A year ago this week I was in Portugal, where I presented and co-convened a session at the World Congress of Silvo-pastoral Systems. The invite came as a result of my work on tree decline under grazing in Australia, though I used the opportunity to present synthesis work emerging from more recent work on Holistic Management. The best keynote at the event was by Ika Darnhofer, an Austrian scholar, with whom I struck up a correspondence after the event. When news came that a special issue of Rangeland Ecology and Management was planned for the Integrative stream of the conference, Ika and I collaborated on a short commentary piece. It was published online today, the first of those in the special issue. Each of us had been frustrated by the primacy of natural science within key journals and projects, so our commentary argues for greater openness to stand-alone social science research (particularly qualitative social science) in problem-based agricultural journals. Instead, editors have one-by-one closed their doors to social science unless in integration with natural sciences. I like to think of it as picking up where Nathan Sayre left off in 2004.
In the summary I prepared for Rangelands, the more producer-focused magazine also run by the Society for Range Management, the paper is summarized as follows:
The voices of pastoralists, farmers, and ranchers are hard to hear in rangeland and silvopastoral research, although they make the management choices. Researchers call for integration across academic disciplines to improve decision-making, but what seems to be forgotten is that robust disciplines are needed first. Is social science around rangelands and silvopastoral systems healthy, or is it being given a service role to natural science? Key journals are biased toward natural science, fragmenting social science insight and discouraging new scholars. Journals welcoming standalone social science will grow the discipline and incorporate land manager knowledge, strengthening research outcomes and their application.