PRESENTATION: Perceptions of science in the San Francisco Bay Area
PRESENTER: Dr. Mark Lubell, Director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior, UC Davis. Research interest include water management, sustainable agriculture, adaptive decision-making, climate change policy, and policy/social network analysis.
The focus of Mark Lubell’s presentation was the perceptions of science and political knowledge in the Delta and other estuaries he has been studying.
“Governance is messy,” began Dr. Lubell, presenting diagrams of the structure of the networks from the Parana Delta in Argentina, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Tampa Bay. The squares represent the public policy venues in which people are interacting and the circles represent the actors. “The point of this research that we’re doing is that all of the systems are messy,” he said. “You won’t find a large-scale or even a small-scale system that doesn’t have this messy governance system that’s happening.”
“From the knowledge and science perspective, you have to realize that in these systems, the knowledge is distributed across these actors and venues,” he said. “There are people that know things and organizations that know things across the system, and it’s not usually just one place where you’re going to find the scientific information or other sorts of information you need. You also have to realize is that knowledge is produced in multiple places in the system. People are doing research, either applied or basic, in all these different places in the system. The thing you have to do is figure out how to manage the knowledge across the system from a systems perspective, including trying to figure out what is the best field of science, where with all these different stakeholders, what is the best available science you have to look for?”
Dr. Lubell said that a lot of people initially will say the answer is to make the science centralized – to have one place for all of the knowledge to be held, for all of the knowledge to be produced. “That’s is often a knee jerk reaction, but I want to make sure that we push back against that to some extent and realize there are probably some benefits to having the knowledge distributed across the system,” he said.
He presented the diagram for the Bay Delta. “There’s science being produced and knowledge being produced across these different factors in different ways,” he said. “How do you integrate across them?”
In doing his research, Dr. Lubell conducts surveys stakeholders and asks them questions about conflict and about their perceptions of science. He noted that the squares in the diagram are the venues. “We asked every stakeholder we could in Tampa Bay and Argentina and Delta and some other places, when they participated in those venues, how much conflict did they see? We asked them, within a particular venue such as the Delta Stewardship Council or CALFED, would they say that most decisions that there are mutual gains, that there is cooperation, win-win solutions if you want? Or getting better together? Or are there trade-offs that you have to make? Is there some sort of zero sum game? That gives you an indicator of how much conflict is occurring in the system.”
He then presented some of the results from the surveys. In terms of Tampa versus California, how much cooperation is there? “If you look in Tampa, 68 percent of the people that answered these surveys are saying that there’s mutual gains compared to only 51 percent in California; 24 percent of the people in California are saying zero-sum. That’s where the conflict is occurring. There is more conflict in California.”
Dr. Lubell then contrasted that to Parana, Argentina, which is a developing country with weaker institutions, noting that there are a lot of trade-offs. “Why that exact pattern is there, we’re not quite sure but we have some ideas.”
He presented survey results from California and Tampa for the question, how much political knowledge is there and how well do they understand the interests of the other actors?
“One point to make here is that scientific knowledge is not the only relevant type of knowledge in these sorts of systems; political knowledge and local knowledge is important too,” he said. “Political knowledge here means understanding the interests of all the actors. When you have these collaborative forums with various sorts of people participating, understanding the interests and who is going to benefit and experience costs from different policies and what their policy preference are. It’s crucial to be able to make agreements.”
One of the survey questions asked, how adequate is the scientific knowledge? “Interestingly enough, if you look at California, on the scientific knowledge part, they give a lower score than Tampa,” he noted. “There’s probably some link to the conflict there.”
Dr. Lubell then presented a graph showing how much influence a particular type of knowledge has on outcomes. “People who think that they know the interest well, they are more likely to rate the fairness and efficacy of governance processes more highly,” he said. “This political knowledge really has more of an influence on the process part of things while scientific knowledge … has more of an influence on a broader range of outcomes, and is particularly strong in Tampa where there is more agreement on the science.”
