Centre of Actionable Knowledges (AcKnowledges)


The most pressing issues of our time require a transition to a pluralistic and inclusive approach to the identification, curation and deployment of actionable knowledges.

Four pressing societal challenges-icons
AcKnowledges has selected four pressing societal challenges where the crisis in bridging science and governance is particularly pronounced.

Main content

To act on pressing complex issues such as pandemics, chemical risks, climate adaptation, and biodiversity loss, society depends on institutionalized knowledge and expertise. But in expert advice for decision making, a narrow selection of knowledge is often privileged, while other knowledge is silenced, marginalized, or ignored.

AcKnowledges departs from the observation that decision-making on crucial issues proceeds on the basis of a much too narrow selection of relevant knowledges. The history of environmental monitoring and management in Europe and elsewhere offers many instances where the early warnings of knowledgeable outsiders were persistently overlooked by institutionalized expertise. In the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, epidemiology served as the dominant source of actionable knowledge, providing both the logic and rationale for initial responses. Other disciplines, knowledges, competencies and experiences that could have been used to gauge the societal impact of social distancing and lock downs remained largely overlooked. Increasingly, researchers and decision-makers recognize that failure to include a plurality of relevant knowledge limits both the quality of the knowledge base and the range of actions that appear feasible to different actors. This proposal seizes on this insight and seeks to focus our considerable experience on interrogating dominant thought-styles, epistemic infrastructure, institutional cultures and legalization processes to offer novel insights into the societal curation of knowledges for action.

Pressing issues requires new knowledge, but simply providing more facts from established expertise will not suffice in the face of complexity, uncertainty and competing tenable knowledge claims. As demonstrated by the pandemic and its attendant infodemic, continued reliance on the traditional practice of expertise can encourage entrenched polarization and the proliferation of counter-productive counter-narratives. The post-truth condition, aided by social media platforms, is also a window of opportunity allowing a wider range of knowledges to be considered. Including knowledge beyond scientific traditions can remedy the limitations and blind spots of present-day practices if it can fruitfully be integrated in institutionalized expertise.The Centre of Actionable Knowledges departs from the assumption that including a wider range of actionable knowledges in science advise for policy will inform decisions better and will avoid addressing the wrong problem. This requires careful attention to both dominant and silenced knowledge holders and can help societies make a transition in how they mobilize, reconcile and combine different knowledges in informing action.