Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN)

The Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus, a £3m research centre hosted by the University of Surrey, has brought together a unique coalition of experts to address some of the greatest issues in policy making and evaluation. Nexus issues are complex, with many diverse, interconnected factors involved. This presents a major challenge to policy making because changing one factor can often have unexpected knock-on effects in seemingly unrelated areas. We need new ways to evaluate policy in these situations.

CECAN will pioneer, test and promote innovative evaluation approaches and methods across nexus problem domains, such as biofuel production or climate change, where food, energy, water and environmental issues intersect. The Centre will promote ‘evidence based policymaking’ by finding ways for the results of evaluation to both inform policy, and reflect back onto future policy design. Embracing an 'open research' culture of knowledge exchange, CECAN benefits from a growing network of policymakers, practitioners and researchers and a core group of academic and non-academic experts, sharing years of experience in evaluation.

CECAN’s partners share a desire to understand better the complicated environment in which policy making takes place, creating a ‘common language’ with which to address policy evaluation. Scientists and policy makers will gain insight into each other’s cultures, working practices, bureaucracies, networks and decision making processes – all crucial in the mutual quest to improve policy standards.

What makes CECAN such an exciting initiative is the variety of knowledge and expertise amongst its funders and partners, which include: Economic and Social Research Council, Natural Environment Research CouncilDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsDepartment of Energy and Climate Change and the Environment Agency.

CECAN’s initial objectives include; reviewing the current policy evaluation landscape, supporting development of new methodologies and tools, building capacity and expertise amongst government departments, understanding what is meant by ‘complexity’ in policy design, and promoting new approaches to policy evaluation.