Dr. Lubell noted that scientific knowledge doesn’t have much of an influence in the Parana Delta at all but political knowledge does. “We think there may be something going on between the context in developing countries which has political knowledge and weaker institutions; the political knowledge might come first actually and the scientific knowledge might come second. We don’t know for sure, because we only have three case studies, and we need more comparisons.”
So how do you manage knowledge in these sorts of systems? How do we think about co-production of science? What’s the role of academic institutions? How can we think about effectively doing this?
“There are a couple things to say here,” he said. “One is that I think you need to think of science from both a down-scaling knowledge and an up-scaling knowledge and horizontal integration as well. The down-scaling knowledge part means taking something like what is the best available science around sea level rise or climate change, and moving that down to the local level, because at the local levels, you have very specific requirements and specific circumstances. If sea level rise is going to be 50 centimeters in San Francisco Bay, how much does that matter in Marin County or in the coast vs the inland vs San Mateo County? That’s more of a local question where the science hits the ground.”
“At the same time, there are things going on at the local level – maybe local knowledge or some process that we need to integrate up and average to get a better understanding of the more global phenomenon,” he continued. “We have to constantly be giving this up-scaling, down-scaling knowledge and then integrating across agencies, integrating across geographies, which is one of the things I think this conference is good for is integrating some of these ideas across geographies.”
Boundary organizations are a type of organization that can be important. “A lot of our concepts and I think a lot of the organizations in which you folks work in fit into this role of boundary organizations where an organization takes the explicit strategy of trying to expand boundaries and connect knowledge across boundaries; those boundaries might be institutional, they might be geographic; they might be the science-policy divide, or they might be across different ideological boundaries, interest group communities, developers vs environmentalists, and that sort of thing.”
Boundary objects are things that are produced by the organization such as scientific reports. Then there are incentives for participation on both sides. “For example, if you’re going to have academics participating in the science production, you can’t imagine they’re just going to do it for free on their own altruistic standpoint; they need some sort of incentive,” Dr. Lubell said. “The same for the stakeholder side.”
Accountability means whatever the products are, they have to meet the goals and be accountable to the goals of both sides. “Through the UC Davis Climate Change Water and Society Integrative Graduate Education Research Traineeship (IGERT) Program,we tried at least to think about the entire graduate training program as creating students as the boundary objects in a sense that they are capable of expanding across these boundaries of science and policy in doing science that can help do this integration between climate, water, and society to fulfill a need to address these sorts of problems.”
Dr. Lubell then gave his conclusions. “Governance systems are messy,” he said. “You have to manage the different types of knowledge across them. It’s not only the scientific knowledge that matters. The comparison part is key. How much knowledge exists? How much scientific agreement exists or political knowledge exists that varies across context? How much it matters actually seems to vary across contexts, according to our research. Science seems to be having more of an effect on perceptions of policy in Tampa and less of an effect of perceptions of policy in the California Delta. Boundary organizations are at least one idea. I don’t think they’re the only idea, but one I think promising idea, toward doing this knowledge management. We’re up-scaling, down-scaling knowledge and integrating it across the system.”
PRESENTATION: Credible Science in a Complex World
PRESENTER: Dr. Denise Lach, Director of School of Public Policy, Oregon State University. Research interests include environmental natural resource sociology, applied sociology, program evaluation, organizational sociology, and water conflict resolution.
Dr. Denise Lach’s presentation focused on three models of ways to think about the issues that have been discussed at the workshop. “One of the first things we try to think about is, where does credibility in science come from?” began Denise Lach. “We think about credibility, we think about salience, and we think about legitimacy. And those are three different ways of thinking about what we’re doing.”
She then defined the terms: Credibility is this idea that the science that we do is accountable to other scientists, such as peer review. Salience is the idea that it’s relevant and timely. Legitimacy is the idea that we think the process that’s being used to develop the knowledge is reflective of people’s concerns.
