A talk from Susie Hester from the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA) at the Plant Biosecurity Research Symposium urged a change in the way we think about designing biosecurity policy, to incorporate incentives to maximise behaviour change and overall outcomes.

Susie said that biosecurity adoption problems are likely to occur where there is a misfit between objectives of the biosecurity organisation setting and designing the biosecurity policy/system, and the objectives of the grower participants, who will largely be focused on profit.

Current problems might include:

  • Actual or perceived disincentives for reporting, such as for early reporting of an emergency plant pest;
  • Programs being seen simply as a ‘tick-a-box’ exercise and not adding value – perhaps driven by self-certification or self-regulation; and
  • Undertaking treatments that are not verifiable.

Susie suggested that to drive meaningful change, organisations should review current rules/deeds/policies/practices with an incentivisation lens and identify evidence (including anecdotal) and diagnose the problems relating to why desired behaviour is not being practiced.

She said these problems can be corrected through the creation of incentive-compatible system rules – whereby “incentives are inducements for individuals to take actions that they would otherwise not consider”.

Implementing the right incentive compatible rules will result in the “best decision for the grower (practicing good biosecurity behaviour) also being desired from the biosecurity agency’s standpoint”.

When contemplating the design of incentive compatible rules, we need to factor in:

  • What growers care about;
  • The actions or decisions available to growers and how these determine outcomes that they care about;
  • What can be measured/verified about the actions of individuals; and
  • What outcomes the policy can influence/affect that individuals care about.

Such rules will likely incorporate the combination of a ‘stick and carrot’ approach, and may include financial incentives such as fines for poor performance or rewards such as reduced payments/costs and compensation arrangements.