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    This chapter deals with knowledge issues in decision-making processes in general and specifically for BwN projects: integration of different disciplinary domains (for instance morphology, hydrology, physics, ecology, technical sciences, social sciences) and uncertainties in BwN projects.

    The present section (General) addresses the following questions:

    • what are knowledge pitfalls and opportunities in decision making?;
    • how does knowledge affect realization of a BwN project?;
    • what is uncertainty and why is it so important in the context of BwN projects?

    Subsequently, the section Guidance provides information on how to deal with the specifics of knowledge and uncertainty in BwN projects. The section Examples illustrates how a project developer can handle knowledge and uncertainty issues in BwN-type projects, using the Sand Engine project case study as a concrete example where several aspects of these knowledge and uncertainty considerations have been tested. Finally, under References information can be found on material for further reading.

    Knowledge in decision making processes

    Knowledge plays an important role in different project phases, it provides a basis for:

    • problem identification;
    • master planning and project initiation;
    • developing possible solutions; 
    • developing design and planning alternatives;
    • assessing designs and plans;
    • project execution;
    • sustainable and adaptive project operation and maintenance;
    • environmentally friendly decommissioning of the project.


    Knowledge can be functional in several ways. It is used to get the content right and it provides substantiation for legal procedures. Furthermore, knowledge can contribute to build up support for a project among actors and stakeholders and other parties involved (van Buuren et al, 2010).

    Knowledge use within projects results from interaction between the knowledge domain and the policy domain. This interaction results in context-specific knowledge ((Koppenjan and Klijn, 2004, In ‘t Veld 2000, Turnhout 2007). The figure represents a conceptualization of this interface (click to enlarge).

    Knowledge often does not achieve its goal: “Instead of reducing knowledge conflicts and substantive uncertainty, scientific knowledge serves to enhance them” (Koppenjan and Klijn, 2004); Van Bommel 2008; Van de Riet, 2003; Van Koningsveld, 2003; Hommes 2008). Different interpretations of knowledge emerge due to different perceptions by stakeholders, which can result in ambiguity. Each stakeholder may prefer a specific field of knowledge, methodology or research to be used. An environmental NGO, for instance, will be specifically concerned with effects on the ecosystem, while a flood authority may rather be concerned with the probability of flooding. Different parties may therefore value knowledge in a different way. Furthermore, tensions can emerge between different sources of knowledge. Some parties may prefer scientific or expert knowledge, developed by scientists and practitioners who strive for its general applicability and objectivity. On the other hand there is practical or lay knowledge, typically owned by local parties and based on experiences and local observations (Van Buuren et al, 2010; Hommes, 2008, Eshuis and Stuiver, 2005). Lastly, different disciplines may have different perceptions of knowledge. Research methods differ greatly between natural sciences and social sciences, for instance. The case study methodology, very common in social sciences, may not always align with the natural science approach of experimenting. The interaction between different disciplines is particularly relevant to Building with Nature projects, which strive for integration of functions. This includes opportunities, but also pitfalls, as discussed below.

    Knowledge opportunities

    The following opportunities for the use of knowledge in decision making are identified.

    • Towards useful knowledge
      In decision making the (scientific) quality of knowledge and the acceptance of knowledge are equally important to achieve ‘useful knowledge’ (van de Riet, 2003) or ‘negotiated knowledge’ (De Bruijn and Ten Heuvelhof, 1999; Edelenbos 2001). Different perceptions of stakeholders are to be taken into account. Acquiring useful knowledge for decision making requires both acceptance and quality of that knowledge.


