Environmental Education Research Call for Proposals for a Special Issue:

Critical Investigations of the Research-Policy Relationship in Environmental and Sustainability Education

Environmental Education Research

The purpose of this Special Issue is to draw and build upon:

  • the growing interest in policy and policy research within the environmental and sustainability education (ESE) research field;
  • the increasing body of work on the research-policy relationship in fields beyond ESE;
  • the need to bring these two developments into conversation and debate, against the backdrop of developments in monitoring and evaluation aims in international ESE policy.

Overview of the Special Issue
This Special Issue will focus on investigating the relationship between research and policy in environmental and sustainability education (ESE). Contributions will examine the current state of play with respect to research-policy relationships within ESE, and explore possibilities for future development in connection with conceptual, empirical, and methodological considerations from beyond ESE. The Call for Proposals is motivated by the current lack of discussion and debate on the research-policy interface in ESE, with important implications for both research and policy.

Recent publications in the ESE field have generated important insights into the nature and dynamics of policy, policy-making, and policy research within ESE (e.g., Aikens et al., 2016; Lysgaard et al., 2016; Payne, 2016; Stevenson, 2013). However, in terms of the research-policy relationship, the focus of this work has not been specifically on the role of ESE research in ESE policy processes, or the nature of interactions between ESE policymakers and ESE researchers. In other words, while there are rich research-based insights into the dynamics of ESE policy, far less is known about the dynamics of the ESE research-policy interface – i.e., about the ways that research interrelates with policy, including in the aims and challenges of informing policy with research, and vice versa.

By contrast, beyond the ESE field, the research-policy relationship has become a focus for considerable theoretical inquiry, empirical investigation, and practical development. Examples can be seen across varied areas of environmental (e.g., Pearce, 2014), health (e.g., Oliver et al., 2014), social (e.g., Boswell, 2009) and education (e.g., Asen et al., 2013) policy. These reflect a growing emphasis over recent decades on the use of evidence in the development of public policy (e.g., Edwards & Evans, 2011; Lenihan, 2013; Nutley et al., 2007; OECD, 2007). However, some argue that this increased emphasis on evidence, evaluation science, and best practice recommendations is the result of techniques and infrastructures of neoliberal governance (e.g., Peck et al., 2012). More recently, there have also been indications of a turn away from evidence in ‘post-truth’ political contexts, with implications for whether data are still considered to matter in public policy-making, or when they are, which kinds of data are being mobilized and to what ends (Davies, 2017; Higgins, 2016). Furthermore, trajectories of work on public scholarship have focused on the responsibilities of researchers to address policy and policy effects, with recommendations including collaborative and participatory approaches to research and policy development (e.g., Appadurai, 2006; Fine et al., 2012).

The need for greater attention to these topics in the ESE field, specifically in relation to how ESE research could interact more productively with ESE policy and vice versa, is particularly appropriate in the context of international developments in education policy concerned with environment and sustainability. The year 2015 saw the launch of UNESCO’s Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (GAP), the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the joint UNESCO and UNFCCC ‘Action for Climate Empowerment’ initiative. All have monitoring and evaluation aims to be taken up at national and regional scales, and provide a timely additional reason to
examine the relationships between ESE research and policy.

Thus, we expect contributions and the whole to draw and build upon:

  • the growing interest in policy and policy research within the ESE research field;
  • the increasing body of work on the research-policy relationship in fields beyond ESE;
  • the need to bring these developments into conversation and debate, against a backdrop of developments in monitoring and evaluation aims in international ESE policy.

Finally, in taking up this focus, the Special Issue can also be seen as an ESE-specific response to the following call to educational researchers: ‘There is a pressing need to reconsider … the actual and desired nature of research-policy relationships in education’ (Lingard, 2013, p. 113).

Submission Instructions

Key date for Call for Papers Proposal Guidelines and Submission Timeline: May 15, 2017

Submission Timeline:
May 15, 2017 - 1000 word proposals due
June 15, 2017 - Invitations for submission of full papers
December 15, 2017 - Full manuscripts due
April 1, 2018 - Reviews of manuscripts returned
June 1, 2018 - Final manuscripts due - notification of final acceptance to issue
September, 2018 - Tentative publication date

Submission Details:
Send your proposal to Mark Rickinson at mark.rickinson@monash.edu and Marcia McKenzie at marcia.mckenzie@usask.ca  by May 15. Please contact us with any questions.

