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Fifty shades of evidence: A transdisciplinary research project on changing climate and water


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Presentation of a research proposal to the 2012 ASnA conference in Cape Town on 1 September

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Fifty shades of evidence: A transdisciplinary research project on changing climate and water

  1. 1. Fifty shades of evidence – A transdisciplinaryresearch project on changing climate and water By Carina van Rooyen University of JohannesburgPresentation at the annual conference of Anthropology Southern Africa in Cape Town, 31 August-3 September 2012
  2. 2. About myself
  3. 3. • Looking for research project that not only bring together natural and social scientists in collaborative research project, but that do so in transdisciplinary manner which can be basis for integrating scientific and ‘traditional’/local forms of knowledge• About systems of knowledge; not superiority of one over another or with aim to validate local knowledges against science knowledges, but to explore their complementary uses – look for best of all worlds! (Mayoux 2007:16)• What is credible knowledge under what circumstances, “how is this knowledge generated and how is it used in decision making?” (Vogel et al 2007:349)• Articulation between knowledge / science, power and politics
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  5. 5. • Perils of mono-disciplinary vision for complex world problems• “The world has problems, but universities have departments” (Brewer 1999) Source:
  6. 6. Holy grail of knowledge?• Birth of science in disassociation from practical knowledge• Newtonian thinking: there are universal laws, that can be discovered by scientific research, and such research can be replicated• Development of disciplinary fields: “disciplinary boundary setting is often underpinned by a ‘Newtonian’ ontology which declares that the whole is the sum of the parts, which can therefore each be examined purely separately” (Gasper 2010:3)
  7. 7. Science / discipline
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  9. 9. Related words?• Multi-disciplinarity = more than one; interdisciplinarity = Table source: Hessels & van Lente (2008:741) between; transdisciplinarity = across and beyond, involving non-scientists• Gibbons et al (1994)• Others called this post-normal science (Funtowicz & Ravetz 1993) or post-academic science (Zinman 2000) – destabilising the ‘expert’
  10. 10. Different perspectives
  11. 11. “Transdisciplinary research…aims atidentifying, structuring, analysing and handling issues in problemfields with the aspiration• to grasp the relevant complexity of a problem• to take into account the diversity of life-world and scientific perceptions of problems• to link abstract and case-specific knowledge• to develop knowledge and practices that promote what is perceived to be the common good” (Pohl & Hadorn quoted in Hoffmann-Riem et al 2008:4)
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  14. 14. Anthropology and transdisciplinarity• Four-fields Anthropology as “the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities” ~ Alfred Kroeber• “The coexistence of [humanistic and scientific] approaches within anthropology has itself been an enduring source of controversy; humanistic anthropologists tend to be dubious about the application of scientific methods to anthropological subjects, while the scientists vary in their tolerance for humanistic methods in proportion to their adherence to a Popperian or positivist belief in the unity of scientific method” (Lansing & Downey 2011:569)• Acknowledgement that we live in both material / physical and imaginative worlds (Hulme 2011)• For Preiser (2010:57) “anthropology operates in ‘liminal spaces’ which can be defined as ‘spaces between disciplines’”
  15. 15. Further encouraging aspects• Flexibility and innovation in methodology• Social relations / collaboration as fundamental to anthropology – dialogue with ‘stakeholders’ required• Acknowledgement of and respect for local cosmologies / knowledges; not incommensurable kinds of knowledge – makes mutual learning / co-production of knowledge a possibility Source:
  16. 16. Source: achieve-success
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  20. 20. My research proposal
  21. 21. Source: change as rationale
  22. 22. Source:
  23. 23. Climate change & social anthropology• Earlier contributions came from archaeologists on, for example, resilience & decline, from cultural ecology, cultural materialism, and human ecology (Crate 2011:177)• By 1990s interest by anthropologists in climate change & culture started to extend beyond sub-fields of archaeology and environmental anthropology (Crate 2011:175; Rayner & Malone 1998)• In 2000s various edited collection, discussing anthropology of climate and climate change, e.g., Crate & Nuttall (2009), Strauss & Orlove (2003)• Growing interest due to: – reality of radical changes that climate change brings to people and their places that anthropologists study – recognition of crucial understanding necessary about human dimensions of climate change – role for anthropologists in growing interdisciplinary research in climate change adaptation research especially (Roncoli et al 2009:87)
  24. 24. Role of social anthropology• Social anthropology brings to climate change studies understanding “that culture frames the way people perceive, understand, experience, and respond to key elements of the worlds which they live in” (Roncoli et al 2009:87)• Three areas of anthropological research: contributions to the big-picture debates, analysis of the discourse of climate change, and rich descriptions of the realities at local level of what people observe, feel, experience, say, etc. about climate change, and how they respond to it (Milton 2008)• Until recently few studies on local knowledges that looked at climate (Roncoli et al 2009:94; West et al 2008:290)• Crate’s (2011:179) typology: place-based community research, and research on global negotiations & discourses
  25. 25. Changing climate
  26. 26. Why changing climate and water?
