Social science identities in interdisciplinary research and education

Community member post by Eric Toman

eric-toman
Eric Toman (biography)

What does it mean to include ‘a social scientist’ in a team tackling complex problems? Here I focus on complex environmental problems and how biophysical and social scientists work together. I’m curious if social scientists face the same issues in other problem areas, such as health.

Things have improved since my early academic career, when I was often asked to justify why a social scientist deserved a seat at the table when discussing environmental questions. It seemed that even supportive natural scientists were motivated to engage their social science colleagues only to ‘fix’ some type of problem caused by people (e.g., politicians, decision-makers, managers, the “general public”).

While it’s now normal for social scientists to be included, they tend to be lumped together, unlike the biophysical scientists who are differentiated into a range of disciplines with relevant specialization areas. Continue reading

A process model for teaching interdisciplinary research

Community member post by Machiel Keestra

machiel-keestra
Machiel Keestra (biography)

How can we effectively teach interdisciplinary research to undergraduate and masters students? What is needed to encompass research ranging from cultural analysis of an Etruscan religious symbol to the search for a sustainable solution for tomato farming in drying areas? Given that there is no predetermined set of theories, methods and insights, as is the case with disciplinary research, what would an interdisciplinary textbook cover? How can such a textbook accommodate the fact that interdisciplinary research usually requires students to collaborate with each other, for which they also need to be able to articulate their own cognitive processes? Continue reading

Training translational ecologists: Moving from accidental to intentional

Mark Brunson
Mark Brunson (biography)

Community member post by Mark Brunson

How does an ecologist become translational? What training is needed to venture beyond the lab or university and to engage with the potential beneficiaries or users of their research? To communicate with (and listen to) a lay audience, advise policymaking processes, initiate a citizen science project, or involve stakeholders in the design, analysis, and interpretation of research?

William Schlesinger (2010), in coining the term translational ecology, warned that “[u]nless the discoveries of ecological science are rapidly translated into meaningful actions, they will remain quietly archived while the biosphere degrades.” Continue reading

From fountain to firehose

Community member post by David Feldon

david-feldon
David Feldon (biography)

As scholars working within disciplines, we ascribe to certain theories, assumptions, and tools that position us within an intellectual community. As scholars working within fields, we focus our inquiry on specific interactions between the natural world and elements of human endeavor.

Being situated within these two spheres – as translational ecologists and other translational scientists are – carries with it certain tensions that can be challenging to navigate: Ultimately, who constitutes our target audience? How do we balance contribution to discipline through the development of theory with contribution to the field through recommendations for practice? Perhaps most importantly, how do we maximize our impact? Continue reading

What makes a translational ecologist? Part 3: Dispositional attributes

Community member post 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

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

This is the third and final blog post considering competencies to make ecologists more effective in informing and supporting policy and practice change (see the right sidebar for links to all four related blog posts on translational ecology). In other words these are the competencies underpinning a new discipline of translational ecology.

The two previous blog posts examined the knowledge and skills 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.

This blog post uses the same three areas to examine the dispositional attributes required.

What are dispositional attributes?

Each person’s internal cognitive and moral qualities are collectively known as dispositions. Continue reading

What makes a translational ecologist? Part 2: Skills

Community member post 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

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

This is the second blog post considering competencies that underpin a new discipline of translational ecology, and which make ecologists more effective in informing and supporting policy and practice change (see the right sidebar for links to all four related blog posts on translational ecology). In each blog post we examine 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.

Here we engage with these three areas to examine the skills required for translational ecologists.

Skills needed to deal with socio-ecological systems

Translational ecologists need to be able to: Continue reading