2 days, 19 people, lots of coffee, bagels, flip charts and stickies (aka post it notes). Their task: review 9 papers on climate change vulnerability assessments, adaptation governance and co-production to develop a conceptual framework. Welcome to the SECR project – Social, ecological climate resilience in SW Colorado. A multi-headed beast of monumental proportions – okay, maybe that is a little melodramatic, but this project is a collaboration of 11 Co-PIs, 9 institutions hoping to produce a ‘social-ecological-climate-systems’ vulnerability assessment of two basins in SW Colorado. The vulnerability assessment will be a platform for the development of adaptation strategies for public land managers in the region. We’ve got the typical transdisciplinary bases covered: social scientists (of various colours and stripes), a climate scientist, conservation planners, landscape ecologists, and NGOs.
This #NACCB2014 kicked of with an opening plenary titled “Conservation Biology, Politics and Policy—What Does It Take for Science and Scientists to Make a Difference?” In this session we heard from six (white, all gray haired except one) men about the interface between science, policy and politics. As I have said before here and here there the complex relationship between science, policy and politics is a field of academic endeavor, with many useful insights for conservation biology. However, once again, we find SCB trudging down the same science policy path that is dominated by the now widely discredited linear model that sees “rigorous science” is translated into policy and politics and we see change in the world. What I find fascinating is that every one of these speakers stood up and showed us that this model does not work but have fallen back on recommendations that still place primacy on this model.
The NACCB meeting in Missoula kicked off yesterday with ‘conservation tapas’ – small bites of big issues. COMPASS has done an incredible job working with the local organizing committee to bring an army of science journalists to this meeting to connect with and publicize the conversation. For all those conference attendees who missed the session last night, here is a (very rough) list of who is interested in what so you can go stake out these folks and get them excited about your work.
Starting this weekend the North America Section of the Society for Conservation Biology will be meeting in Missoula, Montana. The conference theme is Challenging Conservation Boundaries, will bring together scientists, practitioners and policy makers from around the continent to talk about the future of conservation science and practice. Of the many excellent sessions to come is a workshop on the diverse contributions that social science can make to conservation biology: The Conservation Social Sciences: Elucidating “What?”, “How?” and “Why?” to Inform Conservation Practice organized by Nathan Bennett at UBC and Robin Roth from York University. I will be speaking about science studies and the insights it can provide in helping conservation biologists with their mission to connect science will policy and practice. Here is a shorten version of the paper I wrote for the workshop. You can view the prezi here
Five days, thirty young scientists, seven senior scientists, fine food, ample wine, and wide-ranging conversations. In the last week of May, 2014 the International Social Science Council and International Council for Science hosted the second ‘young scientists networking conference’ at Villa Vigoni, Italy. The main goal was to use a week of discussions around the broad theme of ecosystems and human wellbeing in the green economy to catalyse a network of young scientists from diverse disciplines and locations. As we return to the reality of data analysis, writing and project management, we have been pondering what it takes to harness five days of intellectual energy and three-course meals into a lasting network.
Having just spent a week with a bunch of nerds eating cheese, drinking wine and navel gazing about resilience, seems like I should justify this pleasure by reflecting on the academic side of the conference. In a busy week there is a lot to reflect on, but I’d like to focus in on the some of the discussion about governance and knowledge co-production and the connection (or lack thereof) between the two.
Entering the field is a challenging and exciting time for social scientists, as we finally get to sink our teeth in to the landscape, talk to ‘real people’ and get to know and understand a new place. My first encounters with the San Juan mountains were 12 years ago as a ski bum in Telluride the winter before I started university. At the time I envisioned returning to the Rockies after I completed my degree to be a snowboarding instructor, but somewhere along the line my inner nerd took over and I ended up doing a PhD. To the amusement of those close to me, I’ve always managed to combine my passion for mountains with my research. So here, I find myself returning to the San Juans to understand the social and environmental changes that are taking place in the region and what the agencies and folks around here are doing about it.
Yes, another piece of academic navel gazing in what has been an interesting week of gazing at the question of the contribution of academics to society. Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times column framing of academics as a intellectual snobs who don’t contribute to society, catalyzed a heated backlash in the twitterverse. Academics who, in a variety of different ways, see public engagement as core to their work pointed out that his critique was outdated, narrow, masculine, elitist and just plain wrong. Much of this debate has focused on academic incentive structures or the varied ways that academics currently engage and contribute to the public sphere. But there is one perspective that hasn’t had so much airtime: changing the way academics do research to build better connections between their knowledge, policy and practice. These approaches use the research process, not just the research outputs, to understand, participate in, and catalyze change.
Ethnography has long been a tool of science studies. Ethnographers observe and document culture in various contexts, studying everything from urban hip hop, to Japanese tattoo artists, Inuit seal hunting practices, to Australian peanut farmers. All our cultures and social contexts are up for grabs. Including science. This year at the pacificexchange.net I will be blogging an ethnography of adaptation, reporting on the highs, lows, frustrations, innovations of a collaborative project tasked with understanding the adaptation options for land management in the Southwest Colorado. Documenting how the project unfolds will, hopefully, generate insights for future adaptation research. Continue reading
Why is it so difficult for agencies of the state – the US Forest Service, Park Service, Bureau of Land Management – or in Australia – our Natural Resource Management Bodies, emergency management services and national parks – to implement adaptive governance in practice? Adaptive governance, in theory, is all about collaboration, social learning, flexible and decentralized decision-making. Adaptive governance requires iterative decision-making with a long term perspective and a capacity to learn from failure. These ideas have been around for sometime but agencies of the state seem to really struggle to put them into practice, despite supporting the rhetoric and often strong desire to do so. This question is the focus of a recent editorial my PhD supervisor, Steve Dovers, and I published in Global Environmental Change. Continue reading