    • Boundary work
      To bridge contradictions between disciplines and/or different stakeholder’ perceptions, boundary work provides for a possible strategy. Boundary work is about facilitating demarcations, interaction, translation and cooperation between different worlds. It manifests itself in boundary arrangements: boundary objectsboundary organizations and boundary ordering devices. Boundary work is especially relevant for building with nature projects, as different disciplines and reference frames need to be integrated there. For example, the views of an ecologists need to be aligned with the views of morphologists.
    • Learning
      Learning among actors is an important tool in overcoming different perceptions of knowledge. As such, learning can be an important strategy to prevent ambiguity. We distinguish two types of learning: cognitive and strategic. Cognitive learning is about nature, causes and effects of the problem, its possible solutions and their consequences. Strategic learning relates to “the parties’ consciousness of each other’s involvement and mutual dependencies” (Koppenjan and Klijn, 2004). Cognitive and strategic learning are both needed to create a shared knowledge base (Hommes, 2008). A specific and well-known form of learning is social learning in which cognitive learning and strategic learning are combined.

    Knowledge pitfalls

    The following pitfalls are commonly observed when applying knowledge in decision making processes:

    • War of reports or ‘dialogues of the deaf’
      A war on reports may emerge when multiple parties or coalitions disagree on the knowledge base. Parties try to convince each other by means of producing additional knowledge which proves they are right. Knowledge is used here as ammunition. This approach usually does not lead to agreement among parties, but rather to many useless reports.
    • Negotiated nonsense
      Negotiated nonsense can be the outcome of a decision-making process emphasizing agreement among the parties involved without paying due attention to the quality and scientific relevance of the content. As a result the proposed solution may not be effective.
    • Superfluous knowledge
      Superfluous knowledge is the knowledge outcome of a decision-making process emphasizing the validity of the content. The knowledge is scientifically sound, but of no use to decision making, as it is not connected to the process and it is not accepted by the stakeholders.

    Knowledge in BwN projects

    In BwN projects, multiple functions are combined into one design: nature is integrated with infrastructural goals. This ‘functional integration’ is mentioned in policy documents and managements plans, but in practice implementation proves to be problematic and runs into barriers. Barriers originate among others from the fragmentation of policy fields. Moreover, the field of water policy in the Netherlands is historically an autonomous and isolated field, which complicates integration (Wiering and Arts, 2006). The challenge of BwN projects is realizing functional integration in practice.

    A challenge in BwN projects is to deal with fragmented policy fields when using knowledge in decision making. Knowledge is often assumed to be inherently linked to a specific policy field. Consequently, functional integration requires integrating different knowledge domains. The relation between policy fields and knowledge, here conceptualized as a ‘knowledge arrangement’, is often neglected, although its relevance is clear. In functional integration the confrontation of multiple knowledge arrangements needs to be steered towards an integrated BwN design.


    Uncertainty refers to the situation in which there is not a complete and clear understanding of the system to be managed (Brugnach et al., 2008). More conservative scientific interpretations of uncertainty state that it relates to situations in which relevant insights and facts concerning choices and their effects are missing. However, it is essential to acknowledge that uncertainty gets meaning in policy and project development. Irrespective of its nature or magnitude, uncertainty can become an issue of concern if it jeopardizes the success of an initiative.

    It is not bold to state that BwN-type projects have to deal with high levels of inherent uncertainty. Firstly, no complete knowledge exists regarding the behaviour of the natural system considered. Secondly, BwN involves larger and more variable spatial and temporal scales as compared with traditional "hard" engineering projects. Thirdly, BwN requires an interdisciplinary approach, which implies that many phenomena and their mutual interactions, each inherently uncertain, need to be taken into account. Finally, uncertain contextual factors such as weather conditions are 'driving forces' of BwN and are of paramount importance.

    It makes no sense to deny these uncertainties, as they are inherent to the system and to BwN. It is better to deal with them by, for instance, considering different scenarios and introducing flexibility in the solutions chosen.

    Not every uncertainty can be reduced by additional research. Some of the contextual factors, including human behaviour, are inherently unpredictable. Modeling, though easily disputed, can support decision making, e.g. by exploring scenarios and uncertainty ranges.

    Decision makers do not really like uncertainty, but they will accept uncertain information as long as the process remains manageable. Certainty has to be provided that, if things take an unexpected turn, they can be reversed, or at least controlled through adaptive management.


