Monday, October 22, 2007

Water-related research in the social sciences

My research generally deals with the organizational and governance aspects of negotiation, conflict and collaboration between multiple public and private actors in the context of natural resources management. Specific research topics focus on the processes of sensemaking, issue framing, dealing with differences, social learning and innovation, from an approach that emphasizes the role of meaning, interaction and language.

At the occasion of the "Water Café" of the Social Sciences Group at Wageningen University, I've prepared an overview of water-related research in which I'm involved. Topics

- Social learning in river basin management planning ( In this project a concept for social learning and collaborative governance has been developed, rooted in the interpretive strands of the social sciences emphasizing the context dependence of knowledge. The role of frames and boundary management in processes of learning at different levels and time scales are investigated.

- Issue framing in multi-actor contexts. E.g. analysis of multi-actor meetings between a university engineering center and indigenous irrigation organization in Ecuador, about the use of a hydraulic simulation model for managing water flow in the irrigation system. The analysis focuses on the different frames about the issue that are voiced at the negotiation table during the joint exploration and construction of a potential common problem domain. This results in the identification of interaction patterns for dealing with differences in issue framing (accommodating, incorporating, disconnecting, polarizing, exploring and reframing).

- New methods for adaptive water management under uncertainty ( Water managers need to solve a range of interrelated water dilemmas, in a context where human actions and values play a central role. The growing uncertainties of global climate change and the long term implications of management actions make the problems even more difficult. Research within this research includes development of a broadened conceptualization of uncertainties in water management, including ambiguity as a different kind of uncertainty, apart from ontological and epistemic uncertainty. It also includes a case study of water management (HDSR, Kromme Rijn-gebied) about the differentiation of issues and stakes in the interactive decision-making process for a water area plan.

- Scaling and governance (IPOP Science Plan “Scaling and governance”). This research approaches the politics of scale from a sensemaking perspective. The framing of a problem as a local, regional or global problem is the result of an active process of sensemaking. When the European commission defined (transboundary) river basins as the scale for organizing water management they cut across existing administrative boundaries, resulting in many European countries in the activation of new relations and the deactivation of others. This research addresses the mutually influencing relations between a constellation of actors, their interdependencies and the framing of issues at a certain scale.

As part of the Scaling and Governance program a Ph.D. position has been opened at our Public Administration and Policy Group. More information can found at this website.