The Policy-Relevancy of Impact Assessment Tools: Evaluating Nine Years of European Research Funding

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Podhora, Aranka/Helming, Katharina/Adenäuer, Lucie/Heckelei, Thomas/Kautto, Petrus/Reidsma, Pytrik/Rennings, Klaus/Turnpenny, John/Jansen, Jacques (2013), The Policy-Relevancy of Impact Assessment Tools: Evaluating Nine Years of European Research Funding. Environmental Science and Policy 31, pp. 85–95.



Since 2002, the European Commission has employed the instrument of ex-ante impact assessments (IA) to help focus its policy-making process on implementing sustainable development. Scientific tools should play an essential role of providing the evidence base to assess the impacts of alternative policy options. To identify the contribution of research funding for IA tool development, this paper analysed the variety of IA tools designed in projects funded by European Framework Programmes (FPs) 6 and 7.

The paper is based on project information available on the European Cordis website, individual project websites and a verification of the results by the project coordinators. We analysed the projects from the interests of IA practitioners as tool users (European policy and impact areas addressed by the tools, jurisdictional application levels and tool categories). Out of the 7.781 projects funded in FP6 and FP7, 203 could be identified that designed tools for the IA process. Nearly half of them applied to environmental, agricultural and transport policy areas. Within these areas, the tools primarily addressed environmental impact areas, less economic and least social impact areas. The IA tools focused on European policies. Models represented the largest tool category, whereas approximately half of the tools could not be clearly categorized.

Concerning our analysis criteria, the tool descriptions available on the internet were often unclear and thus may limit the application potential of the tools because of a mismatch of technical terms and categorisation criteria between tool providers and tool users. Future IA tools require a joint political and scientific typology and a narrowing of the gaps, e.g., with view to multi-jurisdictional application and a clear reference to the steps of the IA process.

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