Environmental policy research continues to advance toward a more Kuhnian “normal” science where theory and empirical tools are brought to bear on real-world policy systems to better understand social processes and determine the context in which policies work best. Traditional environmental policy tools now involve more flexible market-based instruments, voluntary agreements, and information provision tools like ecolabels and sustainability indicators. Policy process theories continue to be refined through hypothesis testing and are evolving into more integrative and multidisciplinary frameworks. Interdisciplinary methods are also being employed to better measure and analyze environmental outcomes, which has always been a major challenge in environmental policy research. These research tools are being explored in emerging policy approaches like collaborative partnerships and with novel environmental issues like climate change adaptation, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and nanotechnology.
Niles, M.T. and Lubell, M. Integrative frontiers in environmental policy theory and research. 2012. Policy Studies Journal, 40: 41-64