Notes and presentations
Friday, 12 October 2007
Group-generated discussion topicsI. Morning Topics: Graduate Instruction in Sustainability ScienceA. Epistemology Amongst the Interdisciplinarians
- Mapping epistemologies: confronting fundamental worldviews across disciplines.
- Social sciences (and humanities?) in sustainability science.
- How to integrate systems perspective of natural sciences with the unpredictability of human agency in a common conceptual framework?
- Global perspectives and integration for graduate study.
- International internships: how to find place, project, and people?
- In two sentences, how do we explain sustainability to a skeptical stakeholder?
- How do we position ourselves to be competitive for academic positions after graduation?
- Balancing breadth and depth: are prelims and quals not enough?
- Publishing interdisciplinary work.
- Should we create interdisciplinary teams or interdisciplinary individuals?
- Problem-based approach to an interdisciplinary experience: interdisciplinary toolboxes.
- How can we write and learn to write interdisciplinary theory? How to produce a dissertation drawing on multiple disciplines which a multidisciplinary audience can understand and approve?
- Communication and expectations between IGERT and the home discipline.
- Quantitative methods for qualitative studies.
- Activism and the academy: can graduate students do it?
- Pedagogy of IGERTs: different educational and mentorship styles.
- Same or different responsibilities than discipline-based graduate studies?
- How best to integrate technical, modeling, and/or computational people into sustainability / resilience science?
- Integrating indigenous knowledge and epistemologies with “western” sciences.
- Training students in multiple ways of knowing.
- How do we define resilient systems? Persistence: of what, to what? Recovery? Stage of development?
- What does measuring / quantifying resilience imply for social-ecological systems?
- Is resilience theory “an” / “the” appropriate conceptual framework for sustainability?
- Resilience theory and social systems: does “resilience” work?
- What is sustainability and how is it different? Is it a new paradigm?
- How can there be “sustainability science” if “sustainability” is conceptually impossible to obtain?
- Sustainability of what, for whom?
- Non-human factors influencing sustainability (e.g., disease)?
- Is sustainability a myth?
- Does sustainability imply a dynamic or steady state?
- Is sustainability compatible with natural selection?
- Sustainable development: compatible (or not) with the natural environment? At what spatial and temporal scales?
- Metrics of sustainability: what are they? How do you get them?
- What are some common indicators of sustainability that work across disciplines with different standards of evidence?
- Validation of methods: how to distinguish success from arm waving?
- How do we identify if a system has enough flexibility?
- What is the role of computers, simulations, and modeling in research?
- Value of systems and modeling to sustainability science?
- Use of quantitative, probabilistic models to inform decision-making?
- How can sustainability make use of simulations and computational social tools?
- Integration of ethnographic research and modeling of social-ecological systems?
- Sustainable energy research.
- Sustainable energy generation.
- Value systems and place: does environment / biodiversity shape values?
- Do we manage based on past or present conditions? Maintain or restore ecosystems? Just monitor instead?
- What does cross-scale research entail? What does it mean? How do we do it?
- Decision-making across scales: does change for individuals aggregate to regional and global change? Modeling methods?
- Making cities sustainable and beautiful: what would the ideal future look like? Consider density of people, green / blue space, energy source, etc.
- Urbanized ecosystems and the ecology of design. Is there a synergy between the design process and the scientific method?
- Urban water ecosystems: riparian and marine.
- Disconnects between policy and technology.
- How to implement sustainability recommendations and policy in the developing world?
- How to maintain ecological function and biodiversity while managing public and commercial use?
- Policy, politics, and sustainability: what role should local, state, and national governments have?
- How do we think about sustainability in the context of global climate change and uncertainty?
Ballroom 5, 2nd morning session:
Activism & the academy – can grad students do it?
Pedagogy of IGERTs - different educational/mentoring styles?
Do IGERTs have the same or different responsibilities as disciplinary programs.
Activism & the Academy : Most people in the discussion saw a dichotomy between being an activist and being an advocate. Many were brought in to the study of sustainability science because of a passion (for the outdoors, for knowledge, for social justice, for a particular problem), and hoped to express that in their work. But everyone in the group recognized that there are limits to influence. One person spoke of the “powerlessness of the ecologist,” as someone who can describe a problem in great detail, but is often far from the levers of power and authority that could affect that problem. Others pointed out that it often takes scientific knowledge to catalyze change. One person pointed out that all of us have a “lens of bias” that shapes the way we see the world. We need to be aware of that. One difference between an advocate and an activist might be that the activist is unaware of (or unconcerned about) their own lens of bias.
Our group felt there was an important difference between activism and advocacy (both real and perceived). Advocacy was defined as action to promote change, while activism was similar, but used more extreme techniques (one person said, “Activists piss people off.”). The term “change agent” was also discussed – this is seen as someone who works within the system to make change. It’s a more neutral term.
