Archive for August, 2013

Institutional Analysis in the Great Barrier Reef – Part I

Recently I have had the good fortune of working with some amazing colleagues and marine ecosystem experts – Natalie Ban, Louisa Evans, and Mateja Nenadovic – on the Great Barrier Reef and the GBR Marine Park.  As an institutions scholar, two particularly interesting aspects emerged in studying the marine park – one regarding the nature of property rights and another on the benefits of polycentricity.  Here I focus on the polycentric elements – hopefully to be in print early next year.  I’ll write more on the second interesting finding, on property rights, in a subsequent post.

Polycentricity is a governance system in which there are multiple interacting governing bodies with autonomy to make and enforce rules within a specific policy arena and geography. These multiple governance groups interact horizontally with other groups at the same level as well as across scale as a part of nested systems of governance.  Often polycentricity has been seen as enhancing the resilience of a governance system because, among other things, it 

  • creates a foundation for learning and experimentation,
  • provides a source of policy/institutional diversity,
  • enables broader levels of participation, and
  • improves connectivity between groups while building in modularity and redundancy. 

Polycentricity, in effect, provides a means to solve problems at the scale of the problem – not too big to be removed from it and not too small to be overwhelmed.

And then we started looking at the GBR Marine Park.  In this case, we have an enormous system (133,360 sq miles or 345,400 km²) governed by a single governing body and act of legislation.  And it is generally seen as being quite successful.  So what gives?  Are the concepts of polycentricity misguided?  Is the case an anomaly?  

Stay tuned for the paper…but I’ll leave you with part of the answer – zoning.Image

National Park Twins

In my free time for extra writing, I’ve been dwelling on the idea of a travel book that focuses on what I call National Park Twins.  The idea is to look for places that may be a bit off the beaten path, that share the beauty and grandeur of many of the national parks without the crowds.  Anyone that has been stuck in a “bear jam” in Yellowstone or Glacier understands what I’m talking about.  In many cases there are great options with similar scenery in nearby public lands – land that is national forest, BLM managed, in state trust, but readily available for hiking, camping, climbing, hunting, and so on.  These places may lack interpretive signage and have only primitive services, but they have spectacular sights, open space and few people.

Some examples:

The Everglades and Big Cypress (photo from National Geographic)

Big Cypress

The Grand Canyon/Arches/Bryce/Zion and The Wave/Antelope Canyon/Grand Gulch (photo from National Geographic)

The Wave

Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness (photo from Backpacker Magazine)

Bob Marshall

In each case, these are photos from the National Park Twin.  While it’s not possible to see Old Faithful, Going-to-the-Sun Road or Bridal Veil Falls at the Twins, you are often surrounded by wilderness and solitude rather than RVs and hundreds of people.

Give it a shot.  Get off the asphalt and hit the dirt.

Open Access International Journal of the Commons now indexed!

Some time ago, I wrote a post ( about how IJC was finally being recognized by Scopus, the primary academic indexing organization in Europe.  I am happy to say that after two more years of sweat equity, the International Journal of the Commons ( is now recognized by ISI, the leading publishing group in the US.

The importance of this stems from being an open access journal.  It seems that Open Access publishing is a real touchstone in academia now with a slew of articles in the Chronicle, on academic blogs, and through the big-time publishing houses.  Many of the charges against open access publishing are ridiculous, but a number of unscrupulous, for-profit open-access journals create an atmosphere where publication seems based solely on ability to pay.  This is decidedly not what open access publishing is about.

IJC publications are paid by the contributing authors after rigorous peer review (with exceptions made for developing country authorship).  This is where ISI recognition helps.  It shows that our journal abides by stringent standards, publishes high quality literature, and contributes to the scientific advancement of society.  At the same time, authors retain their copyrights, articles are accessible anywhere there is an internet connection for free, and our readership can move to practitioner and developing country readers beyond the paywalls of the main publishing companies.  ISI examined our 7 years of publication, the quality of our authors, the citation rates for the articles, and the consistency of publication.

Congratulations to my co-editor and friend, Frank van Laerhoven, to Erling Berge for his editorial prowess over the past several years,  to our outstanding editorial board, to the institutional support of IASC, and, most importantly, to our diligent and dedicated reviewers.  Without all of your help, this achievement would not be possible.  Thank you!