Archive for August, 2014

Resilience Science and the Science-Policy Interface

Together with my brilliant co-authors, Manjana Milkoreit, Michele-Lee Moore, and Chanda Meek, we have a paper forthcoming with the journal Environmental Science and Policy entitled “Resilience Scientists as Change Makers – Growing the Middle Ground Between Science and Advocacy?”. It’s part of a Special Issue led by Andreas Thiel, Farhad Mukhtarov, and Dimitrios Zikos on “Crafting or designing? Science and politics for purposeful institutional change in Social- Ecological Systems”. The entire issue looks intriguing for anyone interested in institutional analysis and design and the governance of social-ecological systems.

In our paper, we analyze the role of scientists as they move from purveyors of knowledge and truth (!) into roles of advocacy and politics. In particular, we study how various members of the Resilience Alliance, a group of highly talented, experienced, successful senior scientists interact either directly or indirectly through their research with policy and decisionmakers. We highlight the challenges facing scientists at the science-policy frontier as well as a set of approaches in response to these challenges, including a hybrid approach between a “truth-seeker” and a “change-maker”. We see this as a particularly valuable identification exercise for resilience scientists and other likeminded scholars (conservation biologists, sustainability scientists, climate researchers, etc.) in that they draw on theoretical frameworks that are infused with clear value-sets. In the case of resilience science, these often include ecosystem and species protection, inclusiveness and participatory governance, and adaptation and change.

Some of these ideas are likely controversial. We are not attempting to pigeonhole any specific scientists into clearly delineated roles. However, we do hope that this sparks dialogue and introspection amongst ourselves and our peers to think about their role as scientists, change agents, and people inspired to action in ways that can change the world!

Ozone under a Social-Ecological Systems Lens

With my colleagues Graham Epstein, Chanda Meek, and Irene Perez-Ibarra, we have a manuscript coming out in the International Journal of the Commons this month, “Governing the Invisible Commons: Ozone Regulation and the Montreal Protocol”.  We are very excited to see this in print for a number of reasons.

We wanted to highlight both how the SES framework and, as an extension, the SES Meta-Analysis Database could be used for pollution cases, and we wanted to show the insights gained by such an analysis in general.  This goes against some commonly held beliefs on the generalizability of case studies.  We believe that the manuscript makes important independent contributions related to the relevance of CPR theory and the SES framework to large-scale pollution cases.  As the analysis shows several factors associated with CPR theory such as proportionality, political participation, and nested governance are associated with substantial reductions in ODS emissions.   This suggests that common-pool resources and scale may not act as a boundary for CPR theory which may apply to a wider range of goods and environmental problems.  Second, the SESMAD approach draws attention to the complexity of social-ecological systems which is often lost in narrow theoretical accounts.  Many past studies apply a  a single theoretical lens to analyze the Montreal Protocol, and focus on one or a few variables.  Given well-known problems with applying singular models to cases, we believe that our approach which draws attention to some of the real-world complexity of the case is, at a minimum, a useful complement to other studies and at best draws attention to the multiplicity of factors whose interactions led to its success.  Given the general failure of a Montreal Protocol type approach to resolve problems associated with climate change, it would seem that such considerations possess both theoretical and policy-relevant value.

We think that the greatest strength of the case study utilizing the framework is its development of a systematic approach to perform within-case analysis using snapshots over time.  This allowed us to identify important changes that may have contributed to the general success of the Montreal Protocol.  However, we acknowledge weaknesses in reducing the level of measurement associated with some variables, the loss of dimensionality of others, and the averaging over heterogeneity in some as well.

(Thanks to my co-authors for their brilliant insights.)

Ozone Layer from 1979-2008 from NASA

Ozone Layer from 1979-2008 from NASA