“The interesting thing in policy is those three variables: credibility, salience, and legitimacy are often contradictory to each other,” she said. “We can do credible science, but it might not be very salient, because it’s not timely and it’s not relevant. We can do legitimate science, and it might not be credible. There’s this trade-off between these ideas when we’re working in these large systems where we have different interests. We have these ideas of credibility, salience, and legitimacy.”
Dr. Lach then addressed the idea of how people make decisions. “The psychologists have been doing research a long time on how people make decisions and what’s considered when people are making decisions,” she said. “Most of us who are scientists think that knowledge and information is really critical to decision makers. It’s really not. It is really not important for most people who are making decisions. One of the biggest variables in decision making are the constraints that people have on the actions they can take, and people are really aware of the constraints that they have to take.”
Dr. Lach does a lot of work with climate scientists, and one of the worst things that individuals can do is get on a plane and fly to a conference, but climate scientists fly all over the world over and over again. “When I ask them, ‘Why do you do that? You know it’s bad,’” she said. “They know the science. They understand it. They say, ‘I have to do it. It’s my job.’ Those are the barriers. Those are the constraints.”
When we think about the role of science and the role of knowledge in changing people’s behavior, what we have to understand is that what we’re really trying to do is help them find ways for them to change the constraints that they perceive on their behavior. “It’s not giving them information to go out and do the right thing; that doesn’t help most of us,” she said. “What we have to have is information about how do we remove the constraints on our behavior.”
The other tool that anthropologists have been working on a long time is called Grid-group Cultural Theory; the idea is that all of us have these very deep belief structures in us that come from somewhere but we’re not quite sure where, because people and families have very different belief structures, Dr. Lach said. “The belief structures are based on how much you believe the group is important versus the individual. It’s also based on how much you believe that there are external controls on your life versus that you are personally responsible for your life.”
A two by two quadrant can then be created that shows that people are either connected to the group and rules or they’re connected to individuals and no rules.
Dr. Lach said that there are three active approaches to worldview. “The first is the hierarchist, and this is a person who believes that the group makes the decisions and those decisions, rules, and practices are all important. All of those things that agencies are really good at are in that hierarchical worldview,” she said. “Opposite in the quadrant are libertarians who believe that individuals are what’s important, and no one should be able to tell you what to do, and there aren’t any external constraints. The other active quadrant are egalitarians who think that decisions should be made by consensus, that we’re all good, that we’re all well-meaning, and that the group is important, and it’s really important to take everybody’s beliefs into consideration.”
The fourth quadrant are the fatalists, which is the inactive quadrant. “It’s basically, ‘I’m all by myself. Nobody cares about me. There’s no way to be connected to anything,’” she said. “Mostly fatalists don’t participate. When they do and they’re in your department, they can be really difficult to work with.”
Anthropologists have looked at this all over the world, she said. “These four worldviews out there are everywhere in the world, and every one of us has an affinity to one of these perspectives,” she said. “It’s interesting because the hierarchists and the libertarians work pretty well together; they can usually co-exist. Neither of them can co-exist with those egalitarians, because it’s all kumbayah all the time; we’re going to try to find a win-win solution every single time; libertarians and hierarchists say, ‘Man, that’s not going to happen.’”
“Holling, an ecologist, took a look at this and he thought, ‘This is really interesting,’” Dr. Lach continued. “Along with the anthropologists, the ecologists said, ‘Maybe this has something to do with the way we think about nature’ and sure enough, it does.”
The egalitarians, who are all about group process, also believe that the environment is very fragile and it needs to be protected from human behavior at all costs, and everything that we do is a danger to the environment, she said. “I would say there are a lot of academic scientists who have this worldview who are egalitarians and feel that nature is very fragile,” she said. “Libertarians feel that the environment is very robust. There really isn’t anything that humans can do to upset the environment, and if it does, we’re all out of here anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Hierarchists believe that their environment can be managed and that it’s somewhat fragile, but we can put sideboards up, and we can manage it with rules and processes and procedures.”