There was a discussion of whether there is an inherent link between sustainability and advocacy. One person asked if the general public really had the luxury of not choosing sustainability if they wanted to. Another person pointed out that advocacy of controversial topics, like certain aspects of sustainability, could affect student and faculty ability to get and keep funding – the sense from this conversation was that there are often other levels of engagement (with politics or the public), but funded researchers often can’t engage in those debates without some limits.
Several people noted that advocates are not objective. One person asked – if you are advocating for a solution and your research produces results that contradict your solution, what do you do? Most hoped that they would honestly assess the results and conclusions. This reminded people of the concern with the “lens of bias.” Being aware of our biases can help (but not guarantee) that we are aware of how we might be slanting our viewpoints. We did not come up with a strong solution about what to do when your research produces contradictory results.
A couple of faculty members in the group brought up the issue of tenure, and at least one noted that it is particularly difficult to be an advocate on a controversial issue of public policy when you don’t have the job protection of tenure. Even so, there is an important role, this person noted, for “objective science” on controversial topics. It may not determine outcomes, but it can inform the discussion.
We also discussed the role of uncertainty in all this. One person noted that sometimes, one can quantify uncertainty (e.g., the IPCC reports), but another reminded everyone that often times policymakers make policy in the face of much more uncertainty, and with little or no quantification of that uncertainty.
One relevant article on the topic of how research becomes policy was mentioned, it is: Van Kerkhoff, Lorrae and Louis Lebel, “Linking Knowledge and Action for Sustainable Development.” Annual Review of Environmental Resources. Vol. 31, pp. 445-77 (2006).
When we discussed appropriate forms of advocacy for a graduate student and academic, several people were enthusiastic about the URI IGERT’s requirement that students write an Op-ed piece regularly. A student from URI explained that they were given a lot of guidance by a journalist who was associated with their program. He met with them, discussed rules of argument in op-eds, focused their writing by reviewing early drafts of the op-eds and emphasized that the writer always needed to answer the “so what?” question for the topic they were writing about. URI’s “white paper” requirement was another way to reach out to a broader community – some were written for organizations, some for legislators, and one was produced as a children’s book. Again, the important part was knowing your audience and targeting your information and message. This form of advocacy (working within a system) was seen as uncontroversial.
The discussion of op-eds led to a broader discussion of communications when it comes to sustainability in particular. People agreed that sustainability requires some advocacy because sustainable systems are not in place, so there is a need to advocate for change. There may also be a need, with particularly pressing problems identified by science, to increase the rate of change.
The participants agreed that communication and critical thinking skills were an important part of IGERT training, particularly as they relate to the issue of advocating a message. A quick review around the table showed that everyone thought it was important, but not all IGERTs do it. There was general agreement that this should be part of IGERT training.
Should Pedagogy and Advocacy be more important for IGERTs than other traditional disciplines?
Generally the group believed that it would be nice if academics were better at communicating their ideas, regardless of the discipline. Some people did feel, however, that the requirement for academics to be engaged in public discussions was greater for IGERTs concerned with sustainability. We also discussed the fact that collaboration within the academy is a growing part of our jobs, and improved communication has to be a part of this.
One of our members told a story about a group of biologists and others who got an unexpected opportunity to make a presentation to the president of Gabon about the wildlife and natural systems in his country and the need for a national park system. The president was impressed enough with their work to ask them to draw up a plan for a national park system – in a week! They did it, and the parks now exist (but are poorly funded). The point of the story is that the ability to communicate one’s work and make it relevant to a given situation is a skill that should be part of every student’s toolbox. In this case, good communication skills, coupled with being in the right place at the right time, led to a pretty radical shift. And this was clearly advocacy on the part of the scientists.
INTEGRATING INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE AND EPISTEMOLOGY WITH WESTERN SCIENCE
TRAINING STUDENTS IN MULTIPLE WAYS OF KNOWING
Summary of sessions one and two:
- Why indigenous knowledge?
- Integrating knowledge of local systems and “western” knowledge to develop better understanding of ecosystem dynamics
- Can a better understanding of IK help us to do science that is more relevant and socially just for local groups?
- What can IK/values teach us about “ways of being” in the world that may be more sustainable?
- i.e., “kincentric” relationships
- If IK is a holistic knowledge/practice/belief system, is it possible to reconcile the “truths” of IK with the required fact-value distinction required by western science? What would it mean for science to be “desecularized”?
- What is indigenous knowledge?
- How can we begin to break down the artificial dichotomy between western and IK, and what might we learn from doing so?
- Expectations and reality don’t always (rarely?) match (i.e., how does IK “work” in a dramatically altered environment?)
- Static, versus dynamic models of IK – i.e., we change, they don’t.
- How do we understand indigenous/local knowledge in a world of disruption, displacement and relocation?
- IK and power relations
- Ethics of research in local communities –
- Issues of trust, self-awareness of one’s own social position, mindful of histories and legacies of past researcher’s behaviors.
- How do we work through our own humanistic assumptions of what society should be – what are the boundaries of cultural relativism? What if their/our goals don’t match?
- Western science remains the arbiter of whether or not IK is valid in policy-making realm (i.e., best available science). How might we look at this differently?
