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If bioeconomy is interpreted strictly as transition to low-carbon economy supported by technical innovations, there is a demand for evidence-based science-policy-practise interface. If, however, bioeconomy is defined as a wide array of ecosystem products and services supported by social innovations, the role of stakeholder participation becomes important. Consequently, smart specialization of regions in bioeconomy calls for locally tailored forest-related policy orchestration.

The ORCHESTRA COST Action final conference took place at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium on September 5–6, 2016. Over 50 experts and scientists in the fields of quantitative modelling, economics, sociology and political science from 21 European countries discussed together with the EC representatives from DG Environment and DG JRC challenges of forest-related policy orchestration.

Science is expected to provide simple answers to complex questions off-the-shelf.

Within Europe, multi-sector, multi-level and multi-actor governance was identified as a complex process of transposition, implementation and enforcement of policy targets through policy measures. Policy scientists, however, emphasized that international policy processes had transformed to policy games where fragmentation of different forest-related policies can be utilized for “venue shopping”. Policy support needs are typically ad hoc. Science is expected to provide simple answers to complex questions off-the-shelf. Relevance, credibility and legitimacy are important requirements when the players of policy games select the evidence they will use to argue their opinion.

During the conference, participants focused on whether bioeconomy and ecosystem services are in synergy or in conflict. Bioeconomy is often defined as a low-carbon economy where forests and wood-based products play an important role in climate change mitigation. The majority of conference participants, however, considered bioeconomy a wide array of ecosystem products and services where trade-offs between different products or services are heavily context-dependent. In here, context-dependent refers to ecological, socio-economic and cultural conditions.

DSS sitting on national forest inventory (NFI) data are used for policy support in many countries.

The variation in ecology and socio-economy was regarded as a potential strength for smart bioeconomy based on regional specialization in Europe. Specialization in low-carbon economy was proposed to benefit from evidence-based science-policy-practise interface and technical innovations whereas specialization on a wider set of ecosystem products and services should rely on local stakeholder participation and social innovations. In principle, both approaches could benefit from decision support systems (DSS) when analysing complex and context-dependent trade-offs between different ecosystem products or services.

DSS sitting on national forest inventory (NFI) data are used for policy support in many countries. The potential of DSS in facilitating consensus building when multiple stakeholders are involved was illustrated by case studies. Common challenges were identified in quantitative modelling of complex trade-offs and their values. The Horizon 2020 ISIB4 “sister” projects DIABOLO and ALTERFOR originating from the network of experts in three COST Actions (ORCHESTRA, FORSYS and USEWOOD) were identified as important capacity builders for the use of DSS in forest-related policy orchestration.

The FPS COST Action FP1207 “Orchestrating forest-related policy analysis in Europe” (ORCHESTRA) has received funding from COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology). COST is a pan-European intergovernmental framework and supported by the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020.

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