When agencies move on: Agenda setting and research cycles

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Conference Proceeding

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Agenda setting is a policy process stage when ideas compete for time and resource prioritization, e.g., budget line items. Changes in the relative priorities at an agency typically happen at points of personnel turnover or during exogenous events that create “policy windows” for new items or priorities. A rapid increase in energy prices in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula since 2000 presents an opportunity for new energy sources, particularly renewable energy from the region’s abundant forests. The main public sector agency in a position to prioritize bioenergy is the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR). The agency’s focus is economic development, including recreation, housing, hazard planning, and transportation. Up until 2015, WUPPDR supported an educational campaign for private forest owners about woody biomass as an energy source, promoting wood harvesting for energy. WUPPDR’s interest in regional bioenergy waned once the director retired in 2015, just as NSF-funded research at Michigan Tech was producing information on the feasibility of a regional forest-based bioenergy industry. This multidisciplinary research program would have been well-placed to support policies promoting cellulosic ethanol, bio-oil, and wood pellets. However, by 2016 when the project was producing policy-relevant information on forest bioenergy, WUPPDR’s funding priorities had shifted to residential energy conservation, although it still participated in regional conferences on biomass for heating (e.g., “Heating the Midwest Conference and Expo, August 2016”). This case study demonstrates the dilemma of mismatched policy cycles versus research cycles, as an obstacle to producing research that can take advantage of policy windows.

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© 2017 US-IALE. Publisher's version of record: http://baltimore2017.usiale.org/abstracts/when-agencies-move-agenda-setting-and-research-cycles

Publication Title

International Association for Landscape Ecology