  27. 27. My question Do various knowledges in/of the Sekhukhune area concerning changing climate and water converge/diverge, and what are the domains of articulation between these knowledges?(1) Map southern Africa science (both natural & social) knowledges onchanging climate and water(2) Map (spatial, temporal, social) complexities of ‘local’ knowledge ofvarious stakeholders in Sekhukhune on changing climate and water(3) Indicate domains of articulation possible between ‘scienceknowledges’ and ‘local knowledges’ in this particular setting, as well ascomplexities, contestations, contradictions, and incompatibilities(4) Based on this, highlight implications for localised, andscale, decisions related to climate change adaptation
  28. 28. Source: Methodology• Sequential mixed methods study design with conscious blending of quantitative and qualitative research approaches in four phases• Phase 1: systematic review methodology• Phase 2: use framework of knowledges developed in phase 1 to design questionnaire (demographic & household info + Lickert scale) for survey (clustered sample). 1066 respondents (3% error tolerate, 95% confidence) methods-jargon-jongar-and-code/
  29. 29. • Phase 3: broad map of ‘local knowledges’ designed in phase 2 form basis to explore qualitatively ‘storied reality’. 60 in-depth interviews with purposively selected people for being part of specific stakeholder grouping (various community members, traditional leaders, local & provincial government officials, public & privately-owned conservation areas, NGOs, members of water user committees, health professionals, mining companies, and subsistence, emerging & commercial farmers• Phase 4: also 1st step in dissemination of research findings. Dialogues within Sekhukhune between various stakeholders facilitated by presenting and getting feedback on findings regarding the diverse knowledges mapped and on implications for policy & practice in area. Ten open-invitation community meetings + regional workshop
  30. 30. How do you wantit – the crystalmumbo-jumboor statisticalprobability?
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  32. 32. Fifty shades of evidence• Complex realities & problems require transdisciplinarity• Not promoting dropping of monism – needs species & hybrids to co-exist & interact (Gasper 2010:5)• Also not against disciplinary loyalty but be wary of disciplinary chauvinism
  33. 33. References• Apgar JM, Argumedo A & Allen W 2009 Building transdisciplinarity for managing complexity: Lessons from indigenous practice. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences 4(5): 255-270• Bjurström A & Polk M 2011 Physical and economic bias in climate change research: A scientometric study of IPCC Third Assessment Report. Climatic change 108(1/2): 1-22. Doi: 10.1007/s10584-011-0018-8• Brace and Geoghegan 2010 Human geographies of climate change. Geoforum• Cundill GNR, Fabricius C & Marti N 2005 Foghorns to the future: Using knowledge and transdisciplinarity to navigate complex systems. Ecology and Society 10(2)• Gasper DR 2010 Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary: Diverse purposes of research – theory-orientated, situation-orientated, policy-orientated. In Thomson P & Walker M (eds) The Routledge doctoral student’s companion: Getting to grips with research in education and the social sciences. London: Routledge: 52-67• Gibbons M, Limoges C, Nowotny H, Schwartzman S, Scott P & Trow M 1994 The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. London: Sage• Giri AK 2002 The calling of a creative transdisciplinarity. Futures 34: 103–115