    In the literature, ambiguity is considered as a special type of uncertainty. It refers to situations in which it is unclear what the problem is and how it should be solved, due to the presence of multiple, equally valid knowledge frames (Dewulf et al., 2005; Brugnach et al., 2011; Brugnach and Ingram, 2012). As a consequence, multiple approaches and interpretations are freely promoted, and there are no criteria to distinguish more and less valid interpretations of facts. In such situations, it is tempting for actors in the power game to question facts and knowledge, and to produce rivalry facts and knowledge. Stakeholders can hire their suppliers of knowledge to deliver knowledge that is gathered from their preferred perspective. Rivalry between governmental institutions sometimes also leads to a 'war of reports' or 'dialogue of the deaf'.

    Additional research is not likely to solve ambiguity. Mutual understanding is achieved by dialogue and negotiation, and not by additional facts. Ambiguity can be an even more important issue for BwN than incomplete knowledge regarding the natural system or the technology applied.


    BwN-type projects often involve larger spatial scales and longer time horizons than conventional ones and hence, also more and possibly larger knowledge-related uncertainties and ambiguity.

    The questions to be answered in the context of governance and the role of knowledge in it are:

    • What are enabling and constraining knowledge factors for realizing a BwN design?
    • How to identify, present and handle uncertainties with regard to knowledge?

    Strategies regarding the use of knowledge in BwN projects

    The strategies for the use of knowledge in BwN projects are based on the assumption that knowledge related to different policy fields needs to be integrated. Knowledge is assumed to be inherently related to a particular policy field, which is conceptualized by means of a knowledge arrangement: actors, discourse, rules, regulations and resources affect the process of knowledge structuring and the other way around. This leads to knowledge arrangements with different perspectives, concepts and priorities.

    Knowledge arrangements are confronted with each other and interact in BwN projects. The strategy for using knowledge in BwN projects relates to this confrontation and interaction among knowledge arrangements. Below the ensuing enabling and constraining factors for realizing a BwN design are identified.

    Enabling BwN factors

    Integral knowledge structuring across policy fields requires boundary work and boundary arrangements. Inspired by the policy arrangement approach, the enabling factors are

    • Actors
      • Make all stakeholders part of the knowledge structuring process in your project to (1) gain support for the knowledge built up and (2) to ensure an integrated approach. This requires a project architecture in which all stakeholders are involved. Stakeholders should together determine the type of knowledge to develop, assess the knowledge developed and determine the use of the knowledge. It is important that stakeholders from different policy fields are represented in this process.
    • Rules and regulations
      • Combine rules and regulations from different policy fields.
      • If possible, find a location where the most burdensome rules and regulations are not applicable. Integrating such rules and regulations (specifically formal rules such as laws or policy documents) may be unachievable within the time span of a project. Choosing a location where such rules and regulations do not apply may overcome this barrier. The Sand Engine, for instance, was located outside the adjacent Natura 2000 site and furthermore it had no direct specific safety target.
    • Resources
      • Use financial resources from all relevant policy fields to realize the BwN project. This causes interdependency which serves as an incentive to combine goals from each policy field in the project.
      • Apply (external or new) resources from which all policy fields involved benefit. In the Sand Engine project, for instance, an extension of the morphological model, the beach dune module, combined the nature and coastal protection domains.
    • Discourse
      • Identify or develop a discourse that reflects to the various policy fields. The ‘building with nature’ discourse on the Sand Engine linked in to both the nature and coastal defense policy field. A discourse on coastal flood protection measures only is likely to be less interesting for the nature policy field.

