Message from the Director, Mark Lubell
The mission of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior (CEPB) is scientific analysis of the interactions among policy institutions, human behavior, and political decisions in the context of environmental and natural resource conflicts. Through developing and testing theoretical models from social science, CEPB seeks to derive practical lessons that can be used to improve environmental policy.
I recently attended a Princeton conference on global governance, complex adaptive systems, and evolutionary theory. The conference was hosted by ecologist Simon Levin and political scientist Bob Keohane, and featured some of the world’s top scholars in these areas of research. Simon Levin, who has written extensively about complex adaptive systems and a gazillion other things, offered the analogy of the immune system as a way to think how water governance responds to risk and crises. Immune systems help maintain the function of biological organisms by responding quickly to invasions from external pathogens, or regulating rogue cells that might otherwise cause cancers.
Every year I teach a class in public lands management and environmental policy, where we discuss the roles of major political institutions like Congress, President, courts, and bureaucracy. For a fun participatory exercise, I always peruse the environmental platforms of the most current presidential candidates to see where they stand on public lands issues.
I just taught a week-long "R Bootcamp" to 200 R newbies. It went quite well, and I thought it would be valuable to jot down some thoughts on what worked and what I might change if doing it again.
Fine, I admit I like Twitter as an outreach tool. My fondness for Twitter was recently reinforced when I replied to a message from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) regarding the various agencies and planning processes around the Murray-Darling watershed in Australia. I was pleasantly surprised when the MDBA directly responded to a couple of questions that I posed regarding the complexity of the MDBA governance system.
Normal science involves the interaction between theory and observation. Theories generate observational predictions, and observations have implications for the acceptance or rejection of theories. This characterization of science implies the presence of a body of theory, or set of theoretical statements, that is adjusted and distilled over time within each scientific field. For the field of environmental social science (and other related disciplines that explore human-environment interactions), this body largely lives in the minds of researchers and practitioners. Historically there has not existed a set of materials that codifies important social and ecological concepts and the theories that relate these concepts in order to codify the state of scientific knowledge.
Mark Lubell included in NPR segment on California Water Conservation
Network of an interdisciplinary environmental social science lab as tied together by the journals we read. A few key journals, especially Social Networks, hold us together. R code follows.
The Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior, my grad lab, is remarkably interdisciplinary. For some sense of our breadth, consider that our nine core graduate students represent five different graduate programs: Ecology, Geography, Hydrology, Political Science, and Transportation Technology and Policy. That's great for many reasons, not least that it's an intellectually exciting environment in which to live, but it sometimes leaves me wondering what ties us together. So I thought I'd see if the journals we read could answer that question.
Social network research often focuses on the core of a network instead of the periphery. There are practical and theoretical reasons for this. The practical reason is that it is often difficult to measure the periphery of the network, for example peripheral actors are less likely to answer a survey or be mentioned by survey respondents. The theoretical reason is that many people think all of the “action” is in the core. For example, in policy networks, the core actors might have the most political resources and therefore have control over how policy decisions are made.
A major branch of my research is devoted to studying complex institutional systems, which I argue are the defining feature of real-world environmental governance and public policy more generally. Along with my colleagues (especially John Scholz and Ramiro Berardo) and students, we have updated the “ecology of games” idea originally developed by sociologist Norton Long in 1958 to describe the many different types of political actors and institutions operating in local political contexts. Our ecology of games framework (EGF) synthesizes a number of existing theoretical concepts, with a strong basis in the work of Elinor Ostrom and new institutional economics, network analysis, and complex adaptive systems.