Zora Kovacic holds Italian and Brazilian citizenship. She is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, at the University of Bergen, Norway. She has previously held research positions at Stellenbosch University (2018-2019) and at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2012-2018). Zora was trained mostly in the social sciences, with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (UK) and a Masters of Science in Environmental Studies from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain) and the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg (Germany), which included ecological economics and environmental engineering. Zora obtained her PhD in 2015 from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Guided by post-normal science, her research focuses on the challenges of uncertainty and complexity that emerge when scientific knowledge is used in policy-making. She analyses and theorizes how quantitative evidence and uncertainty are mobilised in sustainability and development policies. Zora has contributed to science advice mechanisms, including a Scoping Workshop devoted to the European Commission Group of Chief Scientific Advisors on “Making sense of science under conditions of complexity and uncertainty” in 2018, training courses directed at policy officers of the National Secretariat for Planning and Development of Ecuador in 2014 and 2015, and policy advice to the municipal government of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Zora has also been part of the scientific committee of the bi-annual post-normal science symposia since 2015, and chair of the scientific committee of the 5th post-normal science symposium. She has collaborated in the research projects EPINET (FP7), MAGIC (H2020), NETEP (Marie Curie IRSES), PARTICIPIA (ACP-EU EDULINK II), and Co-Dec (LIRA2020).
Zora has worked with public policy both in the European context and in the Global South, especially in Brazil, Ecuador and South Africa. These diverse experiences have created an awareness of the importance of validating knowledge through practice in the science-policy interface.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
Zora’s main research interest is in the development of the study of complexity and science for policy. Complexity matters for informing policy because in the context of complexity, science cannot give one representation, advice, or option. Zora encountered this challenge in the first case study she worked on for her PhD: she was studying water governance, and the different representations of water used to inform policy seemed to talk past each other. On the one hand, she encountered the narrative of water efficiency, which referred to water use in agriculture, and on the other hand, she encountered the water scarcity narrative through which conservation policies were formulated for the main water bodies. These two representations were used both to promote and restrict the use of water, albeit in very different policy areas. Zora has thus used complexity theory as a means to think through scientific controversies, policy inconsistencies and uncertainty in governance. Her doctoral dissertation, supervised by Mario Giampietro, developed a method of quality assessment of quantitative evidence based on complexity theory. She applied this approach to the study of indicators used in financial and economic policy, water governance, and to the assessment of new and emerging technology in energy policy. Her work has been greatly inspired by collaborations with Mario Giampietro, Louisa Jane Di Felice and Timothy Allen on complexity and social metabolism, Roger Strand on governance and reflexivity, Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz on post-normal science, Violeta Cabello on deliberative governance mechanisms and transdisciplinary practices, Josephine Musango and Suzanne Smit on development and the informal economy.