Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Methods (page 1 of 12)

The sea is so big and my boat so small

I’m surfacing after going offline for a day to reflect on my recent lesson in Remedial Internet 101. I don’t tweet–simply haven’t the constitution for it–but merely keep record of my doings in this unfashionable corner of the blogosphere. I am ill suited to the multi-channel (and Janus-faced) modes of modern academic debate.  I was grateful to be told directly that I had been hurtful with an analogy I used yesterday: when I’m wrong I apologize and try to fix it. It was a lapse in empathy on my part; the visual it had conjured pleased me for its aptness, blinding me to how it might feel to receive.  Retractions never make the ‘front page’ of online discourse, however.

I hear now that I am being accused of gate-keeping and being against boundary work. With some reflection, this may be a fair accusation. If all this boundary work was going swimmingly I’d have little reason to complain; but it is not, and so sometimes I do. I think that the best boundary work is actually drawing on many skill-sets, and is thus interdisciplinary.  I’ve argued before that disciplines, while they sometimes get a bad rap, are really useful. People are complicated.  Disciplines create theory, norms, and progress critical to ‘interdisciplines’, and those interstitial domains are better if they can draw on healthy disciplines via integration-minded experts. Its like jellyfish: the floating medusa phase and the anchored polyp phase are both needed. But maybe I should stop using animal analogies.

Response article in Methods in Ecology and Evolution

Proud to be one of a strong list of applied social science experts co-authoring a paper out this week, Expanding the role of social science in conservation through an engagement with philosophy, methodology, and methods (open access). Led by the clear-headed Katie Moon, of UNSW Canberra, this new article responds to a special feature in Methods in Ecology and Evolution on qualitative methods for decision-making. Given the mix of methods they included (e.g. including Q-method and MCDA), it seems they used qualitative as if synonymous with social, which is one of my pet peeves. But there were more substantial issues with the special issue. I have written before that I weary of reviewing papers led by teams of natural scientists who wade into social science work without involving any experienced social scientists, so was really happy to weigh in with this great team.

Full disclosure: I joined the team late, and my rationale is not theirs; I speak only for myself. But it was a real joy to develop fellowship and debate ideas with this group, despite our far-flung geography. I’m sorry only that a poorly considered analogy fuelled an angry place online, already in oversupply, distracting from the value of this contribution and the good faith of its lead authors. Good response articles are not the result of indoctrinated voices speaking in unison, but rather a novel network of scholars working together to iron out some of the wrinkles that have been causing collective discomfort. And there is just nothing like slipping into freshly laundered sheets.

Highlighted in Rangelands

Rangelands has a nice feature called ‘Browsing the Literature’, in which a handful of leading rangeland researchers is asked: “If you could recommend one paper or book that you’ve read recently that everybody in rangeland science or management should read, what would it be?” I’ve just learned that in the December 2017 issue, USDA rangeland scientist Dr. David Toledo recommended my commentary from last year with Ika Darnhofer, Precondition for integration: In support of standalone social science in rangeland and silvopastoral research. He commented:

It has become increasingly evident that we cannot view natural resource issues without considering humans as part of the natural resource system. However, there is a disproportionate amount of research in natural science journals regarding the social sciences needed to implement any ecosystem changes. This paper discusses issues related to the integration of the social sciences with the natural sciences (or lack thereof) and highlights the potential contributions of the social sciences in providing critical insights for achieving real-world impact of natural science research.

Thanks to Dr. Toledo for the good press.

Planning workshop at McGill

Hard at work while Andy Gonzalez and Marie-Josee Fortin talk monitoring.

Hard at work while Andy Gonzalez and Marie-Josee Fortin talk monitoring.

Cleared by surgeon to return to work last Monday. Left that afternoon for a two-day trip to Montreal for a workshop to plan a new NSERC project using ecosystem services to aid decision-making in production landscapes. Landscape and thematic teams from across the country joined with engaged partners from across the public and private sector, all inspired by the big vision and strong leadership of Prof Elena Bennett. Thrilled to be co-leading the Atlantic case study for this big new proposal, with such a great interdisciplinary team, and also enjoyed being the SSHRC devil’s advocate in the mix.


6-month job in bibliometrics and/or statistics

I am offering a 6-month non-student position in my lab (Jan-June 2019), co-funded by Mitacs‘ Career Connect program, for quantitative analysis support across a few SSHRC projects (e.g. sustainable agriculture, renewable energy). Required skills include bibliometrics and/or social science statistical methods. A short description is  here, and a fuller one is on the Mitacs site. Viable applicants should be under 30, have relevant Masters qualifications (Library/Information Science, Statistics, Information Technology, Computer Science, Quantitative Social Science, Social/Environmental Psychology, etc), and be a Canadian citizen, PR or refugee. Please help me spread the word.

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