The secretariat function

Once a TranSTEP relevant issue has reached a problem owner’s table and this institution has decided to take action, a secretariat function needs to be established. Different institutions will have different resources and routines for organising this. Some will outsources the secretariat function and some may do it in-house. For very controversial issues where trust in the problem owner is low, outsourcing may increase the public’s and stakeholders’ belief that the TranSTEP group is indeed independent. However, distancing it from the problem owner’s home community may also lead to a missed opportunity for learning within the problem owner institution.

Whether or not the secretariat function is outsourced, it should be clearly separate from the TranSTEP group, which it serves.

The secretariat has the following functions:

  1. Preparing the TranSTEP process and the specific meetings
  2. Setting up an infrastructure for transparency
  3. Facilitating the TranSTEP group
  4. Writing up minutes
  5. Searching for relevant assessments (assessment review)
  6. Assisting the TranSTEP group in setting up new assessments/activities, including searching for funding and organisational solutions
  7. Organising contact points between the problem owner and the TranSTEP group
  8. Communicating with external stakeholders and the public by means of a website, social media, or similar infrastructures.

This means that the secretariat function should have the following competencies:

  • Project leadership skills
  • Group facilitation skills
  • General scientific literacy
  • Communication skills

The resources the secretariat will require depends on the issue and must be estimated by the problem owner when setting up a TranSTEP process.

The main cost items will be:

  • Meeting room rental and meals, as well as travel and accommodation costs for participants
  • Personnel costs for the secretariat; ranging from zero extra budget if included in in-house functions already to a larger sum if it is outsourced and extensive assessment review is expected of the secretariat.
  • Other costs, such as the setup of a website or the printing of recommendations, although these are expected to be relatively insubstantial.