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The social component of social-ecological research: moving from the periphery to the center

Alicia Castillo, Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Aída Atenea Bullen-Aguiar, Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Juan Luis Peña-Mondragón, Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Norma Georgina Gutiérrez-Serrano, Centro Regional de Estudios Multidisciplinarios. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-11345-250106

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Abstract

Social-ecological research is an interdisciplinary endeavor. According to its research purposes, it includes biophysical aspects as well as political, economic, and cultural elements. However, to ensure that the analysis of social processes is effectively attended, it is recommended that biophysical scientists, ecologists in particular, explore the theoretical diversity within the social sciences. Drawing on our teaching experiences of more than a decade and our work as members of research teams that aim to move toward interdisciplinary work, we briefly explore four schools of thought in the social sciences explaining their philosophical and methodological dimensions, as well as the research methods they advocate. We propose that a deeper understanding of these issues will reinforce the dialogue between ecologists and social scientists and will enhance collaboration in social-ecological research projects. An invitation is also made to consider how interpretivism, constructivism, and critical theory can add value to social-ecological research when seeking to document and explain the perspectives of different stakeholders involved in the interaction between people and ecosystems. Related to this invitation we advocate that social-ecological science is essentially collaborative and needs to move toward knowledge coproduction emphasizing the relevance of communication and linkage strategies among diverse stakeholders in order to transit to sustainable social-ecological systems. In order to illustrate some of our ideas, we present a case of social-ecological research related to the conservation of big predators in Mexico.

Key words

barriers between social and ecological research; conflict human-carnivores; interdisciplinarity; multidisciplinarity; science and society; social science research traditions; transdisciplinarity

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087