Lost in the problem: the role of boundary organisations in the governance of climate change

Rob Hoppe, Anna Wesselink, Rose Cairns

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81 Citations (Scopus)
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In this article, we explore how climate change science is connected to climate change governance. When formally institutionalized, as in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), these sites may be referred to as boundary organizations. These institutions engage not only in the quality assessment of scientific research, but also in the design of innovative policy instruments, or evaluation of policy impacts—activities that we refer to as boundary work. Boundary work is inherently ‘tricky business’. Science and politics are normally demarcated spheres with different sacred stories. Scientists aspire to ‘speak truth to power’, while policymakers want ‘politics on top and science on tap’. Boundary work endeavors to coordinate these apparently incompatible aspirations. In this article, we describe, analyze, and assess whether, to what extent, and how the major international and some national boundary organizations in climate change governance have been able to avoid over-politicization and over-scientization. We demonstrate that the nature and success of boundary organizations and the ways they work depend on: (1) the degree to which the climate change problem is defined as ‘wicked’ or unstructured, or as (relatively) ‘tame’ and structured; (2) the stage of the policy process; and (3) characteristics of the policy network and the socio-political context: the degree to which relevant players insist on strict separation and a linear relation from science to politics, or, alternatively, are tolerant of a blurring of the boundaries and hence a two-way, coproductive relation between science and politics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-300
JournalWiley interdisciplinary reviews. Climate change
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • IR-86379
  • METIS-296766


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