What is translational ecology?

By the Translational Ecology Group

translational-ecology-group
Translational Ecology Group (participants)

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Four related blog posts on translational ecology:

Introduction to translational ecology (this post)

What makes a translational ecologist – Part 1: Knowledge  / Part 2: Skills / Part 3: Dispositional attributes

The term ‘translational ecology’ was coined by eminent natural scientist William Schlesinger in a 2010 editorial in Science magazine. He wrote, “Just as physicians use ‘translational medicine’ to connect the patient to new basic research, ‘translational ecology’ should connect end-users of environmental science to the field research carried out by scientists who study the basis of environmental problems.”

Further, Schlesinger posited that without such communication, ecological discoveries “will remain quietly archived while the biosphere degrades.” The editorial chafed some ecologists whose work is motivated by increasing our understanding of natural systems. Others, however, were inspired by this call to action and sought ways to (re)orient their careers from inquiry toward impact.

Our group, which includes natural and social scientists, educators, and practitioners from both academic and non-academic institutions, expanded Schlesinger’s vision of “two-way communication between stakeholders and scientists.”

Read moreWhat is translational ecology?

Six types of unknowns in interdisciplinary research

By Gabriele Bammer

gabriele-bammer
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

What types of unknowns are tackled in interdisciplinary research?  I draw on my experience directing a program of research on the feasibility of prescribing pharmaceutical heroin as a treatment for heroin dependence. Analysis of this case revealed six different types of unknowns:

  1. Disciplinary unknowns
  2. Unknowns of concern to stakeholders
  3. Unknowns marginalised by power imbalances
  4. Unknowns in the overlap between disciplines
  5. New problem-based unknowns
  6. Intractable unknowns.

Read moreSix types of unknowns in interdisciplinary research

Moving from models that synthesize to models that innovate

By Pete Loucks

p-loucks
Pete Loucks (biography)

When computer technology became available for developing and using graphics interfaces for interactive decision support systems, some of us got excited about the potential of directly involving stakeholders in the modeling and analyses of various water resource systems. Many of us believed that generating pictures that could show the impact of various design and management decisions or assumptions any user might want to make would give them a better understanding of the system being modeled and how they might improve its performance.

We even got fancy with respect performing sensitivity analyses and displaying uncertainty. Our displays were clear, understandable, and colorful. Sometimes we witnessed users even believing what they were seeing.

Read moreMoving from models that synthesize to models that innovate

Why participatory models need to include cultural models

By Michael Paolisso

michael-paolisso
Michael Paolisso (biography)

Participatory modeling has at its heart the goal of engaging and involving community stakeholders. It aims to connect academic environments and the communities we want to understand and/or help. Participatory modelling approaches include: use facilitators, provide hands-on experiences, allow open conversation, open up the modeling “black box,” look for areas of consensus, and “engage stakeholders” for their input.

One approach that has not been used to help translate and disseminate participatory models to non-modelers and non-scientists is something psychologists and anthropologists call “cultural models.” Cultural models are presupposed, taken-for-granted understandings of the world that are shared by a group of people.

Read moreWhy participatory models need to include cultural models

Practicality In Complexity (reblogged)

Three points in this blog post by Nora Bateson resonate:

1. The idea of “catching the rhythm” of the “patterns of movement” in our constantly changing world.
2. More effectively taking context into account.
3. “We cannot know the systems, but we can know more. We cannot perfect the systems, but we can do better.”

The challenge is to develop methods and processes to better achieve these goals. (Reblogged by Gabriele Bammer)

Co-creation, co-design, co-production, co-construction: Same or different?

By Allison Metz

Alison Metz
Allison Metz (biography)

A key topic across disciplines is the authentic engagement and participation of key stakeholders in developing and guiding innovations to solve problems.  Complex systems consist of dense webs of relationships where individual stakeholders self-organize through interactions.  Research demonstrates that successful uptake of innovations requires genuine and meaningful interaction among researchers, service providers, policy makers, consumers, and other key stakeholders. Implementation efforts must address the various needs of these stakeholders.  However, these efforts are described differently across disciplines and contexts – co-design, co-production, co-creation, and co-construction.

Developing consensus on terminology and meanings will facilitate future research and application of “co” concepts. 

Read moreCo-creation, co-design, co-production, co-construction: Same or different?