David Cash et al.

David Cash et al., developed an analysis on boundary practices on the basis of a study on science-policy boundary.

According to these authors, boundary work can be considered as successful when it simultaneously enhances the salience, credibility and legitimacy of the information produced.

  • Salience deals with the relevance of the assessment to the needs of decision makers.
  • Credibility involves the scientific adequacy of the technical evidence and arguments.
  • Legitimacy reflects the perception that the production of information and technology has been respectful of stakeholders’ divergent values and beliefs, unbiased in its conduct, and fair in its treatment of opposing views and interests.

The study highlights that three main functions contribute most to the boundary management between policy and science, i.e. communication, translation and mediation.

Communication. Active, iterative, and inclusive communication between experts and decision makers proves crucial to systems that mobilize knowledge that could be seen as salient, credible, and legitimate in the world of action.

Translation. Linking knowledge to action requires open communication channels between experts and decision makers but also requires that participants in the resulting conversation understand each other. Mutual understanding between experts and decision makers is often hindered by jargon, language, experiences, and presumptions about what constitutes a persuasive argument. Translations are then needed to facilitate mutual comprehension in the face of such differences.

Mediation. Translation can facilitate information flow between experts and decision makers when, as is often the case, they are divided primarily by different languages, usages, and histories. However, tradeoffs among salience, credibility, and legitimacy are necessary. Conflicts among efforts to attain them cannot always be resolved merely by improving understanding. Mobilizing S&T for sustainability often requires active mediation of those conflicts.


  • Cash D.W., Clark W.C., Alcock F., Dickson N.M.; Eckley N., Guston D.H., Jager J., Mitchell R.B. (2003) ‘Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Development’, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100(14): 8086–91 (http://www.pnas.org/content/100/14/8086.full.pdf)