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Using Matching Methods to Link Social and Physical Analyses for Sustainability Planning

Eric J Kemp-Benedict, Stockholm Environment Institute
Sukaina Bharwani, Stockholm Environment Institute
Michael D. Fischer, Centre for Social Anthropology & Computing (CSAC), University of Kent, UK

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Sustainability planning requires an understanding of social and physical systems and their interactions. However, there is a mismatch between the methods of the social sciences and those of the natural sciences. Although there have been numerous attempts to adapt the methods of the natural sciences for use in the social sciences, the results are usually unsatisfactory. Key features of societies such as institutions and power relationships, and of individuals such as the rich symbolic systems by which individuals transmit knowledge, do not lend themselves to the standard analytical methods of the natural sciences.
We argue that rather than transfer the methods of one discipline to the other, an appropriate goal can be to seek “matching methods” that work at the boundary between the social and natural sciences. We discuss how knowledge elicitation tools (KnETs) can be used to develop matching methods. An explicit example is provided by combining a KnETs-derived decision tree with a physical water allocation model that was built using the scenario-based Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) software. We conclude that, through a relatively weak link, the social and physical domains can be effectively combined for integrated planning using matching methods, thereby permitting a more holistic approach to sustainable resource planning.

Key words

decision making; integrated analysis; matching methods; natural resources; planning; sustainability science
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087