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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What role can ecologists have in decision-making processes?

Influencing decision-making processes as professional ecologists and conservation biologists is a rather difficult task with no "one-and-only" way of doing it. Dealing with uncertinities of natural systems AND social systems should be a key task when positioning oneself as a scientist in the policy debates. This is the main focus of the recent article of  Sarah Michaels and  Andrew J. Tyre in Conservation Letters: "How indeterminism shapes ecologists’ contributions to managing socio-ecological systems" (Article first published online: 4 MAY 2012 DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2012.00241.x).
As the authors indicates, when science is applied to resolve environmental issues and challenges, the value-basis of the underlying debates, opinions and attitudes are neccessary to be recognized. When contributing to an environmental or conservation issue, scientists should "put the socially generated indeterminism on their radar screens if they are to be able to distinguish when the science they have to offer may or may not influence decision making". Depending on low or high social indeterminism, ecologists must act and position themselves differently in the debates. For this reason, ecologists also should be prepared to recognize and understand the values attached to the different opinions and stakeholders in a co-learning process with social scientists.

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