The impact factor: Generating novel, robust & influential science by addressing environmental policy needs. Case Study: Minamata Convention on Mercury.
Research into adverse anthropogenic impacts on the Earth’s systems and biogeochemical cycles has the potential to shape public policy at local, provincial, national, and international levels. Two profound examples of this are stratospheric ozone thinning (Montreal Protocol) and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (The Stockholm Convention on POPs); intergovernmental policy driven by robust scientific outcomes. However, not all research can so directly alter policy. Indeed, the Anthropocene is characterized by conflation and conflict of immediate financial interests and long term environmental and human health concerns. Another, perhaps more pragmatic, approach to creating impactful science is to structure research to address standing policy agreements. The development and application of new technologies and methods that apply directly to these policies has the potential to strengthen the data that support them, exert added pressure on policy stakeholders, provides immediate research justification, and presents additional funding opportunities. The Minamata Convention is an intergovernmental policy established in 2013 that aims to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury – a persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic contaminant of global concern. A body of my own research applies directly to the Minamata Convention and has led to impactful research, international collaborations, industry commercialization, and the transfer of technology and training to regions where it is most needed. Using this research and the Minamata Convention as an example, I will demonstrate how public policy can be used as an effective strategy in producing highly influential science.