Everyone has these different worldviews, and we all work in organizations that are pretty amenable to the worldviews that we have. “What’s interesting is that when you come together in these large basins, it’s important to realize that people are coming in with these worldviews and the way they think about organizations, the way they think about decisions, and the way they think about the environment,” Dr. Lach said. “These are very implicit biases that we all bring to the decisions and to the places that we work. This is very robust research from the social scientists.”
We used to be able to think about really elegant solutions, engineering solutions, or solutions where we would fix something forever and it would stay that way. “We know that with complex systems, that’s not possible and it if you think about these different worldviews, you also know that’s not possible, because everybody comes with a different expectation about what a good decision looks like.”
Those that are studying these things have found that there are what they call ‘Clumsy Solutions.’“People don’t like that idea, but the idea is that you find solutions that really appeal to all three of those active worldviews,” Dr. Lach said. “What can you give those egalitarians who think that nature is very fragile? What can you give to the hierarchists who believe that if there are rules, processes, procedures, and chains of command, that we can manage it? What do you give to the libertarians who are convinced that if I can make money off of this if you just let me alone? How do you balance those three different worldviews? I know you’ve probably had these conversations in these stakeholders’ meetings where you’re thinking, ‘What the hell are they talking about?’ These things are ingrained in our heads, and we don’t even realize that we have them; it’s really easy to talk to other people who share in that worldview, and it’s almost impossible to talk with people who don’t share that same view.”
“I think that that credibility, legitimacy, and salience are all important for making decisions, but knowing that they’re also in conflict as you move forward with them, as well as the idea that we have these different worldviews.”
Social science has a lot of theories and approaches out there that are pretty well researched, and they’re researched across multiple cultures and across multiple countries. “There are some ways to think about the ways that we can use this when we’re approaching some of these scientific problem solving situations that we’re finding ourselves in these giant basins,” she said.
Dr. Lach then turned to the concept of “Post-normal science.” “The idea with post-normal science is that as the stakes get high and the uncertainty gets high, normal science in the Thomas Kuhn sense of the word is really not very useful,” she said. “One of the first things that we do is we move into this idea of professional consultancy. The IPCC, for example, is a perfect example of professional consultancy where we’re bringing all these experts together. As someone said earlier, ‘this consensus by all these egalitarian scientists is a real sign that we have some agreement on the science.’ We don’t really have agreement on social science. We really don’t understand climate science yet, but we have this consensus in this professional consultancy role.”
“If you go even further out on scale with the uncertainty and stake issues, you get to a place where you’re looking at post-normal science,” Dr. Lach said. “In post-normal science, the real difference there is that we extend the peer group – the people who make decisions about whether or not the science is credible, legitimate, and salient – to other people, to other stakeholders. There are a lot of different techniques for doing that. One of this is this idea of coproduction, but there are other strategies like consensus conferences and watershed councils.”
“Each of them is built on one of these different worldviews on how the world works,” she continued. “They’re more or less amenable to different groups, but there are different strategies that social scientists are looking at that they’re comparing across different environmental problems. That would be another possible technique to be thinking about what that post-normal science looks like in a world that’s filled with uncertainty.”
“We’ve talked a lot about uncertainty here,” Dr. Lach concluded. “Like uncertainty, there are just a lot of things that we don’t know and to be able to say that as scientists puts us in a different realm of uncertainty.”
Panel 4 Discussion
Dr. Nick Aumen, USGS Regional Science Advisor, Southeast Region
Dr. Ken Currens, Manager of Conservation Planning; Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission
Dr. Denise Lach, Professor and Director of School of Public Policy, Oregon State University
Dr. Mark Lubell, Professor and Director, Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior
Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera (Obey): Chief Modeler, South Florida Water Management District
David Wegner, Former Senior Staff at Water Energy and Transportation Committee, U.S. House of Representatives
Panel moderator Rainer Hoenicke began the panel discussion by noting that reflecting on Dr. Lach’s definition of legitimacy. “I think there’s a real desire, especially in a very contentious environment, to elevate that level of legitimacy,” he said. “Especially in systems with strong resource conflicts, we often have institutions and stakeholders where they view each other’s science to be outcome driven and illegitimate.”