  34. 34. • Henderson MG 1995 Introduction: Borders, boundaries, and frame (works). In Henderson MG (ed) Borders, boundaries and frames: Cultural criticism and cultural studies. New York: Routledge• Hessels LK & van Lente H 2008 Re-thinking new knowledge production: A literature review and a research agenda. Research Policy 37: 740-760• Hoffmann-Riem H, Biber-Klemm S, Grossenbacher-Mansuy W, Hadorn GH, Joye D, Pohl C, Wiesmann U & Zemp E 2008 Idea of the handbook. In Hadorn GH , Hoffmann-Riem H, Biber-Klemm S, Grossenbacher-Mansuy W, Joye D, Pohl C, Wiesmann U & Zemp E (eds) Handbook of transdisciplinary research. Basel: Springer: 3-17• Hollaender K & Leroy P 2001 Reflections on the interactive sessions: From scepticism to good practice. In Klein JT, Grossenbacher-Mansuy W, Häberli R, Bill A, Scholz RW & Welti M (eds) Transdisciplinarity: Joint problem solving amongst science, technology and society. Basel: Barkhauser: 217-235• Hulme M 2011 Meet the humanities. Nature climate change 1(7): 177-179• Lansing JS & Downey SS 2011 Complexity and anthropology. In Hooker C (ed) Handbook of the philosophy of science. Volume 10: Philosophy of complex systems. (General editors: Gabbay DM, Thagard P & Woods J). Amsterdam: Elsevier: 570-601• Mayoux L 2007 Evaluation and impact research for rights-based development: Issues and challenges. Paper presented at the Oxfam America Impact Evaluation Workshop in Lima, Peru on 17-21 September
  35. 35. • Næss P 2010 The dangerous climate of disciplinary tunnel vision. In Bhaskar et al (eds) Interdisciplinarity and climate change: Transforming knowledge and practice for our global future. London: Routledge: 54-84• Nicolescu B (translated by Voss K) 2002 Manifesto of transdisciplinarity. Albany: State University of New York Press• Nicolescu B 2005 Transdisciplinarity: Past, present and future. Presentation to the 2nd World Congress on Transdisciplinarity, 6-12 September in Vila Velha/Vitória, Brasil• Nisbet MC, Hixon MA, Moore KD & Nelson M 2010 Four cultures: New synergies fore engaging society on climate change. Frontiers in ecology and the environment 8: 329-331• Preiser R 2010 Observing representational practices in art and anthropology – a transdisciplinary approach. The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa 6(1): 57-72• Reisinger A 2011 Interdisciplinarity: Are we there yet? Climatic change 108 (1/2): 23-30• Russell AW, Wicksona F & Carew AL 2008 Transdisciplinarity: Context, contradictions and capacity. Futures 40: 460-472• Sillitoe P & Bicker A 2004 Introduction: Hunting for theory, gathering ideology. In Bicker A, Sillitoe P & Pottier J (eds) Development and local knowledge: New approaches to issues in natural resources management, conservation and agriculture. London: Routledge: 1-18• Vogel C, Moser SC, Kasperson RE, Dabelko GD 2007 Linking vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience science to practice: Pathways, players, and partnerships. Global Environmental Change 17: 349-364
  36. 36. This presentation will be available at Fifty shades of evidence – A transdisciplinaryresearch project on changing climate and water by Carina van Rooyen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Connect via Twitter: @carinavr Email:
  37. 37. Extra
  38. 38. Systematic review (SR) • Led by Cochrane Collaboration; routinely used in health care to combine results of RCTs • Integrated into health policy internationally • In development promoted by funders
  39. 39. Elements of a SR• Formulate review question& write protocol to be peer reviewed • Search for and include primary studies Comprehensive strategy to search for relevant studies (unpublished & published) Explicit & justified criteria for inclusion or exclusion of any study • Assess study quality • Extract data • Analyse data Statistical synthesis of data (meta-analysis) if appropriate and possible, or qualitative synthesis • Interpret results & write report that peer reviewed
  40. 40. Hadorn et al (2008:32) distinguishbetween ideal-types ofresearch, namely basic, applied &transdisciplinary research
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