Friday, September 26, 2014

Paradigm shifts in conservation biology

A perspective piece in the latest Science by G. Mace talks about the shifts of framing and purpose of conservation.  According to the author, there have been four main phases in the modern framing of conservation in the developed world (figure above), and "People and nature" is where we are right now.  Moving away from "Nature for people," an overly utilitarian paradigm, this new model emphasizes the two-way, mulch-layered and multidimensional relationships between people and nature. One concern of this latest paradigm though is that it lacks the analytical foundations that made the earlier ones both deliverable and measurable.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday post: The secret to happiness is...

LOW EXPECTATIONS, according to Psychologist Barry Schwartz in this TED talk, where he mostly talked about the problems of having too many choices. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to make hard choices -- a philosopher's suggestion

One of my research interests is to help people make better decisions, but in this TED talk Ruth Chang says there is not necessarily a better decision/alternative.  Apart from being better, worse or equal, an alternative could also be "on a par" with another.  The choices are hard because the alternatives on a par are in the same neighborhood of value, in the same league of value, while at the same time being very different in kind of value.

Hard choices are a godsend, because a world full of easy choices only would enslave us to reasons, according to Ruth.  In making hard decisions, she suggests us to put our very selves behind an option and create reasons, instead of drifting and allowing the world to write the story of our lives. 

If you have to toss a coin--create your own rule!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bounty hunters keep invasive species in check

At least for now another successful case where the Public are invited to join the force to control invasive species, reported Nature. 

Another successful example I saw recently was how community participation and adaptive management turned back the tide of American mink invasion in Scotland. 

Of course such a strategy does not always work, and the same article mentioned a couple of examples: pythons in Florida and red foxes in Australia.  The pythons proved tough to catch because they were hard to spot in the Florida brush, and the removal of 1/5 of Victoria red foxes ended up boosting the population because the survivors thrived when they had less competition. 

Here is a recent paper reviewing such public-involved harvest programs.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

TESSA: An ecosystem services valuation tool for non-expert use at a local level

A UK effort jointly developed by six institutions.  TESSA fits the gap for 'rapid appraisal' of ecosystem services that do not require substantial resources or specialist technical knowledge.  It is designed for local non-specialists. The figure above from this paper shows TESSA's methodological framework. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Scientists and the social network

According to a recent Nature survey, ResearchGate wins in quantity and Twitter stands out in terms of communication quality.

I have maintained my profile and uploaded papers to, which is not as popular as ResearchGate, but it is a lot less irritating.  I too find those automated emails that profess to come from colleagues active on the site annoying. is much less invasive by comparison, and I don't mind getting an email from them saying "This number of people searched for you just now."

I am sticking to for now, because for social scientists, usage of the two sites was more closely matched, according to the survey.  Also it has much higher web traffic than ResearchGate overall and is open to anyone to join, not just scientists.

In a long run though, I should start up a Twitter account at some stage...

Update:  Some believe though science communication and research productivity are incompatible, as reported in this Science piece on  "Who are the science starts of Twitter?"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Speical issue on Cognitive Perspectives on Group Decision and Negotiation

In the journal of Group Decision and Negotiation, Vol 22 (5).  

According to the special issue editor, "Cognitive research has mainly focused on individual tasks.  in order to design interventions that importer cognitive efficiency in collaborative tasks we seek to understand individual cognition in the context of collaborative tasks. This special issue therefore intends to spark a rather new perspective, or at least an increased emphasis, in research on group work and collaboration; the cognitive perspective."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bringing values and deliberation to science communication

A PNAS paper by UVM/GIEE colleague Thomas Dietz, where he proposed to use public participation as a mode of science communication. 

Some excerpts from the great paper:

1. Good decision-making should be factually competent, value-competent and adaptive.
2. Adaptive risk management, sometimes called adaptive risk governance, is a response to the challenges of uncertainty we face.  The core idea is that decision should take explicit account of uncertainty, facilitate social learning, maintain some flexibility, and revisit the decision periodically.  The idea is appealing, but implementing it will require careful thought about  how to engage both uncertain facts and uncertain values, and how to learn as we move forward.
3.  It is useful to distinguished three types of expertise we need or making decisions under uncertainty:  scientific, community and political.  Community expertise is what most members of he public develop in their day-to-day lives.  It is also the expertise on what the public cares about: expertise about values.  Political expertise is not only in values, but in what might work and what might not, given the stance of other political actors and the capacities of local organizations and institutions.  We have to meld these forms of expertise into an alloy that is better at informing decisions than any one form of expertise would be acting alone. 
4. "Policy analysis tools, such as benefit–cost analysis, assume agreement both on the values we assign to decision outcomes and on the appropriate process for reconciling value differences to reach a decision. However, people may differ not only in what they value but in how they believe value differences should be resolved."
5. When we acknowledge value differences, we are also accepting that our differences are going to be more difficult to reconcile than if they were based solely on different beliefs about the facts.
6.  Policy relevant but not policy prescriptive!  science cannot tell us what we should care about: Science has no privilege with regard to values.
7.  Get the science right + Get the right science.  Dialogue with those who carry political and community expertise can help scientists understand the constraints on decision making, the local context to which scientific analysis must be applied, and the issues of concern to those who will influence a decision and those who will be affected by it.