    Constraining BwN factors

    While boundary work can help bridging boundaries (enabling factors), it can also have an adverse effect by demarcating existing boundaries and enforcing these (constraining factors). Demarcation and enforcing of existing boundaries will not result in an integrated design, as it provokes maintaining existing practices. Examples of such constraining factors are:

    • Actors
      • Mono-disciplinary meetings will preserve and confirm traditional knowledge structuring. Experts will not be challenged to work in an integrated way.
      • Organization of a project within one policy field: striving for integration will be more difficult when only one policy field is involved in the organization of a project. For example, excluding nature-NGOs from a flood defense project in an area with (potential) nature values will constrain the development of a BwN design.
    • Rules and regulations
      • Separate functionalities: rules and regulations may be directed to functionality splitting. This will not support a BwN-design, the value of which is in the combination of functionalities.
      • Separate targets: a BwN-design will be more difficult to realize when for each functionality strict targets are defined. In such a situation there is no room for negotiation and balancing, whereas the question always arises which functionality has priority.
    • Resources
      • Separate resources: if resources are separated by functionality, an integrated BwN-design becomes difficult to realize.
    • Discourse
      • Unbalanced discourse: if in the discourse around a project one policy field prevails, an integrated multi-functional BwN-design will be more difficult to achieve. If a project discourse is strongly biased to nature development, for instance, infrastructural goals will be difficult to integrate.

    Besides these, an additional constraining factor for realizing a BwN-design is the relative strength of the knowledge arrangements involved. If one knowledge arrangement has more resources or more internal coherence, crossing boundaries may become more difficult than if all knowledge arrangements are of comparable strength.

    Strategy regarding uncertainty

    Definitions and basic principles

    In the General section, a definition of uncertainty has already been provided. Following this definition, a distinction is made between three types of uncertainty (Brugnach et al., 2008):

    • Unpredictability – uncertainty due to unpredictable or chaotic behaviour of e.g. natural processes, human beings or social processes;
    • Incomplete knowledge – uncertainty due to the imperfection of our knowledge, e.g. due to lack of specific knowledge, data imprecision or approximations;
    • Multiple knowledge frames – uncertainty due to the presence of multiple knowledge frames or different but (equally) valid interpretations of the same phenomenon, problem or situation. The presence of multiple knowledge frames causes ambiguity (see the General section for a clarification of ambiguity).

    When identifying the most important uncertainties in a BwN project's development process, actors need to focus on factors that can hamper development, cause budget overruns or retrenchment, influence milestone decisions or even cause the cancellation of the entire project ("showstoppers"). Uncertainties in a project using BwN design principles are numerous, an inherent characteristic of this type of projects. Therefore, one should not be distracted by the many smaller issues, but focus on those uncertain factors that may become a major concern.

    Beware that there is a difference between "true" uncertainty and perceived uncertainty. Some factors are "truly" uncertain, for instance because there is insufficient knowledge available. Other issues, however, can be perceived as uncertain by some actors, while there actually is sufficient knowledge available. Yet, both "true" and perceived uncertainties have the ability to influence project developments and are therefore equally relevant. Perceived uncertainty may be an ambiguity (e.g., different views about the level of certainty of a particular factor).

    Uncertainty identification: which uncertainties are the most important?

    Uncertainty has a meaning in policy development which goes far beyond the classical scientific definition that uncertainty is just a 'deficit of knowledge'. In policy development, there are many stakeholders and actors, each with different backgrounds, values and beliefs. Therefore, multiple interpretations of an (uncertain) phenomenon are possible. As a consequence, ambiguity is often the most important type of uncertainty in BwN projects. More specifically, uncertainty becomes meaningful in policy development through its financial and social implications (e.g., swimmer safety around the Sand Engine). These are far more important than the unpredictability of weather conditions or a lack of knowledge concerning the behaviour of natural systems. BwN means projects with unclearly defined temporal and spatial scales. Therefore, it is also difficult to determine which actors have to be involved in the project development process. This, in turn, can yield uncertainties if parties feel ignored and start objecting against the project.

    In the study of uncertainties in BwN project governance, no evidence was found that their size is important. No clues were detected in either documents or interviews that there is something like a maximum acceptable deviation or uncertainty bandwidth. Uncertainties are important if they have a potential effect on the success of a project. So: size does not matter: it is the (potential) effect of the uncertainties that counts.

    Uncertainty management: how to cope with it?

