Archive for March, 2012

Tackling the Complex Relationship Between Forests and Society

Interview with IUFRO Division 9 Coordinator Daniela Kleinschmit

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Daniela Kleinschmit is Coordinator of IUFRO Division 9 “Forest Policy and Economics”. She is heading the unit on forest policy research at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

Photo provided by Daniela Kleinschmit

Q: Dr. Kleinschmit, how did you get involved in IUFRO and in how far has your work and career in IUFRO been beneficial for your scientific endeavors?

A.: I got involved in IUFRO about 12 years ago thanks to the supervisor of my PhD thesis, Max Krott. My first IUFRO conference was the World Congress in Kuala Lumpur in 2000. It was fascinating to meet peers from all over the world and exchange ideas, experiences and knowledge. Personal contacts are particularly helpful for developing transnational research projects and writing or organizing publications such as special issues of journals. In addition, a network like IUFRO helps to raise awareness for new triggering questions.

Q.: You are the Coordinator of IUFRO’s youngest Division which has been established in response to the growing need of giving social sciences more room in IUFRO. Does IUFRO respond adequately to the current trends in forest policy and economics research today and what will be future needs?

A.: The continuously increasing need for social sciences is well recognized in the forest research area. For this reason, IUFRO’s decision to establish a new, second Division for social science was just timely. And IUFRO is making efforts to integrate this concentrated competence with that of other disciplines, e.g. by means of the Task Forces, in order to respond to those current environmental and social challenges that demand an interdisciplinary understanding. Nevertheless, if IUFRO wants to attract more researchers with a social science perspective we might need to carefully reconsider the institutional settings of our network.

Q.: Division 9 is entitled “Forest Policy and Economics”. Is there a linkage between these areas?

A.: Division 9 represents a range of diverse areas of social science besides economic and political science, e.g. historical science or jurisprudence. All of these areas are concerned with the complex relationship between forests and society but the concepts and methodologies used may vary.

Q.: There will be an all-Division 9 meeting in May in Sarajevo, BosniaHerzegovina, where the latest trends and findings in the forest policy and economics area will be presented. What is the expected outcome of this conference?

A.: It will be the first meeting of the new Division and therefore a great opportunity for the different groups to get in contact with each other. But besides this more general goal we aim to identify what in particular is needed from social science when it comes to key political questions concerning forests. Beyond that, the closely linked “Directors’ Forum” will address questions on governance and participatory management of forest research.

Q.: Division 9 also covers information and communication. You have always had a keen interest in forest science communication and led a former IUFRO Task Force related to this topic. Why is science communication important and how can it be strengthened?

A.: From my point of view communicating science is crucial to bridge the gap between science and society, not least because it can enhance the acceptance and legitimacy of science. We can use already existing competence and structures as those in our Division, for example, to strengthen science communication. However, we may need to further link the existing capacities with each other and with the demands as well.

Q.: The next IUFRO World Congress will be in October 2014 in Salt Lake City, USA. Do you have any plans for your Division for the Congress?

A.: We are already in contact with the Congress organizers. We will use our upcoming All Division 9 conference in May to channel our activities.

IUFRO All Division 9 Conference
9-11 May 2012, Sarajevo, BosniaHerzegovina  
http://www.foper.org/iufro_1.html

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IUFRO Spotlight #6 – Putting Experts to the Test

Putting Experts to the Test

PDF for download

By: Jurij Beguš, Coordinator, IUFRO 9.01.03 Extension and Knowledge Exchange
(Slovenia Forest Service, Department for Forestry Technique)

Expert knowledge – advice and-or recommendations from those who have spent much time researching and learning about a given subject area – is often used by resource managers who do not themselves have the time or resources to collect all the data necessary to make a sound decision.

That expert knowledge, which can be used in highly diverse situations in various ecosystems and geographical areas, can assist with forest management, eco- regionalization, species conservation or environmental impact assessment.

But some skepticism also surrounds the use of expert knowledge. Simply saying: “This is based on expert opinion,” doesn’t really cut it.

That’s because that knowledge can be collected, analyzed and used inconsistently. At times there is no documentation to say who provided the knowledge, what specific knowledge was provided or how it was evaluated and applied.

That makes it difficult to verify the accuracy of the information or to replicate the process. Because of that, it also leaves hanging in the air the question of just how credible and useful the expert opinion actually is.

But now, a writing team led by Dr. Ajith Perera of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ Ontario Forest Research Institute, has published a book that shows scientists and forest decision-makers alike that, when proper methods of collecting and applying expert knowledge are used, it can be a very valuable resource.

The book – Expert Knowledge and Its Application in Landscape Ecology – takes scientifically rigorous methods of collecting and using expert knowledge that have been developed in other disciplines and then adapts those for use in resource management and ecology.

The book introduces the concept of expert knowledge and describes its applicability, advantages and challenges. It includes definitions, methods and many case studies from across North America and Australia. It provides insight into what expert knowledge is, who can be considered experts and methods and applications of expert knowledge for a variety of conservation and management-related issues.

Some of the examples of how and where expert knowledge can be used in forest management and policy development include:

  • Developing interim recommendations for best forest practices;
  • Informing and calibrating decision support systems; and
  • Interpreting maps and other data sources.

The book was produced partly because there is a need to structure the collection, analysis and use of expert knowledge so that it more closely adheres to the scientific method as practiced in empirical research. But it also helps meet a need to capture and archive expertise and knowledge that is rapidly dwindling in many forest management agencies where field experts retire and, for a variety of reasons, are not replaced.

Currently, expert knowledge is widely used in many countries. But, with this publication as a guide, expert knowledge can be even better used – in all countries.

For more information about Expert Knowledge and Its Application in Landscape Ecology, please go to:
http://www.springer.com/life+sciences/ecology/book/978-1-4614-1033-1

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Media Contact

Jurij Beguš: +386-1-4700071 or jurij.begus(at)zgs.gov.si
Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)iufro.org

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Related Links

Publication: Expert Knowledge and Its Application in Landscape Ecology, http://www.springer.com/life+sciences/ecology/book/978-1-4614-1033-1

IUFRO Working Party 9.01.03 – Extension and knowledge exchange: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-9/90000/90100/90103/

IUFRO Division 9 – Forest Policy and Economics: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-9/90000/

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Photo Credits

“Expert knowledge elicitation workshop in Ontario, Canada: Expert foresters are providing details of boreal forest succession pathways, based on their professional experience, to parameterize a forest landscape dynamics simulation model”.  Photo taken by Ajith Perera.