Monday, June 18, 2012

Social scientists demand bigger role in environmental research

Mićo Tatalović in Social science leaders have launched a campaign to make their work more "visible", saying that their research into global environmental change is being ignored. They argue that social scientists should be central to the process of identifying research topics, and framing questions and methodologies in international research on global change.

"Social scientists are often called upon to sell solutions found by natural scientists," Heide Hackmann, executive director of the International Social Sciences Council (ISSC), told the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation and Sustainable Development, which is underway in Brazil (12–15 June). Instead, she said, they should be involved at the outset of research projects. "A lot of social scientists doing this work … have remained invisible. Our role is to make them visible."

Hackmann presented an ISSC report outlining six social science questions — or 'cornerstones' — which would apply to research regardless of the subject being studied, and which could be used as lenses for understanding issues such as climate change. For example, applying the 'interpretation and subjective sense-making' cornerstone to climate change research would address the question: "why, in the face of decades of scientific knowledge, do we have  climate change indifference and denial?"

Another cornerstone, governance and decision-making, would ask: "what is the role of science — and what is the role of emotion — in policymaking?" Although there was a "real commitment" to these principles at the international organisational level, there was a poor understanding of how to implement them at the level of ordinary (natural) scientists, Hackmann told SciDev.Net...

A lemur standing up. Photo taken by Rhett A. Butler. Authorship and rights of Rhett A. Butler. Wild Madagascar. E-mail , Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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