Question: “How would you balance this three-legged stool of credibility, salience, and legitimacy? How have you encountered this balance setting in your area?”
Dr. Nick Aumen said that we’re all human, and in spite of being scientists, we view what other people do through our own lens that we create; we are informed by our world experiences, our scientific background, the political background, and the social background. If a stakeholder who has a strong desire for a particular outcome produces science, no matter what or how good that person is as a scientist, he’s always going to view that through that lens, at least initially. This in part what scientists are trained to do: to be critical and skeptical.
“I think it’s part of the construct and the integration of all these different viewpoints of stakeholders. It’s just part of working in these very complex systems; you have to factor it in almost daily in the work that you do, but in the end, good science stands on its own,” said Dr. Aumen. “When it ends up down to the wire either in front of a judge or in the court of public opinion, those processes have to work their way through. People have to make their own judgments, and that’s happened in the Everglades time and time again.”
Dr. Ken Currens works the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, a support organization for 20 western Washington Treaty Tribes. Through a series of court cases, it has been determined that the Indian tribes have a right to fish, hunt, and gather as they always have; this is a right as opposed to a privilege, and cannot be restricted by state agencies. The court cases have also determined that the state of Washington has an obligation to protect the habitat that sustains those treaty rights. And the court has also ruled that the tribes have a right to manage the resources. For fishery management, they have a system of jointly producing the science and management between the federal and state government and other folks; there is increasing involvement by the tribes as they have developed more expertise and have become more involved in management issues.
Dr. Currens then described how he frames discussions for legislators. He tells them that five things need to be done: We have to get the right science, meaning that we’re bringing the breadth of science to the problem at hand. We have to get the science right, meaning we have to credible, legitimate and salient science. We have to get the right people, which means a broad group that includes all the people that have a stake in it. We’ve have to get the people right, which means we have to get the participation right; the process needs to be run so it’s inclusive. And don’t ask the scientists to give you an analysis that you need to understand later, he said, explaining this means don’t think about who does it but about what we do.
Good decisions come from analyzing and deliberating; scientists can do the statistics and can run the modeling, but the policy folks need to be there, because if the analysis of the problem is not framed right at the beginning, the scientists won’t give an answer that’s useful to them, Dr. Currens noted. A process of analysis and deliberation needs to occur, and it has to be repetitive and recursive.
“I’ve been through this a number of times,” Dr. Currens said. “When we do this, we have legitimate science and we get to a solution. When we don’t, we will get to the solution… but that solution is going to be driven by lawsuits. We’ll get there – it’s just a different way to get there.”
Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera said that the integrity of the team is very important. He has an established team of people working on models that has established recognition and creditability in their work; the team does high quality unbiased research, and backs that credibility up with publications. He warned that sometimes modelers or scientists could potentially be used inappropriately to build consensus among stakeholders. “That could be good in some settings, but in an iterative process, I think we have to be aware of that fact so that we don’t lose that credibility that we have there.”
David Wegner said that from his perspective from working in Washington, when people come in to talk about an issue, he first determines their credibility by considering their relationship to the issue and if they will have information that will add value to the process. He then considers their legitimacy, and tends to view those to whom the issue something that is personal to them or that they have a responsibility to their constituents as more legitimate then the paid lobbyists looking for billable time. On the salient point, he considers whether the information they are going to provide will help educate, provide information they haven’t heard before, or can be used in a forum to help make a better process.
A good scientist who has the ability to communicate is a huge commodity. “Most scientists are very good at collecting data, analyzing data, going through the process of science, but the ability for a scientist to communicate, that is something that we need to do a much better job at, because the issues that are facing us as a society – these issues of climate change, of complex ecosystem issues, they are only going to get worse,” said Mr. Wegner. “We have to be able to discern the issues, take out the fluff around the edges, get to the real points, and be able to articulate those in a clear, responsible manner.”
