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Overview of Book
This book summarizes, compares, and contrasts important social science integration movements, conversations, and experiments as they relate to environmental problem solving. The focus is on recent developments, examples of successful integration efforts, and methodological advances for facilitating social science integration. Diverse viewpoints are brought into the conversation through chapters from leading scholars from a variety of backgrounds. Thirty-eight authors at the forefront of integration have contributed to the 11 chapters. The book is structured as follows.
Part I evaluates the status of integration. Costanza opens this section by presenting a vision of a desired future where the study of humans is reintegrated with the study of the rest of nature and the barriers between traditional disciplines dissolve to allow for “consilience” across natural and social sciences as well as the humanities. This will require reestablishment of a balance between synthesis and analysis. He points to nascent efforts to encourage an increase in focus on synthesis within the sciences in research and education and a shift from the logical positivist view to a pragmatic view. Costanza also takes on issues of scale/aggregation, and discusses how hierarchy theory and a complex systems approach coupled with the development of a theory of biological and co-evolution will lead to increased understanding of humans' place in nature. Costanza suggests that humanity might be prepared to develop a shared vision of a desirable and sustainable future and implement adaptive management systems to get us there.
In Chap. 2 Kelman et al. provide an overview of one arena for dialogue and collaboration amongst scientists, humanists, and non-scientists in the context of public policy engagement and outreach – the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB). MAHB seeks to provide a large-scale synthesis that fuses knowledge about physical and social systems into blueprints for acceptable sustainable action that Costanza referred to in Chap. 1. The authors define and describe MAHB, including research, application, and a research agenda. They emphasize that the key is not to await full knowledge before acting on sustainability challenges. Instead, it is about using multiple disciplines to monitor and evaluate ongoing process, to ensure that actions do not exacerbate the existing problem or cause new problems.
Part II of the book presents topics in integration. In Chap. 3, Machlis et al. explore the challenge of collaboration and interdisciplinary teams as well as the importance of coupled human-natural systems. They present distinctive characteristics of Science during environmental crises through two case studies – the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Hurricane Sandy. Machlis et al. suggest that a research agenda which includes integration efforts needs to be developed for understanding and improving science during crisis.
Friedrichs (Chap. 4) makes the case for modified Malthusian theories to ground the study of resource management through science integration. He contends that the main impediment to integration both between various social scientific disciplines and between the social and the physical sciences is a refusal of social scientists to appreciate how deeply the societal sphere is embedded in wider biophysical and social-ecological systems. The chapter begins with a classical Malthusian framework and gradually adds complexity to it, showing how its logical structure is reproduced by simple neo-Malthusian theories that have been developed to account for contemporary global challenges. He demonstrates the potential of more sophisticated neo-Malthusian models and modified Malthusian theories contributing to better science integration.
Finucane et al. (Chap. 5) present a conceptual framework for analyzing socialecological models of emerging infectious diseases. Specifically they examine whether risks, and perceptions of risk, associated with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) caused by the H5N1 virus can be associated with anthropogenic environmental changes produced by urbanization, agricultural change, and natural habitat alterations in the context of Vietnam. To address multi-scale issues within the framework, they draw upon multiple social science theories and methods. Finucane et al. conclude that no single theory or method is sufficient to explain complex phenomena such as emerging infectious disease and the relationships between factors influencing disease outbreaks. Thus, they argue that integrated approaches are the best way to provide an in-depth description and analysis of a complex problem.
Esptein et al. (Chap. 6) use the social-ecological systems (SES) framework to study power. They explore the long-standing divide among social scientists regarding power and its effects on the sustainability of social-ecological systems. They argue that there has been little constructive interaction between power-centered and institution-centered approaches. The authors use the SES framework as a tool to confront interdisciplinary puzzles that bridges the gap between social and ecological research. The chapter outlines a systematic approach for integrating diverse conceptualizations of power with the SES framework and then applies this approach to study the relationship between power and social-ecological outcomes. The analysis suggests that the SES framework is a promising tool for social science integration, but also that important questions remain concerning the validity of classifications, measurement, and statistical tests.
Manfredo et al. (Chap. 7) conclude Part II by making the case that increased integration of the human individual into dynamic, multi-level models is essential to understanding agency, innovation, and adaptation in social-ecological systems. They use the social-ecological systems framework introduced in the previous chapter as a starting point to examine how conservation science with a focus on the human individual – particularly the tradition of social science research known
as “human dimensions of natural resources” – might fit within a systems approach. They suggest the implications for how ecosystem sciences can integrate the human individual into dynamic, multi-level models, and how human dimensions research can envision the individual and direct new research initiatives in a broader social-ecological context. They argue that the complexity of social systems is in need of more attention in SES models, and that these models will remain poorly specified until there is a representation of the multi-level context of human individuals. Ecosystem science sees the system as hierarchies nested within broader hierarchies, each operating at different speeds and cycles of change, Manfredo et al. propose how to use this same approach for examining individuals in their social-ecological context.
Part III focuses on Methodological Advances for Facilitating Social Science Integration For example, Verburg (Chap. 8) reviews how human-environment interactions are conceptualized in land change modeling at different scales and discusses the prospect for using land change models as a platform for integrating social science knowledge.
Boone et al. (Chap. 9) explore simulation as an approach to social-ecological integration; with an emphasis on agent-based modeling. They argue that questions regarding sustainability are broad in scope and that understanding the linkages between ecological and social systems has become paramount to society. They focus on computer simulations that use process-based or rule-based approaches to simulate events or behaviors through time. A case-study from Samburu District, Kenya, is presented as an example of agent-based modeling that illustrates network structures and provides an analysis of wetversus dry-season livestock dispersal. They conclude that the inclusion of complexity calls for mixed methods research that is no longer tied to mainstream disciplinary methods.
Broadbent et al. (Chap. 10) present social network analysis (SNA) to examine the interactive effects of the social and natural sciences as well as the humanities to enable to the study of societal patterns and dynamics of unified systems. They explore traditional applications of SNA as an Integrative Structurational Analysis (ISA), a method that incorporates advances in discourse network analysis (DNA). They draw upon the international research project Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks (Compon) to illustrate the application of this ISA method and approach to the mitigation policy-formation processes of a set of nation-states and one region.
Collins (Chap. 11) examines the pressure that researchers and policy-makers are under to integrate natural and social sciences with policy. This pressure arises because of the complexity of environmental situations characterized by uncertainties, interdependencies and multiple stakeholders. Collins emphasizes the importance of framing natural resource management and explores links between ideas of integration and systems thinking. He introduces social learning systems as a conceptual and methodological innovation to enable integration. Water management research is used as an example to explore practical issues and findings. The chapter concludes with a short commentary on the constraints and opportunities for designing social learning systems.
Integration is not a straightforward and linear process. This book offers a structured overview of the integration opportunities and challenges. The chapters provide an overview of the history, vision, advances, examples, and methods that could lead to natural resource social science integration. While more work is necessary, this book provides an insight into the current state of social science integration.
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