Barriers to evidence use for sustainability: Insights from pesticide policy and practice

Benjamin Hofmann*, Karin Ingold, Christian Stamm, Priska Ammann, Rik I. L. Eggen, Robert Finger, Samuel Fuhrimann, Judit Lienert, Jennifer Mark, Chloe McCallum, Nicole Probst-Hensch, Ueli Reber, Lucius Tamm, Milena Wiget, Mirko S. Winkler, Lucca Zachmann, Sabine Hoffmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Calls for supporting sustainability through more and better research rest on an incomplete understanding of scientific evidence use. We argue that a variety of barriers to a transformative impact of evidence arises from diverse actor motivations within different stages of evidence use. We abductively specify this variety in policy and practice arenas for three actor motivations (truth-seeking, sense-making, and utility-maximizing) and five stages (evidence production, uptake, influence on decisions, effects on sustainability outcomes, and feedback from outcome evaluations). Our interdisciplinary synthesis focuses on the sustainability challenge of reducing environmental and human health risks of agricultural pesticides. It identifies barriers resulting from (1) truth-seekers’ desire to reduce uncertainty that is complicated by evidence gaps, (2) sense-makers’ evidence needs that differ from the type of evidence available, and (3) utility-maximizers’ interests that guide strategic evidence use. We outline context-specific research–policy–practice measures to increase evidence use for sustainable transformation in pesticides and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425–439
Early online date17 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


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