Dr. Denise Lach said that much of the science is in a ‘black box’ to other scientists who don’t know the models or the algorithms as well as the decision makers, and stakeholders; that makes legitimacy hard for most people because they don’t really understand. Scientists need to find ways to involve people in opening that black box of the model or the algorithm or the data collection or the monitoring process.
Dr. Lach’s research makes a distinction between the general public and the attentive public: the general public doesn’t understand and aren’t usually the ones showing up at the hearing, while the attentive public do attend hearings and are usually very knowledgeable about the systems, the rules, and the policy. “Opening up the black box of the science that we do to that attentive public increases legitimacy of the decisions that we’re trying to make about very uncertain systems that are being driven by processes that we don’t understand, and while we’re being asked to make big decisions about big systems in a time when the world is changing around us as quickly as it possibly can.”
Dr. Ken Currens then addressed Ds. Lach’s comments on post-normal science that she made in the introductory presentation. He recalled how he was asked recently after giving a talk on resilience theory, when we pass these thresholds and we’re in a new regime, we say that the system will self-organize or will reorganize in to something else. What is that going to mean for the tribes in the face of climate change?’ “I don’t know what that will be, but what I can tell you is the uncertainty is high, and the stakes are huge, which is why we’re in the post-normal box. That’s why we’re saying this has to be broadened. This has to be about participation.”
Question: Dr. Reiner Hoenicke asked Dr. Lubell about his research in the Parana Delta in Argentina. “You pointed out that they started with more of the political aspects rather than more of the scientific aspects. Can you tie that in … Was there kind of a sign or a tendency for people to actually strive for the legitimacy aspect of it?”
Dr. Mark Lubell noted that political knowledge is relevant, because in order to understand the legitimacy of science, you need the understand the political interests of the individuals that are producing it. In the case of Parana and other developing countries where institutions are weak, what the researchers think happens is that there are constant attempts to solve problems and bring knowledge, and without institutions like the Delta Independent Science Board or the Delta Stewardship Council, they get together for a bit and then it falls apart.
“That’s why the political knowledge seems to be the more important thing early on, because they have to figure out what are the interests of the people at the table,” said Dr. Lubell. “Once they get that down, then they can start thinking about how are they going to start understanding what’s going on in the system. Getting the political part right might be something to do first – not positive yet though.”
Dr. Reiner Hoenicke noted that what he heard in the panel discussion so far was that co-production is important as it is a determining factor for generating legitimacy and credibility, although he acknowledged that coproduction with stakeholder engagement from beginning to the end of the decision process can be cumbersome and time consuming, which could be in conflict with saliency because it takes time. “To me it sounds like at this point in the evolution of our thinking, it really is a must to have that coproduction element built right in to the three-legged stool in some way.”
Question: We have heard in earlier discussions that when dealing with ecosystem problems, it’s important to understand what the problem is, and then define the objective or what you are trying to accomplish with the process. Do the things that you’re talking about with regard to credibility, legitimacy, and salience of the science also apply to those elements of the equation?
Dr. Denise Lach said yes, definitely; one of the first places to start with coproduction is to gather needs and goals from a wide perspective as that contributes to the legitimacy of moving forward. “If people were asked their opinion or asked their needs, asked their wants, it starts the process of forming the scientific questions, which lead to the legitimacy, because people feel like their concerns are being heard.”
Dr. Nick Aumen agreed. In the workshop series that went for about nine months, everyone was involved in developing the path forward. Workshop participants, some of them citizens, could draw out a plan and they could go ask a modeler for technical help; the modeler’s opinion was trusted by the participants because the relationship had been built over time. “To get there takes a lot of interaction, takes a lot of work, and takes a lot of talking one on one. It just doesn’t happen automatically. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and input, but it pays off big dividends.”