    Managing uncertainty is of major importance to BwN projects. The following general rules have to be regarded when choosing a strategy for coping with a particular type of uncertainty:

    • Unpredictability – The appropriate strategy direction is to accept that we cannot know better. An unpredictability cannot be reduced by doing more research due to its inherent nature;
    • Incomplete knowledge – The appropriate strategy direction is to work on extending and improving the relevant knowledge base. If we know more, this type of uncertainty may be reduced. However in projects with a long-term perspective, such as BwN-type projects, there is no guarantee, since effects may manifest only on the long run;
    • Multiple knowledge frames – The appropriate strategy direction is to deal with the existing differences. In this case, additional knowledge does not solve the problem. Working to reach mutual understanding will help to eliminate ambiguity.

    This is elaborated in further detail in the tool Visualizing and managing uncertainty.

    Actually, the attitude of people towards uncertainty and its acceptability ought to change in order to make BwN successful. People have got accustomed to a command-and-control approach to water engineering, with hard structures such as dikes and dams, aiming at controlling the natural system and eliminating uncertainties. This suggested full predictability of the water system and a guaranteed future state of the system. Contrastingly, uncertainty is an inherent characteristic of the BwN approach; this means that guarantees about the future state of the system involved cannot be given . Current policy practices cannot cope with high levels of uncertainty in projects / designs. One way to change this situation might be to increase the media exposure of BwN, so as to increase its visibility to the general public. Also, raising awareness of the problems associated with climate change may make the general public realize that the adaptability of BwN solutions may be a better way to cope with higher future unpredictability of the climate.

    The role of additional research - Further research, a traditional strategy to reduce uncertainty, generally does not have that role in BwN-type projects. Research results can still be used to "manage the people", but they are less appropriate to reduce uncertainty about the natural system and its behaviour.

    Example: Swimmer safety around the Sand Engine Delfland. Uncertainty is caused here by the fact that natural dynamics around the Sand Engine project are to a certain extent unpredictable. By definition, uncertainty due to unpredictability cannot be reduced by additional research. Yet, in the preparation process of the Sand Engine, an additional swimmer safety study was conducted. An implicit strategic goal of such a study may be to reassure the public by showing that everything has been done to reduce uncertainty to a minimum.

    In the BwN projects analysed so far, ambiguity and social implications were found to be the most important uncertainties. This means that strategies that deal with the differences between the various actors and stakeholders offer perspectives for managing uncertainties in BwN projects. Participation and cooperation are keywords, negotiation and dialogue important tools.

    Start managing uncertainty as early as possible in the project development process by stimulating participation and cooperation. This will prevent framing differences, and hence ambiguity. In the Sand Engine project, for instance, there was concern about the budget and whether dredging contractors would accept a relatively low price per m3 of sand. This potential problem was successfully coped with by early involvement of market parties, in order to prevent problems in a later project phase.

    Uncertainty can be a powerful tool in project development. Project opponents can use "the presence of high levels of uncertainty", or a specific "uncertain, dangerous issue" to object against promising initiatives. They may mobilize politicians that share their ideas, like in the Sand Engine case on the issues of swimmer safety. Furthermore, other experts can come up with new facts to support their case (beware: these facts can be false or subjective, but they may just as well be true!). Be prepared to recognize and further identify these problems and invest in addressing them. Avoid a war on facts and reports, as some opponents are not interested in the truth, but just want to stop the project. So aim at reducing the feeling of insecurity by paying proper attention to people’s concerns. Use stakeholder input as early as possible to cover these issues.

    Lessons Learned

    BwN initiatives will benefit from the following lessons and best BwN practices:

    Lesson 1:

    Uncertainties concerning the ‘technical aspects of a project ’, the project’s functionality and its effects on the ecosystem occur in almost every phase, but their influence on policy development is mostly indirect. In policy development, the emphasis is on the social implications of these uncertainties. The uncertainties that are the most prominent tend to differ between project phases. Uncertainty management in a project should take this into account.