- Ethics of research in local communities –
We started the session by sharing why this is a topic of interest/concern to us:
Allison (UAF): Works with Alaska natives and wants to think about how to make climate-change related village relocations sustainable; just beginning to learn about indigenous epistemologies but believes there are aspects that resonate better with own world-view than “western” perspectives.
Matt (UAF): Integrate scientific methods (i.e., radar) w/local holistic knowledge of sea ice to better understand dynamics, and to inform oil spill responses.
Ruth (UID): Not dichotomy – what can she pull out of western science and traditional knowledge to be helpful to indigenous group?
- How do different ways of knowing interfere with helping? (i.e. Bribri do not associate grub w/beetle – hard to control pest without this knowledge)
- How to help adapt?
- What is use of indigenous knowledge system in a changed environment? (i.e. bananas are new, so is weevil pest)
Miriam (SIO): Urban harbors, immigrant use of resources, urchin harvesters’ TEK – how do people value urban aquatic ecosystems? Often Asian immigrants used to using for marine resources. What do they want? How to communicate risk? Also, urchin fishermen – as a source of understanding change.
Virginia (UAF/Carnegie-Mellon): Computational Supercomputer Center – how can computer scientists help in sustainability questions? How does information flow among communities? (i.e. tax scams; disease propagation – how do social networks pass disease?)
Bhavna (U Pitt): Documentation of traditional knowledge in NE India – ductility of natural building materials (bamboo) in earthquakes – buildings adapted to environment – mechanical testing. Favelas in Brazil – makeshift “slums” – culturally appropriate technology transfer - how can sustainable development improve their physical environment without destroying the culture?
Joyce (U Wa): IK – integrates knowledge/practice/belief – “kincentric” view of relationships/obligations with other life forms, also often belief in animism – not only biotic but abiotic entities also alive and have spirit.
- What does this mean for the way we work together?
- What does this mean for how we do science (i.e. “fact-value” distinction – can we do good science and be whole people? – “desecularization” of science).
Dichotomy between IK and western science is not good – sets up expectation of IK needing to be validated by western science, or romanticization of IK – we set up unrealistic expectations of who they are, based on who we would like to be. How can we talk about how different ways of knowing between different groups inform one another? How forms of reasoning are similar?
Matt: Obligations of scientists –
- Communicate why you are there
- Own your expertise, but be respectful
- Needs to be mutual respect
- Personal relationships are important
How to enter community?
- Often times procedures and protocols that must be followed
- Research approved by village
- Get known person to introduce (insider/gatekeeper)
Bhavna: Will need to build Favela relationships –
- Respect while improving – how?
Joyce: Need to be self-reflective, aware of history and that scientists may be perceived as having a lot of power
Ruth: Students perceived as able to solve problems, re: global warming “experts”, banana weevil total eradication
How to deal with baggage from past – other people taking advantage of community
Interviewing – knowledge is owned, people want to be compensated
- Is interviewing a social or business relationship/obligation?
Unspoken mores (i.e. indigenous culture is not the same as Latin American culture)
- Longevity of relationship – (i.e., United Indians of All Tribes – can take a long time to gain access, build trust)
- Understandings, negotiation, re: what will knowledge be used for?
- Different researchers have different styles of approach
- Ruth – introvert, team mate extrovert (Matt tells similar story – how do results differ? Do they differ?)
What if goals aren’t similar?
- Avoiding tragedy of the commons- engaging commercial harvesters as stewards (huckleberries)
- Ask people what they think the problem is
- Unsavory aspects (such as inequality) –
- do top people dominate resources? (i.e. “lobster gangs”)
- Gender relations
Student Preparation, Publishing, Graduation, and Selling Ourselves
· How do we position ourselves to be competitive for any (academic, NGOs, research, consulting) positions post-grad?
Anybody’s university have good advice/prep?
Columbia Grad School Arts & Sciences (from the grad college)long list, but including
· Mock interviews
UC Davis (IGERT only)
· Lots of work-life issues discussion/workshops
Different ways to approach the question of “how do you position yourself”
· Finishing your degree
· Defining your research
· Aiming for a type of position
· Convincing people that interdisciplinary is good
Trying to get a sense of the market, some people share stories of narrowness still (esp. in academia?), others mention broader listings
· Network “to the max”
· Examples of people with multiple degrees (PhD, MBA, JD) is this necessary now? Can we get enough just in the interdisciplinary graduate training?
· Suggestion of a database of IGERT alumni who have found jobs, succeeded. What kinds of experiences have they had? People who started young in broad programs, rather than started out deep discipline and then broadened.
· Certificates? Good/bad? Doing it just for the paper? Quality control. IGERT is enough, clearly intense training. Sounds like there’s consensus that not necessary
· How many people have heard of IGERT? Depends on department (e.g. math, not so much). Outside of academia? Not really either. But the NSF name adds a lot. Also the benefit of white papers, internships, research partnerships & collaborations to get the word out. Especially in international experience (not being the “gringo with the answers”).
