major challenge facing all policy oriented analysis is the communication of research
results in a way that provides the policy makers and their advisors helpful insights. The
traditional means of communicating research results are a printed document or a
briefing/discussion. For the most part, policy makers prefer briefings in that they can
then interact verbally with the analyst. While a research report is organized in a linear
way interaction between a policy analyst and a policy maker can explore a wide range of
possibilities. Numerous decision makers and few analysts limit the possibilities for
non-linear, verbal interactions.
The IIASA Land Use
Project has led to the development of a new way to communicate results. Rather than
relying on a printed report, Gerhard Heilig has developed a CD ROM based on his and his
colleagues research in the land use change project. The CD ROM is a hyperlinked
document that draws attention to the multi-dimensional nature of Chinas food
security problems. The question, can China feed itself, cannot be answered by only
considering the availability of land and water resources. Chinas future food
security will depend on changes in Chinas population, the diet preferred by that
population, the rate of urbanization, agricultural and economic policies, changes in
technology as well as changes in the supply and quality of arable land and water. In the
CD ROM the data including charts, diagrams, maps and satellite images, together with the
analysis are organized into a web of thousands of links. A number of questions regarding
various sectors of the Chinese economy provide the underlying organization of the
presentation. What are the major trends in a particular sector? What is the impact of
these trends on Chinas food security? How reliable are the empirical data? How large
is the error that can be expected from projecting current trends over 50 years? Can policy
measures affect these trends and what are the costs of such policy interventions?
The analysis and presentation emphasizes the many sided factors
of the food equation as well as the reliability of the data. Impact of innovations and
technologies and improvements in management receive particular attention.
As the complexity of issues facing society increase, new and
more effective means of communicating results of policy driven research must be explored.
The Land Use Change Project and exploration of the results of that research in electronic
form as developed by Heilig serves as an excellent example as an alternative means of
communication between analyst and decision makers. In the future, IIASA will continue to
explore these new ways of enhancing communication. But it is certain, that as in the case
of Heiligs CD ROM, future means of providing insight to policy makers will make
heavy use of the rapidly evolving electronic revolution.
Gordon J. MacDonald
IIASA, April 28, 1999