    Lesson 2:

    BwN projects have both longer temporal and larger spatial scales than traditional water engineering projects. Analyses from a governance perspective indicate that these scale differences are not yet taken into account in the policy development process of BwN projects. Concerning uncertainty, focus among policy makers is on the short-term (disadvantageous) effects of the BwN projects, rather than on the long-term benefits. Short-term effects of the BwN project are inherently uncertain, meaning that it is ‘unfair’ to judge a BwN project on this characteristic. Furthermore, communication should aim at increased understanding and acceptance of uncertainties in BwN water engineering projects.

    Lesson 3:

    The higher level of unpredictability in BwN-type projects means that they require a different approach to uncertainty. Current policy practices, however, are not accustomed to accepting high levels of uncertainty in projects / designs. Consequently, current strategies of coping with uncertainty are not likely to be fit for dealing with uncertainty in BwN projects. ‘Doing more research’, the usual response to uncertainty, is not likely to be an effective way of coping with the inherent unpredictability in a BwN project. Yet, performing studies might be a powerful instrument to manage the uncertainty in the social system that is related to the unpredictability of the natural system.

    Lesson 4:

    Use the media to expose the general public to the BwN philosophy. Establishing a clear link between climate change and the potential of BwN to provide sustainable solutions may increase the awareness of the general public that BwN solutions are really needed in the future. Furthermore, keeping up the speed in the policy decision process of a BwN project can be a key strategy to prevent endless discussions about uncertainty. Stress that  monitoring and feedback enable finetuning and adjustments, if necessary.


    Pilot Sand Engine Delfland

    Building with Nature is a form of functional integration combining nature and infrastructural goals. The pilot Sand Engine Delfland is an example of a project (a dynamic, moving flood defence), in which multiple functions are combined: the projects aims at contributing to nature development, increased safety and recreation development. In 2011, this concentrated mega-nourishment was completed. From the perspective of knowledge arrangements, the enabling and constraining factors for functional integration are identified below.

    Enabling factors

    Actors and coalitions

    • The composition of the project team contributed to an integral approach to the design. In the project team, relevant knowledge and information were considered from multiple perspectives. Documents such as the EIA report were available to the team and all parties involved had the opportunity to respond. This setting stimulated the learning process among disciplines and different perspectives (stakeholders). In the project team, discussions were held on what was regarded as ‘knowledge’ and what knowledge development methods were appropriate to be used in the further process.
    • The organization of the design process contributed to an integral development of the Sand Engine. The four design alternatives that were assessed in the EIA report resulted from integral design workshops where experts as well as stakeholders cooperated. The interaction contributed to the learning process among people from different backgrounds and disciplines. As one of the morphologists stated: ‘Here I began to understand how ecologists think’.
    • The involvement of the Building with Nature innovation programme in the project team. Among other things, they contributed to development of a ‘beach-dune module’ for the morphological model, which enabled better predictions of more relevance to nature and recreational functions. This stimulated a further integration of the safety, economy and nature policy fields.

    Rules and regulations

    • The open character of the goals formulated for the Sand Engine: creating temporary nature and recreation areas, stimulating natural dune growth for safety, and developing new knowledge. These goals were not translated into more specific objectives, such as desired areas of dune growth, or the type of nature or recreation desired. The open character of the project goals contributed to achieving integration as conflicts in weighing different functions could easily be avoided.
    • The lenient requirements from the legal framework: for the time being, the Sand Engine is not critical to coastal safety and no specific nature objectives were identified (e.g. in terms of numbers of individuals of certain species). The only condition was that it should not negatively affect the Basic Coastline (in Dutch: 'BKL'), dune erosion buffers, or the Natura 2000 site adjacent to the nourishment. The absence of specific legal requirements facilitated the integration of functions.


    • Financial resources were from both policy fields: the Province and the Ministry of Public Works both contributed to the realization of the Sand Engine. The resulting mutual dependency stimulated cooperation between the two.