Dr. Ken Currens recalled how in the presentation that Joel Baker gave on the outcomes in the Puget Sound, one of the things that came out was the groups that had been most successful had somebody who could not only talk to policymakers, but was trusted by them. “That takes work, work that most of us don’t do, but it’s absolutely essential.”
In response to trusting agencies, Dr. Denise Lach asked why would anyone trust a government agency? Trust means that the other person’s looking out for your best interests, and government agencies and organizations don’t do that. There is trust in relationships with individuals inside those organizations. But what we want from agencies is reliability, transparency, and competence; Dr. Lach said that’s not the same thing as trust.
Question: You mentioned ‘clumsy solutions’ … That sounded like an interesting idea to me so I was hoping you could say a little more about that.
Dr. Denise Lach answered by saying that in planning and engineering, they are often looking for an elegant solution – the most efficient, most effective, and the easiest solution for the problem, but often in large and complex systems, there aren’t any elegant solutions, and if a solution is forced, that when legitimacy is lost and lawsuits are filed. Instead, it’s thinking about putting together solutions that address multiple needs. She gave an example of small communities in Southern California whose water supply is controlled by Metropolitan. In the drought when their supplies were constricted, they had to practice demand management. So many communities came up with a strategy to give everyone enough water to live on at a small price which appeals to the egalitarian, and charge more for those who used more which appeals to the libertarians, and then the hierarchists were collecting data and sharing it with water users, so they were getting comparative data of their use with neighbors use, block use, and neighborhood use, which started a competition to use less water.
“All of the sudden, they’re not so worried about water supply in these towns. They’re coming up with clumsy things,” said Dr. Lach. “There wasn’t a perfect answer, but there were these different modules. It’s responding to these different needs that people have, these different worldviews that people have.”
Question: I wanted ask about the boundary organizations. Ken talked about recursive analysis and deliberation. To me, that sounded like co-production. I’m wondering about opening the black box. I’m wondering anyone would want to talk about boundary objects like those recursive processes or what opening the black box looks like?
Dr. Mark Lubell defined a boundary object as a model, a scientist, a report, a visualization – some piece of science that is useful to all of the actors who are participating in the organization. Using models as an example, the boundary organization is the place where models are developed that are useful to both actors. “You could say that for scientists, it may be something that advances the basic science, but for the policy maker, it’s salient to a particular question at a particular time.”
Question: Dr. Hoenicke asked to what extent are academic institutions playing a role as boundary organizations, but also in the process of legitimacy and coproduction. “What experiences has the panel had with incorporating academic institutions in this whole three-legged stool?
Dr. Nick Aumen said that academic institutions are important in the Everglades, having done some of the work that set some of the boundaries of the problems they’re facing now; the challenge always has been the connection between the academic world, the government world, and the policy world. He recalled how two professors at area universities spent a lot of time going to agency and public meetings, but it paid off in the end as they received funding for research at their respective institutions. “They worked hard in connecting themselves with what we were trying to do, and that’s hard to do. We don’t have a good system for that. A young faculty member at almost any institution can’t devote that kind of time. We’re trying to think of better ways to make sure when they come to us with work that’s well thought out, and that they are connected well.”
Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera agreed that academic institutions have a role to play, as they have the ability to look at creative non-traditional approaches which adds value to what the agencies do; they can also bring graduate students to look at problems that others don’t have time or resources for. They are also thought of as unbiased. He acknowledged that sometimes timing can be an issue, as is sometimes the lack of ability to come up with actionable science. “One of the drawbacks is how to get them to produce the science that will lead to some decision making.”
David Wegner said that with his work on the Colorado River, the inclusion of academic research into the process was needed as they brought in new perspectives as well as new blood into the process. He also noted how when he started the program in the Grand Canyon, they had eight Native American Tribes who had a cultural affinity to the canyon, but knew nothing about traditional ecosystem and environmental knowledge from the tribes. He went out and spent time with the tribes to learn their perspective. Out of that, they spun up a training program and got some young Hopi women interested in studying hydrology at Northern Arizona University, and today, one of them is an assistant regional director for one of the agencies. “To me, we have a responsibility when we’re within the agencies to help not only further science, but further people, so they get opportunities to continue to expand. With that, we reap benefits that are uncountable at this point.”
