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Women in Marine Governance: Päivi Haapasaari

#WIMG is a PERMAGOV campaign designed to celebrate the role of women in marine governance. Case studies take the form of short interviews where participants share their background, interests, ideas and recommendations for improving the way in which ocean affairs are managed. Each story is unique. By spotlighting our WIMG stars, we hope that readers from all walks of life will be inspired to make their contribution in support of a sustainable ocean. Featured in this case study is Päivi Haapasaari, Senior Research Scientist at the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke).

Päivi Haapasaari | Women in Marine Governance | Permagov

Current job

I am a marine social scientist working in the Societal Change unit of Syke. The Societal change unit promotes sustainability transformation through research focusing on the transformation paths and their fairness, steering, and agency. As part of that, my group, called ‘Politics of Knowledge’, critically analyzes the use of knowledge for decision making and influencing societal or environmental change. My expertise in our unit and group relates to questions of sustainability transformation in marine areas and sectors, and the related governance. Tackling biodiversity loss is an important topic in our unit and the whole institute, and currently very much present also in my work. Now I am involved in two EU Horizon projects: PERMAGOV and MSP4BIO. My typical working day consists of reading, writing, analyzing, and, of course, meetings and discussions with colleagues. Depending on the phase of the projects, my working day can also include fieldwork.

Study and career path

My scientific background is in cultural anthropology (MA) and aquatic sciences (PhD), and I am an associate professor (docent) in environmental policy at the University of Helsinki. My research has focused on the governance and management of marine resources (fisheries), areas (maritime spatial planning), and risks (maritime transport, dioxin-problem in fish). In my previous project I analyzed the possibilities of collaborative governance to enhance the sustainable management of inland watershed areas. Currently I also work on the mainstreaming of biodiversity objectives in marine policies. My research has been very interdisciplinary involving natural sciences, economics, engineering, and even medical science. An important element of my work has also been the engagement of stakeholders in research, for example, through participatory modelling. Before my current job at Syke, I had a stint at the University of Helsinki.

Participation in PERMAGOV

In PERMAGOV I will contribute to most WPs at least to some extent, I suppose. Earlier in the fall I participated in the literature review conducted in WP3 to identify institutional barriers to the performance and implementation of marine policies, to understand issues that can hamper the implementation of the European Green Deal (EGD). At the moment my focus is on 1) the development of a multi-level collaborative marine governance model together with the other model developers of PERMAGOV, and 2) writing a report and a journal article about the model. The model is aimed to suggest how marine governance could be improved to better respond to EGD challenges.

Marine governance

Marine governance must match the problem or system it governs. This implies the need to understand the problem in its environmental and social context, and the interlinkages of the problem with other problems (marine problems are interlinked as there are no boundaries in the sea!) For this to happen, marine governance must be collaborative, interactive, and integrated. It must involve public, private, and civil society actors from relevant areas, sectors, and levels of governance, to enable the exchange of knowledge and the deliberation of objectives and perspectives. Collaboration is also needed to improve coherence between policies and practices. However, marine governance still tends to be sector-based, narrow in scope, and without significant stakeholder participation. So, the direction must be towards more interaction and collaboration. This is also needed for effective EGD implementation and for sustainable management overall.


Recently, I contributed to two articles (involving 41 women authors!) dealing with gender equality in interdisciplinary marine research:

a) Shellock et al. 2022 ( Breaking down barriers: The identification of actions to promote gender equality in interdisciplinary marine research institutes

b) Shellock et al. 2023 ( Building leaders for the UN Ocean Science Decade: a guide to supporting early career women researchers within academic marine research institutes.

The papers argued that women leaders can increase the success of interdisciplinary marine research, but that men, still, are more likely to be in leadership positions in marine research institutes. Paper a) explored the barriers and enablers of women’s leadership in marine research, and paper b) proposed strategies and actions to help empower early career women researchers to become leaders of marine science. I would say that marine governance is an extremely important, interesting, and exciting field, where women are needed, where women enjoy their work, and where women also support each other.

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PERMAGOV has received funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation programme HORIZON-CL6-2022-GOVERNANCE-01-03 under grant agreement No 101086297, and by UK Research and Innovation under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee grant numbers 10045993, 10062097, 101086297.

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