    • The focus on innovation and experimenting implied acceptance of (and maybe even a desire for) uncertainties. Uncertainties legitimated the project as an experiment (“we need to do this project in order to learn from it and answer our research questions”). This experimental character of the project also promoted science-oriented monitoring and knowledge development.
    • The framing as a ‘building with nature’ project in which nature is allowed to have its course. Although in practice there is a variety of interpretations of the building with nature concept, it did have an effect on knowledge structuring and enabled integration of functions. Parties from the nature as well as the safety policy field were able to identify themselves with this concept. ‘Building with Nature’ served as a boundary object as it had “different meanings in different social worlds but their structure is common enough to more than one world to make them recognizable means of translation” (Star and Griesemer, 1989)
    • The ‘let nature have its course’ approach contrasted with the focus on (cost-) efficiency in terms of contribution to the basic coastline which is common in the safety arrangement. In the Sand Engine project, employees of the Ministry of Public Works repeatedly stated that the underwater design alternative, basically a traditional shore face nourishment, should be preferred, as it was the most efficient and predictable design from a safety (sand on the beach) point of view.

    Constraining factors

    It should be noted that certain factors may constrain BwN and functional integration, whereas at the same time they have a positive effect on other aspects. The ‘brains from Delft’ discourse (referring to the civil engineering expertise from Delft University of Technology), for instance, helped generating public support, but was a constraining factor in working towards an integrated approach.

    Actors and coalitions

    • The preferred position of Deltares, an applied research and specialised consultancy institute which mainly operates in the civil engineering domain: during the development of the EIA inception note (author: consultancy Grontmij) and the EIA report (author: consultancy DHV), the consultants were instructed to cooperate with Deltares, which was hired under a separate contract. This emphasized the weight attributed to morphological expertise in the project, at the expense of the balance of disciplines actually required.
    • Assessing separate effects of design alternatives in the EIA process led to ‘sectoral workshops’, i.e. workshops in which one knowledge discipline was represented. Such a sectoral approach constrains functional integration.
    • Multiple ecological perspectives: within the nature coalition, different ideas exist on the type of nature that should be aimed at (e.g. one ecologist values a seal whereas another values dune nature). In this case, the legal framework gave little to hold on to, as no nature goals were defined. The morphologists, on the other hand, operated from a common perspective. As a consequence, the nature policy field held a relatively weak position in the integration of functions.

    Rules and regulations

    • The EIA procedure is directed towards assessment of effects of the different design alternatives. This approach leads to sectoral knowledge development, not only in sectoral design workshops, but also in sectoral reports. This procedure constrained functional integration.


    • In the project, morphological expertise was highly valued and formed the basis for further knowledge development. In external communication, repeatedly reference was made to the ‘brains from Delft’ to indicate that the best engineers available were involved in the project. Contrastingly, the involvement of the ‘best ecologists’ or the ‘top of Wageningen’ (i.e. referring to the nature and agriculture oriented Wageningen University and Research) was not part of the discourse. No specific knowledge party was hired to supply ecological expertise, although individual ecologists were invited to expert sessions. This balance towards morphological knowledge constrained integration.

    Uncertainty identification

    In the Sand Engine case, three uncertainties were identified as being potential threats to the project development process (Van den Hoek et al., 2012). These ambiguities, caused by the existence of multiple (equally valid) interpretations of the situation at hand, were:

    • Recreational swimmer safety: the project should not endanger human safety. The Sand Engine's project team and the committee 'Stop de Zandmotor' ('Stop the Sand Engine') committee of opponents had a conflict regarding this topic. The uncertainty is not directly caused by the unpredictability of the (natural) system in which the Sand Engine is positioned: actually, both parties agree that the conditions of the system are unpredictable. They disagree, however, on whether the area could be kept safe for the recreants and how this should be done.
    • Drinking water quality: this was an essential issue for the same human safety reason. An important stakeholder of the project threatened to file an official complaint against the construction of the peninsula, which would result in a delay causing funding problems. Like in the recreational safety case, the Sand Engine's project team and the stakeholder actually agreed that there was incomplete knowledge about the effect of the Sand Engine on ground- and drinking water. Whereas the project team initially interpreted this as "not a problem", the stakeholder claimed that additional research was needed to get a complete picture of the potential effects as a basis for proper judgment of the project.
    • Attractiveness of the project to contractors: as the budget per unit/sand was substantially less than that for regular Dutch North Sea nourishments, constructors might either consider the project attractive (because of the Sand Engine's unique and innovative character, which would draw world-wide attention and become a suitable marketing object) or unattractive (because it would be less profitable).

