Mistra’s mission is to support the kind of environmental research and development that has a bearing on society’s development and can be applied in decisions and action. This remit includes a substantial interest in enhancing our understanding of how knowledge and action are connected. More knowledge and facts do not automatically result in better decisions. We need more research on this complex process.

Many of the steps that need to be taken regarding the climate, environment and sustainability require communication of various kinds. Communication concerning environmental issues is itself a key form of measure and often a requirement for solutions gaining acceptance.

Numerous factors make communication of facts and knowledge about environmental matters especially complex, regardless of whether an issue burdened by controversies is involved. The information as such may be hard to understand. In addition, we process difficult information in a variety of ways, and the social influences to which people are subject also play a part. Besides conveying scientific facts, the communicator also needs to bear in mind that varying values, norms, attitudes and behaviours will be factored into citizens’ and organisations’ standpoints.

Research on issues relating to, or touching on, communication on environmental issues is conducted in many fields. Examples are psychology, education, environmental history, philosophy, sociology, political science, engineering and scientific studies, neural science, rhetoric, media and communication science and economics.

In spring 2018, Mistra appointed an international expert panel with the assignment of drawing up a background paper ahead of a decision to call for research proposals. The panel’s task included proposing the emphasis of a new research programme on environmental communication. This call for research proposals is based on the panel’s conclusions and proposals in its report, Re-framing Environmental Communication: Engagement, understanding and action.

The programme may concern the five research areas identified in the background paper. But environmental communication research should not be seen as a limited field. Instead, openness to a range of different viewpoints and disciplines should be maintained.

The programme must be interdisciplinary and break new ground compared with what have been seen as conventional studies of (environmental) communication. Its analysis must be innovative and it must inspire new forms of communication practice.

The research should also be based on cooperation with interested parties of various kinds, in order to promote more relevant and robust inputs and results. The aim is for these inputs and results to contribute to an understanding of how to translate knowledge and facts into action or behavioural changes.

The new programme is expected to play a key part in public debate and a coordinating role in research and communication on environmental issues. In the long term, it is expected to develop into the leading knowledge node in a network of influential agents, both academic and otherwise, in this area.

Relevance and expected impact in terms of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals must be covered in the programme proposal.

The programme must be planned to take four years but have an eight-year perspective. It is very important to involve all the business partners right from the planning stage, and onward throughout the whole research process.

During the programme implementation, dialogue, sharing of experience and, where relevant, collaboration with other Mistra programmes are expected.

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