· Creating a culture of reporting back to each other and the community, stakeholders. Beyond doing interdisciplinary work, working beyond the bounds of academia, challengers of teamwork and communication with different types of groups.
· How do we publish interdisciplinary work?
o What do we mean by interdisciplinary publishing?
§ Publishing interdisciplinary pieces
§ Publishing in journals outside of your area
o Disciplinary impediments – interdisciplinary work not viewed favorably. Solo authored papers needed “to count”. How to change the culture and paradigm? At UAF, co-authors include “the village” or “key respondents”. Questions about authorship generally, who gets included?
o What about outside of academia? What counts there?
o Ways to work together that don’t include academic publishing. Reaching the broader public(s) via media.
o Don’t need to publish interdisciplinarily to be an interdisciplinary researcher.
o These issues are related to how theoretical or applied the program is, whether people plan to go on to academia, etc.
o How much do we affect change? Should we just keep figuring out our own work-arounds, or should we be actively seeking to change cultures? Waiting until you’re tenured…Realistic expectations, focus on interactions and training. Funding priorities as incentive to bring about change by requiring interdisciplinarity.
o Collaboration ≠ co-authorship. How do you communicate in your work that your work is interdisciplinary?
· Balancing breadth & depth
o Breadth can go too far. Core disciplines and then interdisciplinary work on top.
o Can pure interdisciplinary programs be successful?
o What are indicators of a good balance of breadth and depth?
§ Depth: publish in a good journal
o Is this just a totally personal choice, with respect to what you want to do with your life? If you want to be in academia, then you must be more on the deep side?
§ T-Competency from URI. Also allowed to change over time.
§ Comparison of your T with the job’s T (related to the first questions)
Epistemology Amongst the Interdisciplinarians
Mapping Epistemologies (written up by Thad Miller [ASU] and Caitlin Littlefield [UW-Madison]) (please also see notes from Chuck Redman and Gary Kofinas on the session)
As we heed the continued call for interdisciplinary research, we tend to focus on combining methods, integrating theory and learning out to “speak each others’ [disciplinary] knowledge.” In so doing, we have made some progress, worked well together and contributed to our understanding of socio-ecological systems. It seems, however, that further progress or more seamless integration is sometimes thwarted by deeper, unstated beliefs and worldviews which we all carry with us despite our best efforts as “objective scientists.” In this session, we sought to understand the myriad ways in which we understand the world – our epistemologies.
What counts as knowledge? How is legitimate knowledge produced? These are the main questions we started out trying to tackle. In order to organize something as ephemeral as knowledge, we created three metaphors to understand how different types of knowledge are characterized. While not perfect, these metaphors serve to bring what are often unacknowledged, inchoate ways of counting knowledge to the surface.
Metaphors of Knowledge
Knowledge acquired via the scientific method – objective, replicable; positivist viewpoint. (“Natural Sciences”)
Knowledge as contingent and contextual; post-positivist. (“Social sciences”)
Knowledge as interpretation. (Humanist)
Causality & Prediction Causality Inherent
Interdisciplinary research, particularly related to sustainability – a concept still under debate – is often inhibited when one of these epistemologies is privileged over the others. For example, if an ecologist formulates the research questions for a grant and only later invites a social scientist to classify certain social variables as a value-added to the research, the question is still based on ecological theory rather than a theoretically interesting project for both.
We concluded that perhaps what is needed is the development of a new, more pragmatic epistemology that explicitly acknowledges that there are multiple ways of knowing. The first step is to then co-produce research questions in a manner that is theoretically integrative yet does not privilege one way of knowing over another. As knowledge is produced jointly and separately by these multiple epistemologies, the knowledge created must then be negotiated in a social process that emphasizes learning and refining of research questions and projects, creating an adaptive science cycle.
Adaptive Science with continual negotiation of knowledge
However, before we can embark on such a process, we must first understand where we are. Following the adaptive cycle, we see the way knowledge is organized as being in the K-loop, where research is dominated by codification in the form of disciplinary knowledge. In attempting to tackle interdisciplinary issues, we are moving into the Omega-phase as we realize that disciplinary knowledge or single ways of knowing are inadequate. As we reorganize, we organize under a more pragmatic epistemology that allows for multiple ways of knowing, leading to negotiation and the co-production of research questions and frameworks as we embark into the adaptive science cycles that travel within the larger, paradigmatic cycle presented below.
Take-aways: education in and awareness of multiple ways of knowing; co-production of research questions and continued negotiation to knowledge.
Notes from Chuck Redman:
Contrasting methods and attitudes
More basic ways
Social scientists are brought in late to “add value”
SS need projects that are theoretically interesting
Way we label other disciplines (ways they problem solve)
Ways SS need to know something, not theoretically interesting to NS, and vice versa
Some ideas have different meanings; try to get inside the head of the others (think about from other world view)
Sustainability of what and for whom?