Proposal Guidelines
At this stage, we are seeking proposals of up to 1000 words, plus references, for this Special Issue on Critical Investigations of the Research-Policy Relationship in ESE.

Full manuscripts should investigate and contribute to theoretical, methodological, and/or practical understandings of the relationship between research and policy within ESE.

We encourage contributions from researchers, policy-makers, and/or practitioners working within and/or beyond ESE.

Final manuscripts should be a maximum of 6,000 words, excluding references.

Possible topical areas of focus for this Special Issue include:

  • the roles of research and researchers in ESE policy processes, and the engagement of policy and policy-makers in ESE research processes;
  • the nature, dynamics and distinctiveness of research, policy, and research-policy relationships within ESE and as compared with other areas of public policy and social science;
  • the theoretical, methodological, and relational tools that might contribute to improved understanding and negotiation of the research-policy interface in ESE;
  • synergies and tensions between monitoring and evaluation policy aims and research foci and processes; and
  • other barriers and supports to more productive research-policy relationships in ESE.

Accepted proposals will be those that:

  • show potential to make a significant contribution to the literature;
  • have appropriate focus and contents;
  • have coherent research methods and conclusions; and
  • can be understood by an international audience.

Additional factors to be considered in the acceptance of proposals will be geographical, epistemological, and role diversity across the special issue as a whole.

Consult the following for the aims and scope of the journal, and guidelines for manuscript preparation: www.tandfonline.com/EER.

The reference style is Chicago: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/contents.html

Aikens, K., McKenzie, M., & Vaughter, P. (2016). Environmental and sustainability education policy research: A systematic review of methodological and thematic trends. Environmental Education Research, 22(3), 333-359.
Appadurai, A. (2006). The right to research. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 4(2), 167–77.
Asen, R., Gurke, D., Connors, P., Solomon, R., & Gumm, E. (2013). Research evidence and school-board deliberations: Lessons from three Wisconsin school districts. Educational Policy, 27(1), 33-63.
Boswell, C. (2009). The Political Uses of Expert Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Davies, W. (2017, January 19). How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next. The Guardian. Retrieved January 25, 2017 from
Edwards, M., & Evans, M. (2011). Getting Evidence into Policy-Making. ANSOG: Canberra.
Fine, M., Ayala, J., & Zaal, M. (2012). Public science and participatory policy development: Reclaiming policy as a democratic project. Journal of Education Policy, 27(5), 685-692.
Higgins, K. (2016). Post-truth: A guide for the perplexed. Nature, 450(7631), 9.
Lennihan, A. (2013). Lessons From Abroad. International approaches to promoting evidence-based social policy. London: Alliance for Useful Evidence.
Lingard, B. (2013) The impact of research on education policy in an era of evidence-based policy. Critical Studies in Education, 54(2), 113-131.
Lysgaard, J. A., Reid, A., & Van Poeck, K. (2016). The roots and routes of environmental and sustainability education policy research. Environmental Education Research, 22(3), 319-332.
Nutley, S., Walter, I., & Davies, H.T.O. (2007). Using Evidence: How research can inform public services. Bristol: Policy Press.
OECD. (2007). Evidence and Policy in Education: Linking research and policy. Paris: OECD.
Oliver, K., Lorenc, T., & Innvaer, S. (2014). New directions in evidence-based policy research: A critical analysis of the literature. Health Research Policy and Systems, 12(34), 1-11.
Peck, J., Theodore, N., & Brenner, N. (2012). Neoliberalism resurgent? Market rule after the great recession. South Atlantic Quarterly, 111(2), 265–288.
Payne, P. G. (2016). The politics of environmental education. Critical inquiry and education for sustainable development. The Journal of Environmental Education, 47(2), 69-76.
Pearce, W. (2014). Scientific data and its limits: Rethinking the use of evidence in local climate change policy. Evidence and Policy, 10(2), 187-203.
Stevenson, R. D. (2013). Researching tensions and pretensions in environmental/sustainability education policies: From critical to civically engaged policy scholarship. In R. B. Stevenson, M. Brody, J. Dillon, & A.E.J. Wals (Eds.), International Handbook of Research on Environmental Education (pp. 147-155). New York: Routledge.

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