Post-Normal MAGIC: Editorial

18 September 2020

September 2020 marks the end of the MAGIC project. This last issue of The Nexus Times is devoted to the overarching question: “What is the contribution of MAGIC to Post-Normal Science?" In this issue, project members reflect on the project’s research and engagement activities, its strengths and challenges, as well as its contributions and accomplishments, particularly related to post-normal science (PNS). Policy narratives, “wu wei”, mixed science-policy teams, transdisciplinarity, and uncomfortable knowledge are among the topics that are elaborated and reflected on in this issue.

In the first article, Sandra shares her experiences of managing a Horizon 2020 project and reflects on the tensions that arise when applying a post-normal science approach while at the same time aiming to adhere to the requirements of a European Commission Grant Agreement. How to best bring together the necessary openness that comes with PNS with ideals of rigid project-plans, (quantitatively visible) impact and easily applicable solutions?

In our second article, Angela and Thomas use the case of a workshop on the water-energy-food-ecosystem nexus co-organized by MAGIC and the EC’s Joint Research Centre to discuss what it means to work with extended peer communities in the European Commission. Is there a politics of extension?

In their contribution, Kirsty, Kerry and Keith focus on engagements with actors from the EC policy DGs and identify a number of key paradoxes that arise when working in “mixed science-policy teams”. They raise important questions regarding the most relevant groups to engage and how to make a selection, the problems to focus on, and the kinds of relationships to aim for.

In their reflection on the MAGIC project, Mario and Silvio discuss how conceptual aspects of MAGIC have complemented an understanding of post-normal science. They address three types of narratives in EU policy-making - justification, normative and explanation narratives - and point to the importance of quality control of these narratives through extended peer communities. In this sense their contribution is a call for democratizing evidence.

Finally, Roger weaves together the different parts and endeavours of MAGIC and provides some insights into what it meant to live with this project for four years. Starting from a short history of post-normal science, he asks for the particular contribution of this project to the philosophy of PNS. Adding to this, Roger draws on Eastern philosophy to develop one possible avenue for the future journey of PNS.