A clear distinction between OPERAs and standard research projects is its specific focus on working with policy and practice to create products that will have real-life application in sustainable ecosystem management. The ecosystem approach to sustainable development requires researchers, policy makers and land managers to build common understanding. Core to this is the development of an ecosystem services community of practice.
OPERAs has begun discussing how to develop this community at the European level. Moreover, we have already made great strides forward in the Scottish Exemplar, details of which are described below:
An Ecosystem Services Community - Scotland
Shortly after OPERAs and its sister project OpenNESS were funded by the European Commission, researchers from The University of Edinburgh, Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, Forest Research and the James Hutton Institute met to discuss research collaboration.
Benefits of aligning our research, sharing data, and publishing joint papers were evident from the start. As ideas progressed we agreed that this research would benefit greatly from wider engagement with policy and practice. We therefore named our initiative the Ecosystem Services Community Scotland (ESCom-Scotland).
Although the idea was initiated as a research collaboration, we envisage our constituency to include Scottish Government, local authorities, government agencies such as SEPA, SNH and Forestry Commission Scotland, research organisations and universities and environmental NGOs.
ESCom Scotland Launch Event
We are now busy preparing the launch of ESCom Scotland. On the 29th of April we will have a launch reception, where we hope to attract many of the leading figures in sustainable ecological management in Scotland, representing government, NGOs, the private sector and the research community. We will then meet on the 30th of April to discuss how ESCom can be shaped to become a successful community of practice. The full programme can be found here.
So far ESCom has very much been a grass-roots, bottom-up initiative. Initial responses have been extremely positive, and I have high expectations for the launch event. Scotland is a small country, communication lines are relatively short, but bridging science, policy and practice remains difficult. I hope we can break through some of these barriers and increase understanding to work together more efficiently.