Tag Archives: global environmental change

A global assessment of social science understanding of global environmental change

IHDP recently conducted a large-scale global survey of 1,276 scholars from the social sciences and humanities involved in human dimensions of global change research (the full survey report here is UNU-IHDP Survey Results 09 2011.pdf), which calls for a  “global assessment and synthesis of social sciences and humanities findings of relevance to global environmental change”, which is something that ecologists and earth system scientists have been requesting for years (see here and here).  This sounds like a great initiative and I hope it will be able to attract funding.  It would be a shame if it only includes social scientists, because global change research should be trying to understand the planet as an integrated system not reinforce disciplinary divisions.

The survey identified the highest priority areas for research as:

  1. equity/equality and wealth/resource distribution;
  2. policy, political systems/governance, and political economy;
  3. economic systems, economic costs and incentives;
  4. globalization, social and cultural transitions.

The report  concludes:

There was very strong support for the concept of a global assessment of social science and humanities research findings of relevance to global environmental change, in order to improve awareness of current research, strengthen collaboration, and develop policy-relevant material. From 88 to 92% of respondents supported such an assessment, whether they knew of IHDP or not, and whether their training was in the social sciences or environmental sciences, IT or engineering. Moreover, this support was backed up by a willingness to participate. From 49 to 59% of respondents—in all of the above-mentioned categories—said they were interested in participating, and an additional 32 to 34% in each categories said they would consider participating.
In brief, these results indicate that there is a large interdisciplinary group of scientists working on issues of global environmental change who feel that there is a strong need to integrate more social sciences perspectives, and who are willing to participate in the effort to do so. Their highest priority research areas were identified as equity and equality, and wealth and resource distribution; policy, political systems, governance, and political economy; economic systems, economic costs and incentives; and globalization and social and cultural transitions.
In response to this mandate, IHDP will convene a broad group of social scientists and humanities scholars to undertake a global assessment and synthesis of social sciences and humanities findings of relevance to global environmental change. Priority research areas will include the four identified by survey respondents (see above) as well as others developed by a Science Assessment Panel. The main questions to be addressed by the Assessment will include identifying the direct and indirect drivers of unsustainable behaviors, and figuring out how to leverage societal transformations towards social and environmental sustainability.

via Joern Fischer’s blog

Impact factor of resilience journals rises

ISI’s new impact factors are out.  While there are lots of problems with impact factors, particularly for comparing across fields, they influence where people send their papers and the evaluation of researchers.

So it is good news to see that Ecology and Society‘s impact factor rose substantially in 2010 vs. 2009.

The 2010 impact factor was 3.310 vs. 1.735 in 2009.

However, because E&S publishes relatively few papers a year (92 in 2009, 95 in 2008, 71 in 2007) there is a lot of jumping around from year to year, and at least some of this jumping around is due to ISI undercounting citations to ES due to problems of inconsistency in the citation of  electronic journals (no page numbers).  However, despite this variation 3.3 is well above the average IF of the previous 4 years of 2.5.

Also, Global Environmental Change, another journal that publishes a substantial amount of resilience research saw its impact factor also rise to 4.918, well above the previous four year average of 3.45.

What’s nice to see also is that this rise in citations isn’t dominated by one highly cited paper, but rather a broad set of quite different cited papers:

The 3 most cited papers from 2008 and 2009 from Ecology and Society were all from 2008:

  1. The Growing Importance of Social Learning in Water Resources Management and Sustainability Science by Claudia Pahl-Wostl and others.
  2. Disaster Preparation and Recovery: Lessons from Research on Resilience in Human Development by Ann Masten and Jelena Obradovic, and
  3. The Roles and Movements of Actors in the Deforestation of Brazilian Amazonia by Phillip Fearnside

and the 3 most cited papers from GEC were from 2009 and 2008 were

  1. The story of phosphorus: Global food security and food for thought by Dana Cordell and others
  2. Adaptive co-management and the paradox of learning by Derek Armitage and others, and
  3. Strategies to adapt to an uncertain climate change by Stephane Hallegatte

I will more broadly look at impact trends in resilience related journals later in the summer.

Special Issue Online: The Politics of Resilience

Does “resilience thinking” offer novel insights for social scientists such as political scientists, international relation scholars, lawyers and policy analysis experts? Or is it just a another ecological concept with little or no relevance for the social sciences? The topic is one of the most contested ones, as indicated by the popularity of a previous review of Hornborg’s critique of resilience theory posted a while ago. Here is another take on the issue.

In February 2009, we gathered a prominent group of social scientists in Stockholm, for a workshop to elaborate the implications of resilience theory for political science, law, and international relations. We also wanted to discuss its possible implications for critical global challenges such as environmental migration. Where lies the concepts strengths and weaknesses? Is it at all fruitful to talk about “social resilience”? And how do we get a better grip of the politics of learning, flexibility and multilevel governance in complex systems?

The result of these discussions are now available online in the special issue “Governance, Complexity and Resilience” for the journal Global Environmental Change. While the volume as a whole is still in production, a few of the articles are available online already. Just to give you a preview of its contents:

Dr. Koko Warner from the Institute for Environment and Human Security, examines the range of multiscale drivers that trigger environmentally induced migration, and elaborates a range of political and institutional implications. In her contribution, resilience thinking contributes to a wider understanding of the multilevel governance challenges facing policy-makers and a suite of organizations, in trying to deal with underlying social-ecological dynamics. The article is available here.

Prof. Jonas Ebbesson, law scholar from Stockholm University associated to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, elaborates the role of law in steering social-ecological systems. One interesting argument in the paper, is that while law often is viewed as static, and too rigid to rapidly changing circumstances, some aspects of legal thinking and the implementation of law also support aspects of resilience, such as openness and broad participation to cope with complexities and common risk. The article is available here.

Prof. Melissa Leach and colleagues from the STEPS Centre (UK), make a very timely contribution by looking closer at the politics of global epidemic preparedness and response. In their article, Leach and colleagues argue that resilience is inherently a matter of social framing by actors, especially when problems (such as emerging infectious disease) are driven by complex underlying social-ecological factors in contested social settings. The article is available here.

You can also find contributions from Prof. Susan Owens on the politics of learning [here], as well as from Prof. Oran Young and others at the journal’s webpage in the next few weeks.

In all, we hope that this volume is able to push the boundaries of resilience theory and thinking into new empirical and theoretical terrain. We look forward to hear what you think.

Visualizing the great acceleration – part ii

The New Scientist adapted graphs from Will Steffen’s and others 2004 Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet Under Pressure for their feature How our economy is killing the Earth.

The three graphs show

  1. first how various drivers of change have accelerated,
  2. how these human changes have driven change in the Earth system, and finally –
  3. when these graphs are combined the accelerating growth of human civilization’s impact on the planet is clear.

(click on graphs for larger versions)