Everyone should be thinking alike
There is something to be said for tension
Natural scientific; knowledge via scientific method properly applied
Social scientific; knowledge is contextual, contingent, pluralism
History is without theory (?); data collecting at same time as theory development
Human agency and system perspective are hard to put together
Can we apply rules to humans?
Do ecosystems act independently of humans?
Methodology of experiments too difficult with people
Perhaps a matter of scale at which we find complexity.
Ecosystem ecologists believe their systems approach is so successful that SS should use it (and SS say it isn’t as good as it looks)
People act on perceptions not on how it actually works (legacies, reflexivity) nature of feedback loops are different, but real.
NS have oversimplified how systems work (e.g., constant set of rules, or is it a complex adaptive system, where rules change).
NS treat elements of the system as homogeneous (but now think about path dependencies)
SS don’t accept this homogeneity
There is also wide diversity in social science
Going upstream it goes back to fundamental issues:
Aware of fundamental biases
Cartoon of humanistic knowledge derives from the object/situation itself, without comparisons, or laws
There is aesthetic valuation to nature
Institutional press to suppress values in NS
Scientific arguments are used as proxies for values in policy
(perhaps science and facts are about justifying values)
Values are embedded in how we see the world
This all seems to lead to the importance of stakeholder involvement early in the process.
Issues of proximate versus ultimate causes
Same with systems models; what is in and what is exogenous
Objective knowledge versus contextual
Epistemology has a spectrum
Systems way versus atomistic
Descriptive versus or causal
Universe contains free will vs. deterministic
Normative vs. non-normative
Proximate vs. ultimate causes
SS has lots of complex feedbacks that make things contingent (where NS may look for causal)
To use systems dynamics we must look at feedbacks as having rich variability (dependent on past and context and externalities) and boxes are really swarms
If one adds this richness to systems it may work for all
We often have “ah-ha” moments when listening to someone else’s work that all of a sudden makes me think in a new way
Need to be sufficiently conversant to be critical (take one-hour module)
Different fields may see Nature differently
- nature is fragile
- nature resilient
- nature unknown
Views of society:
How will we use sustainability?
If we seek new configurations of ‘mixed’ epistemologies, but we also need to ensure that respect for the new work extends to both groups.
Also we need to evaluate the “quality” of the work (apart from framework)
Is convergence better or retaining different frameworks?
Causality is predictability-----------causality----------------inherent
NS SS Hum
Truth of an article may be related to citation index ranking.
When biologists tried to do surveys they got advice, but then when it was done the SS were critical of methods, and the biologists thought it was irrelevant.
There are probably fields that are more open to borrowing and others that are very critical of others doing the work. Can be criticized for not citing disciplinary literature.
There is a role for infiltration of other disciplines. Marco’s article on disciplinary tracks for thinking about resilience, adaptability, and vulnerability
Are we talking about being valid (recognized as legitimate) or about being true?
Are we responding to current issues? If not stakeholders will view even the most legitimate person as irrelevant.
How do we respond to market issues? Are we slow or are we cautious?
Is sustainability science at a unique point; not science for science’s sake, but there is a huge problem that must be addressed.
How can we respond more quickly?
Sustainability is about being flexible and not about being right
Science is about being right
An adaptive management framework is about learning more than being right
Larger epistemology is a pragmatic epistemology (what is right is what most agree on).
Approach to enhancing social learning
Do something and see if it makes things better (worse)
Still use quantification, but make it only one approach (standards of evidence differ, not so much the epistemology) One is looking for pattern to emerge that could be used as a basis for predictability.
Do we build a framework in which all three forms of knowledge production are accepted and then we socially negotiate the outcome (values, integration??)
Can you publish an article when everything you did didn’t work?
What do we do with a new class of IGERT/SOS?
Buzz’s ‘Three cultures of ecology’ in Ecology and Society.
Do we need a paradigm shift or add on a new element/section?
What do we do when you have uncertainty? Science says wait? Sustainability may demand action, learn, and refinement? In a continuing cycle.
Interdisciplinarity is science combined with policy and market
Long term versus short term (slow/fast processes); because of the way things change (values, context) long term has a different meaning and perhaps must be treated as a series of short term refinements.
Adaptive Science Cycle:
Action/application to Learning (social) to refinement
This is similar to experimental design and to corporate decision making
Sustainability science will be an increasing nexus between science and application
Key is to have respect for different epistemologies:
Pursuit of knowledge is a social process
Getting away from what is “right” to what “works”
Pragmatic epistemology allows/respects multiple views and negotiates among them or combinations through some set of evaluators (privileged to have a voice; could be power, etc.) Convincing, communication, likelihood, profit)
Second step is concerned with data, methods, relevant aspects of overlap and action
Can agree on a convergent or a set of collaborative (with synergies)
Co-production research questions (what is first? Or is it interactive)
And then we enter the cycle of adaptive science
Methods, appropriate evidence, specific hypotheses
So: learning there are multiple epistemologies that are legitimate
Refinements; negotiations of epistemologies (pragmatic epistemology for context)
Action: is negotiated research questions
SKILLS FOR INTERDISCIPLINARIANS
October 12, 2007: morning session 1 (4 people participated)
Should we create interdisciplinary teams or interdisciplinary individuals?
