Cumulating evidence in environmental governance, policy and planning research: towards a research reform agenda

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


This paper suggests that the field of environmental governance, policy and planning (EGPP) may be seen as an (emerging) scientific field, which can be characterised as ‘fragmented adhocracy’, explaining the widespread failure to produce robust and cumulative knowledge. We argue that in order to produce reliable knowledge and to become credible in the realm of policy and planning praxis, EGPP research needs a major reform impetus. To this end, we propose three areas for reform, which cover (1) an agreed canon of definitions shared within the community, while being open to reinterpretations and novel concepts; (2) the stronger use of meta-analytical methods such as the case survey methodology, or systematic reviews, to cumulate published case-based evidence; (3) a systematic recognition of the institutional, political and social context of governance interventions, which becomes increasingly important to the extent that meta-analyses reveal general patterns and trends which nonetheless vary with context. For each agenda item, we briefly formulate the motivating problem and an ideal-typical vision to strive for, and sketch out the pragmatic, epistemological and normative limits to its realisation. We close with overall reflections on our research reform agenda and suggest pathways for implementation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy & Planning
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)667-681
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 02.09.2020

    Research areas

  • Environmental Governance - Scientific field, fragmented adhocracy, Knowledge cumulation, meta-analysis, case survey method