Brian Walker’s Research Areas for Resilience Science

Brian Walker, the former director of the Resilience Alliance reflected on the future of resilience science in his introductory talk at Resilience 2008. In his talk Probing the boundaries of resilience science and practice, he identified seven important research areas for resilience science:

  1. Test, criticize and revise the propositions about resilience made in Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems and Ecology and Society special issue – Exploring Resilience In Social-Ecological Systems.
  2. Develop models of social-ecological systems that can produce the key aspects of the rich behaviour of the world. In particular these models should be able to produce:
    i) dynamics in which systems cross multiple thresholds,
    ii) produce “backloop” dynamics, and
    iii) incorporate models of adaptive governance that incorporate leadership, trust, ‘shadow’ networks, sleeper links, and poly-centric governance arrangements.
  3. Extend resilience theory from local or regional scales to the global to address questions such as:
    i) Do we need new propositions for global resilience issues?
    ii) Over what ranges of scale can we apply existing theory?, and
    iii) How important are scale-dependent processes?
  4. Resilience theory needs to better understand the consquences of multiple simultaneous shocks, because transformative change seems to be often triggered by two (or more) simultaneous shocks. For example an environmental shock and an economic (or political) shock occurring at the same time.
    Resilience theory needs to understand what coupled or sequential shocks are likely, and how could we go about assessing resilience to them. An example of this is the current food crisis that developed from the coupling of agriculture, energy, and climate issues.
  5. What are the differences between transformational change, adaptability and resilience? Transformability is the capacity to create a fundamentally new system when conditions make the existing system untenable. In much of the world the need is to transform, not to make the existing system regime more resilient. What are the design principles of transformations?
  6. How can we assess the costs and values of resilience? What is the difference between general (broad spectrum resilience to many things) vs. specified resilience (to a few specific things)? How can we conceptualize the danger in ‘optimizing’ for specified resilience? How much should we spend (or forego) to increase resilience?
  7. How can the value of different regimes be assessed? The desirablity of a regime usually depends upon the perspective it is viewed from, and different people have different perspectives. Coping with these perspectives is a challenge. But more fundamentally, this requires not just assessing the value of different ecosystem services, but also understanding the identity of a system, and its ability to maintain itself.
  8. Non-mathematical approaches to resilience. While mathematics is beautiful to some, it is difficult to communicate and in some situations is insufficient. We need to increase our ability to represent resilience in a variety of forms. This presents a challenge to the humanities and arts community. At Resilience 2008 we saw contributions towards this understanding, but there is much more to develop. Can science and the humanities work together to provide the impetus towards a richer, more resilient world?

One thought on “Brian Walker’s Research Areas for Resilience Science”

  1. Hello
    my name is Davaadorj. Iam working in Institude of geography Mongolian academy of Science. Iam a soil researcher. Last 2 years during i measured soil moisture in river bank. I interesting soil moisture and water cycle.
    I want ask same problem to you

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