Dr. Mark Lubell noted that some universities are finding ways to create institutions at the university. He gave the Center for Watershed Science at UC Davis as an example of an institution that does go out and try to engage in policy; there is some funding for these activities, and symbolic rewards. “At the level of the individual professor, or faculty member, there is often that trade off, which if we’re not publishing and that sort of thing, that becomes problem for us… We also have to remember that the incentives of a university professor are to try to pursue and publish basis research. To create a space where that can happen, we can do science to help solve the problem, but we can also publish it and do things we need to count the beans that are being counted by the university.”
Question: One thing that really wasn’t touched on a whole lot was conflict resolution… What if you have two equally credible organizations that are coming to some fairly different places just looking at the science? Do you have any thoughts on mechanisms for conflict resolutions in matters of science?
David Wegner said that was built into the Adaptive Management Program. When dealing with a lot of complex issues, professional facilitation of the difficult issues is important, so that everybody gets some say in the discussion. “What I found by bringing in professional facilitators on not every issue, but those that we knew were going to be contentious in the end and making sure we did that facilitation dialogue process right; then having an ability to go into some conflict resolution, some mediation on issues that we just weren’t going to be able to make a cut and dry answer on, to make sure that we followed process. That doesn’t mean we get to exactly the same point we started out to get to, but at least people felt like they were involved, were listened to, and were part of the process.”
Question: Dr. Jay Lund noted that remarks earlier today were that in order to do a legitimate study, you have to get all the stakeholders involved all along the way; he commented that if they had to do science that way for every project, not a lot of science would get done. However, he acknowledged that it’s a very important way to do some science. “Do you have any thoughts about the mix of different ways of doing science across a science enterprise to in a broad scale that advance the amount of territory you can explore and the overall legitimacy of the overall enterprise rather than just one particular study?
Dr. Denise Lach said that’s what the model of post-normal science is about. If the problem is one where the stakes are relatively low and there’s relative amounts of certainty that can be found, then regular, positivistic science that gets you an answer can be done. “It’s when you go out to these places where the stakes get really high and the uncertainty gets really magnificent that you need to do these more inclusive processes that bring legitimacy to places where we don’t get answers. I think we have to admit that there are places in our science enterprises now where we will not get answers. We’re looking for solutions, but we’re not going to get answers.”
Dr. Jay Lund agreed, noting that the when the complexity and the breadth of these controversies is sufficiently large, there needs to be a lot of the lower level, exploratory science that might be done by individual investigators or small groups – even combat science could be useful in that situation. “Then for a few things, you can muster the big enterprise where it’s all inclusive and completely collaborative, but in order to make the collaborative science activities successful, it helps a lot to have established some understory to that so you can be more efficient about it and more direct about it.”
Dr. Denise Lach clarified that post-normal science doesn’t mean that you don’t do professional consultancy or normal science; in fact, you have to do it all. “In some of these cases, if we don’t take the time upfront to do the collaborative coproduction, we’re going to pay the price on the other end in court. Do we spend the time upfront or do we spend the time at the back end? I think it all washes out, but I think it’s more fun at the front end than at the back end.”
Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera said that in his experience, the leadership of the science enterprise needs to make sure that there’s always a critical mass for that long term research as there’s going to be pressure to divert resources to big projects or brush fires. When he was doing modeling for his group, there was a lot of pressure to give up on the new model they were developing in order to do the immediate modeling needed for restoration. “I realized that there was a need for that tool ten years down the road, and I was able to maintain the critical mass. You can see the results today. But I think it’s very hard to do both… Unless the leadership buys into it, it’s hard to commit.”
Dr. Ken Currens then added that he has been the one advocating the broad participation approach, but of course they move between doing normal science and post-normal science, depending on the question.