- There appears to be a continuum of strategies among IGERTs regarding this question. The RAP IGERT seems to be trying to create interdisciplinary individuals that incorporate methods from multiple disciplines, while the IGERT at U. of Idaho stresses team projects that incorporate students from multiple disciplines and requires an interdisciplinary, multi-authored dissertation chapter.
- Creating generalists vs. creating people who can collaborate?
- Issue of employment may differ among institutions. In academia, perhaps individuals more likely to get jobs if can speak language/work in interdisciplinary teams than if a generalist, but private sector looking for people fluent in many disciplines with a wide knowledge base
- To become truly interdisciplinary in other disciplines, individuals will likely have to give up core skills in primary disciplines.
- Some people are clearly more inclined to be generalists than others, especially if come from traditionally interdisciplinary fields- geography, environmental science. Also if have background in one field and pursue higher education in another, may be easier for individual to incorporate multiple methodologies in dissertation.
- The capacity to work effectively in multi-disciplinary teams is a critical skill and some argue is synergistic- with results being greater than the sum of its parts. Team-work also results in the organic transmission of ideas/methodology among disciplines.
- Is there a need for a new discipline to fill the gap between natural and social scientists?
How do we do collaborative research?
- Have to give structure to students. Pressures from PhD requirements, tempting not to pursue interdisciplinary team work. Need incentive, direction from PI’s. Extra money for travel/field work, publications. Publish a paper that otherwise couldn’t have been produced individually.
- Some IGERTS have cohort projects, use different methods to address a problem.
- PI’s can identify project areas that have a certain set of issues/problems. Need to have some relationship with stakeholders in area. Students can pick a project area based on interests- explore/develop questions of interest.
- How much leverage do you give students in guiding collaborative research vs. PI directed?
- Forming interdisciplinary questions time-consuming
- Writing interdisciplinary chapters? Institutionalized? U. of Idaho allows submission of same chapter by multiple students
- International demands- lack of continuity among cohorts due to field work abroad- may need to be more faculty driven/coordinated
Talking about interdisciplinarity led to discussing depth vs. breadth and a role for IGERT grads in the light of that. Our proposal: build working groups combining breadth & depth ppl from the beginning. All should try to straddle depth & breadth. They must be able to talk to each, trust each other’s expertise, and recognize the limitations of their own approach. We cannot be all things to all disciplines: the Renaissance man is dead.
Ecological Modernization Theory
Teaching overarching theories:
Connections through physical space – people can interact informally
Incorporate all disciplines and/or stakeholders from the project’s beginning
Inter-IGERT working group?
Commit to long-term collaboration
POLICY, POLITICS AND SUSTAINABILITY
BALLROOM 5 II: SUSTAINABILITY & POLICY
PRIVATE GOVERNANCE MODELS AND PUBLIC POLICY
- Is there an example of environmental policy arising from successful private governance (marketing)? This has happened for lifestyle reasons (i.e., the visibility of the Prius: “it’s cool to be doing the right thing.”) But there are also questions of who can make these changes based upon what they can afford.
- How important is it that these changes have visible components (i.e., the car you drive or the food you buy) vs. the “invisible” act of voting?
- How long does it take to translate scientific knowledge to policy? For example, smoking cigarettes.
- Role of social stigma in policy success (i.e., drinking and driving in the UK). How to create/change those social norms? For example, at one conference people who paid a carbon tax to offset their travel received and wore bracelets.
- The flipside we must consider is the way that we may impose a social order on other people – for example, resistance to recycling in Boston because of contextual change of “yuppification”.
- The government isn’t the only organization to drive social change. It could come from NGOs, churches, industry, etc.
PROMOTING SUSTAINBILITY AS AN “OUTSIDER”
- Need to work with local collaborators from that country. Opportunity for US institutions to train professionals and academicians from developing world countries and train US students to work with developing country professionals/scholars.
- What does it mean to promote the idea of sustainability in context where you have to be sensitive to local concerns and needs?
- FAO “farmers’ schools” program: organize farmers’ schools in communities for people to experiment and learn-by-doing incorporating local knowledge to set priorities for change in farming practices (i.e., reduce pesticide use, reduce soil erosion). Involved training people in the community to be the trainers, so it’s a partnership of outsider and community members.
- What is the role of outsiders working in developing-world countries? They do bring a unique perspective and skills to engage people in driving change in their communities.
- But, within context of neoliberal structural policies, what can scientists do to document impacts of these policies on sustainability?
- How viable and long-term are solutions that may be ecologically sustainable but not economically viable?
- Recommendations for projects may be based on mechanistic framework, but people may choose to adopt certain project tools/strategies if they are useful in some way, even if that may not necessarily be the reason that project intended or expected.
- How do we incorporate non-market values into creating policy and incentives?
