers, and key public rights-holders and stakeholders from opposing sides of an issue to work together to resolve or narrow factual disputes over public policy issues. JFF process usually begins with identifying stakeholders and holding interviews with them to determine their interests. We call this step stakeholder analysis. Then we define the scope of the study including the required scientific evidence and the preliminary list of experts. After that, stakeholders jointly select experts to participate in the study, then they work together on what they would like to clear about scientific evidence. They finally get the common understanding and findings through these collaboration.

We applied the stakeholder analysis to the issue of groundwater in Obama City and the issues of hot spring water and geothermal power in Beppu City in Japan. We drew conclusions from these case studies to some extent but at the same time we found that the analysis method has a limitation in applying it to multiple nexus issues because the method based on stakeholders’ cognition. For example, in Obama case, we identified a lack of cooperation among stakeholders that especially agricultural sector who should have positive relationship with groundwater in nature is not involved in groundwater issue thoroughly. However, we could not enough furnish stakeholders with the framing of trade-offs between resources. Accordingly we need to raise awareness of stakeholders with scientific evidence of experts on the way of the stakeholder analysis.