The Science–Policy Interface as a Discourse Network: Finland’s Climate Change Policy 2002–2015

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

The Science–Policy Interface as a Discourse Network: Finland’s Climate Change Policy 2002–2015


  • Anna Kukkonen Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Tuomas Ylä-Anttila Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland / Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, University of Helsinki, Finland


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Abstract:  In this article, we argue that the science–policy interface can be understood as a discourse network constituted by discursive interaction between scientific organizations and other actors that both use scientific arguments in conjunction with other policy arguments. We use discourse network analysis to investigate the climate change policy process in Finland between 2002 and 2015, focusing on the role of and relationships between scientific actors and arguments in the discourse networks. Our data consist of policy actors’ written testimonies on two law proposals, the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol (2002) and the enactment of the Finnish Climate Law (2015). Our results show that two competing discourse coalitions have influenced the development of climate change policy in the 2000s. In 2002, the dominant coalition was economic, prioritizing economic growth over climate change mitigation. In 2015, the climate coalition that argued for ambitious mitigation measures became dominant. The majority of scientific actors were part of the dominant economy coalition in 2002 and part of the dominant ecology coalition in 2015. The centrality of scientific arguments increased over time, and both discourse coalitions used them progressively more. These developments reflect the increasingly central position of science in Finnish climate policymaking. We contribute to the literature on the science–policy interface by operationalizing the interface as a set of connections in a discourse network and by showing how the analysis of discourse networks and their properties can help us understand the shifts in the role of science in policymaking over time.

Keywords:  climate change; economy; Finland; public policy; science–policy interface

Published:   2 June 2020


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v8i2.2603


© Anna Kukkonen, Tuomas Ylä-Anttila. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.