- Risk: How do different entities conceive of and address risk, particularly the timeframe (one quarter, one decade, one generation, 100 years, etc.)?
- We need to recognize there is a value-system associated with sustainability. Even if we aren’t going to impose our values, we are promoting them. There is a tension of letting people make decisions for themselves versus promoting the common good.
- Opportunity for scientists to do scenario planning with communities to provide information that people can use to make decisions. Of course, information is always contextual and scientists are still telling a story through their data and interpretations. How to provide feedbacks through monitoring and experimentation for people to learn and change policy as needed.
SUSTAINABILITY POLICY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
- Access to resources mediated through economic policies, external decisionmakers, etc. For example, transferable quotas in fisheries that shift resource access outside the local area. Is the free market an appropriate mediator for resource access since it accepts that people get left out? Should government then intervene? Managing for sustainability of a resource vs. sustainability of a culture or way of life.
- Opportunities for people to participate or comment in policymaking and how that is incorporated into policy.
- A lot of public policy settings do not include creative compromise as a possibility; the alternatives are already defined (Option A-D) so people have to compete for their cause rather than being able to collaborate to find alternatives.
- Scientists need to understand political and social relationships such as relationships between stakeholders and management processes, strategies people employ, and outcomes like distribution of resource access. Scientists have to realize how their research may be used and for what ends – this is difficult for academics to negotiate, but this is the place where real change happens.
- Local decision-making does not necessarily produce inherently equitable outcomes. For example, women or marginalized ethnic groups may be marginalized or excluded. How do we create processes with transparency, accountability, etc. Also, how do we coordinate local-level groups to see the landscape- or even global-level picture? This could be a good role for the “outsider” with a broad perspective or for exchange between communities facing similar situations.
- Trust is a key aspect in successful policymaking. How to build trust? Focus on commonalities (i.e., love of a place, shared threat of external control – federal government as common enemy).
- What is the role of scientists and science in communities where there is historical distrust of science or where scientific results may contradict social understanding of the problem and desired solutions?
- We have learned from private governance strategies that people’s “costly signaling” (visibility in the context of social pressure, shaming, self-image, and group identity) can be used as a tool to promote sustainable behaviors through public policy.
- Decision-making groups at various scales may benefit from an outside perspective that can help identify opportunities for intervention and provide information and information-sharing fora. However, the outsider must be careful to take into account local values even when they clash with what seems “sustainable”. Outsiders listen to, respect, value community needs, but can still use their perspective and experience to make a unique contribution.
- How do we integrate science and policy? Can policy be, like science, constantly evolving based upon new contexts and information? But it’s hard to correct mistakes in policy – it tends to be unidirectional. Too many policy changes also create uncertainty.
- Policymaking involves inherent power differentials among different stakeholders, and scientists must be aware of these relationships and be careful to neither neglect nor romanticize communities, the local, and the small scale.
HOW TO DO CROSS-SCALE RESEARCH
HOW TO DO CROSS-SCALE DECISION-MAKING
How do people operationalize scale differences?
What kinds of scales are we talking about?
- Policy scale
- Individual scale (local/global scaling)
- Natural scale
How do individual actions translate to global impacts?
- In the context of globalization, how does individual action affect change (collective action)
- Collective efficacy (e.g. neighborhood watch)
- Ecosystem valuation may be one way to force global scale problems to the individual decision-making scale
Different Scales = different decisions and outcomes
- “jumping” scales can be useful to invoke political structures for change
- differential access to decision-makers at various levels ą this leads to justice concerns
Social capital typology could be useful in providing a conceptual framework for checking connections between scales. Also can be equated to ecological systems:
- communication within community
- communication b/n communities
- communication from community to higher level
Different spatial scales operate at different temporal scales (i.e. nested hierarchies from Panarchy)
Very slow and very fast processes are difficult to detect
Appropriate time scale depends on definition of sustainability
[We also talked a bit about the definition of sustainability as a process. We likened it to feminism, which is constantly adapting and changing as a social movement]
- We need to be explicit about the scale at which we’re working.
- We should work collaboratively with folks working on similar issues at different scales
- It is important to keep in mind that we ultimately construct scales
- When developing models, it’s important to try out different scales and compare to see if results differ, to identify when there’s too much noise, etc. to determine which scale is appropriate
- We need to work with scientists studying cognition to understand what drives individual action
Resilience and sustainability breakout group
(Modified from Chuck Redman, Amy Duchelle and Clare Aslan’s notes)
Can resilience and adaptive frameworks help create bridges between disciplines?
How to use resilience in management?
Is Resilience Theory (RT) an appropriate framework for sustainability?
[(+) = opportunities for RT in sustainability / (-) = challenges for RT (?) = questions]
(+) Works with coupled SES
(+/-) Is it useful, but not sufficient. Useful for characterizing state of system. Coupled with vulnerability analysis. Vulnerability people think they encompass RT
(+) Incorporates thresholds (?) Do thresholds always exist (a point at which feedback changes)
(-) Need to add values to RT. Sustainability incorporates values.
