Risks for Knowledge-uptake in Dutch Marine Spatial Planning: Incompatibilities Between Research and Policy-making


  • Jort Wabbe Vries, de University of Groningen, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, Department of Planning and Environment.
  • Christian Zuidema University of groningen
  • Rozanne Spijkerboer University of groningen https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5297-171X




Knowledge management,, Knowledge uptake, Marine Spatial Planning, Science-policy interface, Offshore Wind Farm governance


The rapid increase of Offshore Wind Farm (OWF) development in the North-Sea occurs under serious uncertainty, partly due to knowledge gaps concerning the North-Sea’s socio-ecological system. The situation is particularly urgent in the Netherlands due to the intense use of its maritime zone and related conflicts among stakeholders. Optimising the placement of OWFs requires the uptake of multidisciplinary knowledge in Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) policy through ongoing adaptation of policies to new knowledge. Currently, knowledge-uptake from research into policy is widely mentioned as a challenge for MSP, but knowledge management theory has hardly been applied to it. To be useful in the multidisciplinary environment of MSP, a common language about knowledge is needed to allow for cooperation between scientific disciplines and policy sectors. However, many risks exist that may hinder knowledge-uptake between research and policy-making. This thinking-gap between research and policy-making is recognised in many fields. However, MSP and relevant knowledge about the North-Sea is rapidly developing and understudied. This results in a high pressure and dynamic situation in a developing field which can be an insightful case to apply knowledge-management theory and provide new insights for scholars of MSP. This study focuses on risks for knowledge uptake that derive from incompatibilities between researchers and policy-makers in the use and development of knowledge within the context of OWF development and MSP. These incompatibilities range from differing timeframes and uses of data to more fundamental differences in roles between researchers desiring to understand the world, and policy-makers desiring to change it. Characteristics of MSP, such as the high political pressure and relative pioneering practice of MSP may exacerbate the impact of such incompatibilities. Notably, MSP may suffer from a focus on short-term policy-making, limited cumulative understanding and fragmentation in policy. The aim of this article is to consider the effect of incompatibilities between systems of research and policy-making on knowledge-uptake in Dutch MSP and how these may be exacerbated by characteristics of MSP. Using knowledge-management literature, a list of potential incompatibilities between systems of research and policy-making is drawn. Data was collected by means of document analysis, in-depth interviews with researchers and policy-makers, and observations of policy workshops, consortium meetings, and focus groups. Findings suggest that risks to knowledge-uptake are partially caused by the incompatibilities between research and policy-making and that the context of MSP exacerbates these incompatibilities in most instances. Simultaneously, some instances were found where MSP can actually help to decrease differences between researchers and policy-makers. However, the incompatibilities between researchers and policy-makers are so enduring that risks to knowledge-uptake still persist. Better joint understanding and recognition of differences between research and policy-making are required to limit the negative effect of incompatibilities between research and policy-making on knowledge uptake.

Author Biographies

Christian Zuidema, University of groningen

Christian Zuidema is an Associate professor of environmental planning at the University of groningen and specializes in Environmental planning, integrated energy planning, sustainable development, governance renewal, decentralization, (post-)contingency theory, Marine Spatial Planning, and adaptive planning.

Rozanne Spijkerboer, University of groningen

Rozanne Spijkerboer is a postdoctoral researcher of energy planning at the university of groningen. Her specializations include: Integrated Energy Planning, Marine Spatial Planning, Cross-sectoral institutional change.