Impact assessment & Science-Policy relations

Impact assessments are governance instruments that are designed to link knowledge and political decision making. There is a whole 'family' of impact assessment tools that are designed to help making better policies by mapping likely significant impacts of strategies, policies, plans, programmes or projects on environmental, economic and/or social, and/or regulatory topics. The article 'Owl meets Beehive' (2014) is meant to be a general introduction to the relations between impact assessment and governance.

Below we have presented our publications in this field. We also have included for download some publications that focus on the challenging relation between science and policy in general. For more on this, see the RMNO page on this website.

(2016) The implementation of the EU SEA Directive: Main achievements and challenges 2016SEAbook

Louis wrote a chapter on the EU Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in  the book "European and International Experiences of Strategic Environmental Assessment - Recent progress and future prospects". Link to Routledge 

(2015) Owl meets Beehive: How Impact Assessment and Governance relate

English (UK) Louis Meuleman (2015), in: Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 33:1, 4-15, DOI: 10.1080/14615517.2014.956436.

This article analyses the complex relationship between impact assessments (IAs) of all types (such as comprehensive, regulatory, economic, social, or environmental IAs) and their governance environment, using an analytical framework based on the concepts of governance styles and metagovernance. 


(2013) Impact Assessment and Governance

English (UK) Louis Meuleman (2013)iaialogo

This two-page info fiche is the 4th in the new Series of 'Fastips' published by the International Association for Impact Assessment. It introduces a threefold relation between IA and governance, addresses typical problems, things to know and things to do. Download here from the IAIA website

The Fastip on Governance was elaborated in a paper presented on 14 May 2013 at the  IAIA conference in Calgary, Canada. Download here the PPT presentation.

(2012) Cognitive dissonance & evidence based policy-making

English (UK) Louis Meuleman (2012), paper presented at the 2012 Berlin Conference on Evidence for Sustainable Development, 5-6 October 2012

Evidence‐based policy making has become popular in political circles, as it promises an indisputable, ‘true’ knowledge base for policies. The call for more ‘evidence’ is especially loud in environmental and sustainability politics. This is in sharp contrast with the much lower level of certainty that social sciences consider realistic with regards to the politics of complex, disputed, so‐called ‘wicked’ problems of the sustainability agenda. At the same time, sustainability scientists have understood the reality of political marketing and strive/pretend to produce more certainty than is scientifically sound, in order to get policy makers to act. Download the final version of the Conference paper.


willknow(2009) Willingly & Knowingly: The role of knowledge about nature and the environment in policy processes

English (UK) Roeland J. in ‘t Veld (Ed.)(2000/2009). Utrecht/The Hague: Lemmo/RMNO.

This book, published in 2000 and re-issued in 2009, marks a watershed in thinking about the use of knowledge for environmental policy-making. It criticises the naïve rational model of a linear relationship between policy and knowledge. On the basis of five case studies, knowledge is presented as a social construction; the way knowledge is used in complex questions should be expressed in terms of a political struggle, or at least in terms of differences in the perception of problems, the conducting of negotiations, the forming of alliances and such.

Download Willingly & Knowlingly here 

[Roel in 't Veld was chairman and Louis was director of the RMNO from 2002-2010; Per 1.1.2010, the RMNO (Advisory Council for Research on Spatial Planning, Nature and the Evironment) was abolished by the then Dutch Government.]

(2008) Sustainability Impact Assessment and Regulatory Impact Assessment

English (UK) Ingeborg Niestroy, In: OECD (ed.): Conducting Sustainability Assessments, p. 67-88. OECD Sustainable Development Studies

Driven by more complex and complicated policy challenges, persistent problems, and conflicting interests, the desire for rooting policy-making in the available stock of knowledge and applying supporting techniques and procedures has grown. Impact Assessments (IA) are increasingly promoted and implemented in recent years at the European Union (EU) level and in member states. They are understood as attempts, procedures and tools to assess, usually ex ante, the effects of policies on the physical and societal environment, notably on the dimensions of sustainable development. Download pdf of this Chapter in an OECD publication.

socialcba2008-rmno(2008) Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Envronment

English (UK) De Zeeuw, A., R.J. in ’t Veld, D. van Soest, L. Meuleman and P. Hoogewoning

This seminal report reviews the theoretical literature and the current debate on the valuation of environmental goods and services, on the discounting of future benefits and costs, and on how social cost benefit analysis (SCBAs) can be integrated in the policy and decisionmaking process. It is concluded that SCBA can be a good decision support method in environmental policy-making if it is transparent and if all impacts are taken into account. Furthermore, the SCBA process should be participative, and politicians must be prepared to take responsibility for the assumptions behind the SCBA, including the assumptions on valuation and on the discount rate. Such a political role makes each SCBA a unique product of a politically responsible actor, and makes it possible for other stakeholders to have calculated an alternative SCBA based on their own assumptions. The report also contains the proceedings of the international SCBA conference organised by RMNO on 16-17 January 2008.

Download the report here 

(2000) Die strategische UVP als Instrument zur Integration von Umweltbelangen in andere Politikbereichescan inge diss-web

Deutsch Ingeborg Niestroy

The English summary of this dissertation on SEA as instrument for environmental integration can be downloaded here.

By investigating two case studies on waterways, one in California with SEA and one in Germany without SEA, the normative deficiencies and actor-specific obstacles currently inhibiting external environmental integration were identified. On the basis of this analysis a concrete procedure for planning with SEA is suggested and implemented in the proposed Directive. Three major principles for planning with SEA and at the same time for improving the process of convergence can be deducted from the comparison of the case studies: Self-reflection, transparency and process-orientation.