    Uncertainty management

    In order to cope with these ambiguities, the following strategies were followed:

    • Recreational swimmer safety: the underlying framing difference about the effects of the Sand Engine on swimmer safety was not solved. Nevertheless, an impasse in the project development was successfully prevented by the project team: they chose an oppositional mode of action strategy (selecting one preferred interpretation of the problem and neglecting the other in decision making) and forced a favourable decision, with swimmer safety an acknowledged point of attention.
    • Drinking water quality: as opposed to the swimmer safety issue, the project team was not the powerful actor in this case. Hence, they needed to choose a different strategy. The issue was first addressed by doing additional research (rational problem solving), which led to the adaptation of the project team’s frame (frame accommodation). As a result, negotiations led to the implementation of a pumping station to prevent problems with salt water intrusion into the drinking water reserve.
    • Attractiveness of the project to contractors: this problem was solved by dialogical learning, i.e. involving potential contractors in an early process phase,  thereby preventing problems in the later stages of the project development.



    Knowledge in decision making

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    • Koppenjan J. F. M. and E.-H. Klijn (2004). Managing uncertainties in networks: a network approach to problem solving and decision making. London, New York, Routledge.
    • Riet O. A. W. T. van de(2003). Policy Analysis in Multi-Actor Policy Settings; Navigating Between Negotiated Nonsense & Superfluous Knowledge. Delft, Eburon.Wiering and Arts, 2006
    • Turnhout, E., M. Hisschemoller, et al. (2007). "Ecological indicators: Between the two fires of science and policy." Ecological Indicators 7(2): 215-228.
    • Star, S. L. and J. R. Griesmer (1989). "Institutional ecology, Translational and Boundary Objects." Social Studies of Sciences 19: 3.

    Policy arrangements

    • Leroy P. and B. Arts (2006). Institutional dynamics in environmental governance. Institutional Dynamics In Environmental Governance. B. Arts and P. Leroy. Dordrecht (eds), Springer, pp. 1-19.
    • Liefferink D. (2006). The dynamics of policy arrangements: turning round the tetrahedron. Institutional Dynamics In Environmental Governance. B. Arts and P. Leroy (eds). Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 45-68.
    • Tatenhove J. van, B. Arts and P. Leroy (2000). Political modernisation and the environment: the renewal of environmental policy arrangements. Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    • Wiering M.A. and Arts B.J.M. (2006) Discursive shifts in Dutch river management: ‘deep institutional change or adaptation strategy? Hydrobiologia

    Functional Integration in BwN projects

    • Buuren, M.W. van, Bruin, E. de, Zweegman, G-J., Becker, L. & Raadgever, T. (2010). Strategieën voor integrale kustontwikkeling in een versnipperd institutioneel systeem. Zoetermeer: APPM.
    • Janssen S.K.H. (2011). Handling the knowledge challenge in building with nature projects. Lessons from the pilot Sand Engine Delfland. CEDA Dredging Days 2011, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

    Social learning

    • Janssen, S.K.H. (2010). "The role of knowledge in building with nature projects." Scaling and governance conference, November 2010, Wageningen
    • Pahl-Wostl, C. (2006). "The importance of social learning in restoring the multifunctionality of rivers and floodplains." Ecology and Society 11(1).
    • Pahl-Wostl, C., M. Craps, et al. (2007). "Social learning and water resources management." Ecology and Society 12(2).



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