The view from the JRS office on this Friday afternoon

Learning by Doing: New Policy Research Grants

It’s a sunny Friday afternoon here in Seattle and I’m reflecting on the past week.  A highlight was the JRS announcement of our first policy research grants for three projects to research the policies in sub-Saharan Africa that shape the demand for and the supply of biodiversity data and knowledge.  There is a rich literature relating to biodiversity-related policies but these studies might provide a unique lens on the public access to environmental information.  We are learning from our grants that national policies in domains such as protected areas, endangered species, and natural resource extraction influence the availability of data.  But less directly, environment-related policies such as trade, water, government transparency, environmental impact assessment requirements, pollution monitoring, international reporting, and internet access may play large roles in shaping public and private investment in biodiversity data and its use.

We hope that these three closely-related studies will begin to shine light on the policy environment in which JRS grantees and others work to increase and enhance biodiversity knowledge for public benefit.  The comparative study of different countries may provide ideas for more detailed bench-marking as well as recommendations for best practices in public policy.  From our foundation’s perspective, we may recognize the environments where our investments in biodiversity informatics capacity are most likely to be sustained by public and private interest in biodiversity information and where the outputs of our grants are most likely to connect to conservation actions.

Our call for proposals asked for project teams based within the region and I’m excited to get to know our new partners at Conservation International Botswana, IPAR-Rwanda, and the African Technology Policy Studies Network.

In 2014, our request for policy research proposals did not yield any qualifying replies so we re-issued the call this Monday specific to Latin America.  I’m hopeful that we’ll get some replies regarding similar studies in Latin America.  About 25% of our investments are in Latin America and the policy studies will be interesting in their own right and may offer some valuable ideas for the African context.

We’ll see what happens! This is a pretty complex area to frame and explore; our grantee partners have bitten off a lot to chew.  Please contact if you have ideas of literature or policies that should come to our attention as we “learn by doing” in this new domain for JRS.