Honest advocacy for nature: presenting a persuasive narrative for conservation

27 September 2016


Explaining the policy impact of the Lawton Review

A paper by: David C. Rose; Peter N. M. Brotherton; Susan Owens and Thomas Pryke

Conservation scientists are increasingly recognising the value of communicating policy-relevant knowledge to policy makers. Whilst considerable progress has been made in offering practical advice for scientists seeking to engage more closely with decision-makers, researchers have provided few tangible examples to learn from. The paper presents the case of the Lawton Review, which was able to seize on an opportunity to communicate a rigorously argued, persuasive and practical conservation message; in other words, it performed ‘honest advocacy’.

The Lawton Review was published in 2010 by a team of independent experts and reported on the suitability of England’s ecological network to deal with future pressures, such as climate change. The report entitled ‘Making space for nature’: a review of England's wildlife sites’ experienced an immediate and significant impact on government policy, representing a key part of the policy strategy laid out in the subsequent Natural Environment White Paper (Defra, 2011). This is an interesting case of a ‘direct hit’ between science and policy.

This paper shows that the Lawton Review succeeded for four reasons: 1) it identified politically salient frames and packaged recommendations accordingly; 2) it used clear, accessible language; 3) it conducted rigorous science; and 4) it coincided with a favourable policy window. The paper draws out useful messages for conservation scientists who wish to influence policy more effectively.

To read more, the full paper can be found here (open access)

To find out more about David Rose’s work, including his work with CSaP as part of the EU Biodiversity Observation Network (EUBON), visit his profile here.

(image: The Sacred Rudraksha Tree in Kuala Lumpur)

Dr David Rose

University of Reading