What makes a translational ecologist? Part 1: Knowledge

By the Translational Ecology Group 

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Translational Ecology Group (participants)

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Four related blog posts on translational ecology:

Introduction to translational ecology

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

What does it take for ecologists to become more effective in informing and supporting policy and practice change? What are the competencies underpinning the new discipline of translational ecology? What needs to be covered in graduate courses on translational ecology?

A group of us, supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), have been addressing these questions. As well as defining translational ecology, we have developed a matrix covering relevant knowledge, skills and, what we call, dispositional attributes or personal characteristics. We deal with each of these in four related blog posts, as described in the right sidebar.

We argue that knowledge is required in three major areas:

  1. Socio-ecological systems
  2. Communication across boundaries, with beneficiaries, stakeholders and other scientists
  3. Engagement with beneficiaries, stakeholders and other scientists.

Read moreWhat makes a translational ecologist? Part 1: Knowledge

Playing Around with PARTICIPOLOGY

By Alister Scott

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Alister Scott (biography)

Have you ever wanted a new way to engage with stakeholders that is more engaging, fun and effective? PARTICIPOLOGY is a set of open-access web resources and associated guidance that sets out to achieve these aims. It uses a board game format where players encounter questions and challenges as a dice throw dictates. The board, questions and rules of the game can be designed from scratch or existing templates can be adapted to the specific goals you have in mind. The game was designed to be used in participatory forums about land use options, but the principles can be more widely applied to all kinds of participatory processes.

There are five key findings from developing and using these resources.

Read morePlaying Around with PARTICIPOLOGY

Eight institutional practices to support interdisciplinary research

By Margaret Palmer, Jonathan Kramer, James Boyd, and David Hawthorne

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Margaret Palmer (biography)

How can institutions help enhance interdisciplinary team success? We share eight practices we have developed at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) which was launched in 2011 with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

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Jonathan Kramer (biography)

The center supports newly formed research teams from anywhere in the world to work collaboratively at its facility. The teams synthesize existing theories and data to advance understanding of socio-environmental systems and the ability to solve environmental problems.

Read moreEight institutional practices to support interdisciplinary research

Five steps for managing diversity to create synergy

By Doug Easterling

doug-easterling
Doug Easterling (biography)

How can we address social, environmental, political and health problems that are too big and too complex for any single person, organization or institution to solve, or even to budge? How can we pool our wisdom and work collaboratively toward purposes that are larger than ourselves?

In theory at least, co-creation generates innovative solutions that transcend what would otherwise be produced by the participants acting on their own. In other words, co-creation can foster synergy.

To maximize synergy, a co-creative group should include participants who understand the problem from all the relevant perspectives. The more complex the problem, the greater the number and diversity of stakeholders who should be included in the process. A broader range of perspectives and ways of thinking allows for a richer and more comprehensive analysis of the problem, as well as more innovative solutions that address more of the underlying factors.

Read moreFive steps for managing diversity to create synergy

Facilitating multidisciplinary decision making

By Bob Dick

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Bob Dick (biography)

Imagine this scenario. You are confronted by a wicked problem, such as the obesity epidemic. You know it’s a wicked problem – many previous attempts to resolve it have failed.

Suppose that you wish to develop a plan to remedy obesity. You have identified as many relevant areas of expertise and experience as you can and approached appropriate people – researchers, health practitioners, people with political influence, and so on.

You bring them together to pool their expertise—only to find that you now have another problem. Encouraging them to work collaboratively is more difficult than you expected. They talk in jargon. Their understanding is narrow. Their commitment is to their own discipline. Some of their understanding is tacit. Some of them are argumentative. And more. What are you to do?

Read moreFacilitating multidisciplinary decision making

Working together for better outcomes: Lessons for funders, researchers, and researcher partners

By Kit Macleod

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Kit Macleod (biography)

As a community of interdisciplinary practice we need to share our collective knowledge on how funders, researchers and wider research partners can work together for better outcomes to address pressing societal challenges.

Funding interdisciplinary research: improving practices and processes

Seven key challenges to funding interdisciplinary research include:

  1. No agreed criteria defining ‘excellence’ in interdisciplinary research.
  2. Poor agreement of the benefits and costs of interdisciplinary ways of working.
  3. No agreement on how much or what kind of additional funding support is required for interdisciplinary research.
  4. No consensus on terminology.
  5. No clearly delineated college of peers from which to select appropriate reviewers.
  6. Limited appropriate interdisciplinary peer review processes.
  7. Restrictions within funding organisations concerning budget allocations and support for interdisciplinary research.

A guidance note for research funders then suggests ways forward from the pre-call stage to evaluation of completed research projects.

Read moreWorking together for better outcomes: Lessons for funders, researchers, and researcher partners