Saturday, July 1, 2017

Why do we need social scientists in environmental research?

Risk governance framework

There are many environmental challenges which are threatening ecosystem and global biodiversity. Environmental issue is an interdisciplinary topic which has complex interaction between human with nature system. It has substantive uncertainty and strategic-institutional uncertainty among the stakeholders. Scientific research is required to manage risk of the uncertainties. Scientists have to collaborate in interdisciplinary research to solve wicked environmental problems. Interdisciplinary research generally refers to the process of coordination, collaboration, or investigation by researchers are combined into a public issue with sharing, invention, and knowledge mix between disciplines.

The social sciences research produces strong output that contributes to environmental studies. Social scientists are studying humans in some form or another, this output is required to produce various kinds of socially robust knowledge to address environmental issues. Consequently, it creates potential for knowledge transfer and scalability, praxis planning and policy-making bridges to implement solution for the problems. Scientific research on societal environmental issues requires a full collaborative role of social scientists. 

The social sciences is needed to result more comprehensive solution. In the 'environment' discourse, 'nature' should not be separated as a kind of technical ecology. Research design has to start with a thorough discussion of the theory, and attempt to ascertain that all stakeholders are capable to take advantage of conceptual framework that combines cultural, social and biophysical complexity. It requires initial joint discussion about research design between natural scientists and social scientists. The social scientists can work with the the natural scientists with the risk governance framework in the risk management process. 

The social scientists understand how to use the approach to integrate various sciences in interdisciplinary research. The risk governance concept is interconnected with the risk management concept in natural sciences. To do risk characterization, risk assessment by natural scientists has to be combined with social concern assessment of risk perception. In practice, the risk assessment often comes to different results compared with the concern assessment by social scientists. This complex mechanism makes complex function for the government to manage the decision making process. To solve the function, the social scientists can help natural scientist and the government to use the risk governance framework to facilitate the understanding of that complex interaction. It could create conceptual model which leads to problem solving orientation.

The problem-solving orientation is bridges and opportunities to interdisciplinary process. It is including topic of communication strategies, conflict management, and experience. These issues are connected to the social sciences’ roles. In the reality, the policy often tried to implement ban on particular activity in response to the result of natural scientists research about risk assessment. From social science perspective, the ban can’t be done quickly as the the activity has been social practice for people. To ban that activity, the policy needs to prepare deroutinization strategy for new social practice. This approach is recognized by social scientists.

Full participation of social scientists can support natural scientists to look at various interaction between the society with the nature. It can be done through diverse research methods and frameworks to address the public environmental issues. The risk governance is an example of the integrated framework. Despite dominant research style may change over time, all research styles from social and natural sciences can be combined into an interdisciplinary research project to solve the problem.
Social sciences makes input from natural sciences socially relevant for the environmental problems. The social scientists involve variety of theoretical approaches and can make many kinds of contributions. Research of natural scientists is often focusing merely on the result without reflection for its application in politics and policy. Meanwhile, the social scientists conducted the concern assessment not only to identify public perception, but also to bring the risk assessment result by natural sciences to the society. Result of the both assessments then can be used in decision making process.

An attempt from social scientists is needed to help scientific research develop an “explicit, self-conscious observational standpoint” in reference to policy. Public policy is affected by divergent risk perceptions. Research from social scientists found that the perception is often driven by actors’ interest. Social scientific research aims to help society to understand that situation. So people can choose their roles in a decision context, perceive the conditions affecting those choices and the consequences of the choice, both for themselves and for environment. In this sense, social sciences is connecting scientific research to policy process in the society level.

In the decision maker level, social scientists are needed to translate the scientific information into a specific policy alternatives. It is important because scope of choice for the decision maker has to be clarified through the integration with public knowledge. It is creating a clear way for sciences in policy and policy for sciences. This practice contributes to sound policy for society. A failure to absorb the information can lead to serious problems for the society. Social sciences research allows decision makers better to develop relevant decision which enables major advances in environmental policy.

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