(-) Need to add ability to enhance change (out of bad system state)
(-) RT lacks measurability
(?) Is social resilience different from ecological resilience?
(+) Analog between social and ecological systems. Institutions may be unique to people (intent), but others see institutions like behavior among some animals. Rules of the game, unit to hold meaning over space and time, or emergent organizations to meet challenge
(+) Experimentation with social systems:
Space for time, comparative
Different reactions in response to disaster
(?) How do we know when a system has changed? A spectrum of degrees of change.
What about changes in subsystems of the system? If subsistence changes is that the system?
(?) Does this lead to coping strategies? Do we want the system to persist?
Matters of scale and what is essential?
(-) Building resilience into a system so that it can adapt to climate change
(?) Would people be more willing to have transformations if there were the possibility of experimenting with various alternatives?
(+) Response diversity, having redundancy in functional groups is adaptive
(+) Creating feedback loops through monitoring, scenarios planning, information flow so people can make their own decisions to change
(?) RT ‘essentializes’ humans. Are we interested in sustaining patterns of behavior or processes?
Holling says that sustainability is the “capacity create, test and maintain adaptability,” but this definition lacks sense of resource loss and social justice.
Is it that economic growth is the demon in sustainability or is it the unintended consequences of new technologies and being locked into them?
Dan Esposito firstname.lastname@example.org
October 12th, 2nd Afternoon Session
Topic: Sustainability and Beauty in an Urban Environment
Participants: Mix of rural and city dwellers and people experienced with both
Miriam Goldstein (Scripps), Adam Wilson (U. Conn ), David Murillo (ASU), Corbett Grainger (UCSB), Meghan Schulz (U. Delaware ), Dan Esposito (U. Delaware ), Lily Parshall ( Columbia )
-how does local pride in city and environment affect growth?
-David: “cities exhibit economies of scale”, applies to knowledge, social life as well. Does this mean that green building techniques should spread like wild fire?
-Mariam: Green Building won’t happen without incentives. COST is the bottom line.
-Cities are unavoidable; furthermore, they can be more efficient. Cities can fit in well with the sustainability theme.
-Ecological footprint of a city?
-Ecologies in city (birds) vs ecologies of city (as a whole).
-Public (green) space? increasingly more of it. Xeric Lawns
-not just short vs long term issues, but
-Govt role more important here than other sustainability issues?
-Lots of renters in city affects this issue.
urban water ecosystems.
-sewage treatment in ponds
-green roofs for collecting water
-intensive (gardens, sun bathing) vs extensive (desert plants for reducing urban heating) urban roofs.
-liberals going crazy b/c of stacking people (increasing population density). historical regions being destroyed (short cute brick buildings).
-very important: integrating mass transportation in growing cities.
-global warming in cities
-Economics drive growth. Govt action needed. Govt is not one thing; it is local zoning groups, federal incentives. Govt is not being made aware of true costs and benefits.
Corbett: Phoenix can’t grow forever;
-Drastic changes in city planning needed?
-individuals: higher lobbying efficiency.
-mixed use communities
-financial incentives from the govt
-govts start more pilot projects
-traffic: congestion taxes.
-Action needed;Values and the Goals of Sustainability Question:
Values, systems, and place. Do Environment and biodiversity shape values?
Do we manage based on past or present conditions? Maintain or restore ecosystems? Or just monitor instead?Discussion:
What came first: the value system or the place?
Let’s remember that values can be constructive or destructive
Ways to value: aesthetics, function, history, culture, environment, economic
Invasive species and their value: beauty? Could a lily ever be considered ugly?
What is our goal for restoration? How far do we go back in time to determine a baseline (this is often determined by data availability in practice)? What changes since then have been natural or anthropogenic?
This brings up the importance of LTER sites
Why do we value biodiversity? Many natural systems have low biodiversity – deserts, Alaskan tundra
Resilience and biodiversity
How do values fit into an adaptive framework?
Value making as an active process – value shaping
What might be the unforeseen implications of actively changing values
Values as a legacy (sometimes forgotten) from local knowledge
To what degree are values motivated by self interest and fitness? Values as self preservation versus intrinsic value
What are the implications of valuing something to the point where we can’t even study it? (lake under the ice that scientists have not even accessed, animal testing)
What about just monitoring? Is this the highest form of objectivity? Scientists are not objective but their work is supposed to be.
What about the difference between the perspective of the anthropologist where “going native” seen as a bad thing, but environmental scientists are generally expected to be advocates for the environment
Do scientists have an obligation to bring their results to the public?
Activism – and how it fits into the scientist’s obligations.
How do we bring the concept of uncertainty to the public? Decision making and uncertainty
Scientists have a monopoly on truth but must strive to be honest
Corporate driven science and its implications
More funding for science
Are the companies trying to legitimatize what they want
What strings are attached?
What results are “acceptable?”Conclusion:
We brought up a lot of question but answered very few. This was a great brainstorming session, but perhaps many of these questions are unanswerable outside of conditional circumstances.