Q Bibliography: Armadas et al. on social-ecological vulnerability

Armatas, Christopher A., Tyron Venn, & Alan Watson (2016, May 12). Understanding social-ecological vulnerability with Q-methodology: A case study of water-based ecosystem services in Wyoming, USA. Sustainability Science. ePublication prior to print, DOI: 10.1007/s11625-016-0369-1) (Accessible: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11625-016-0369-1/fulltext.html)

Abstract: A broad range of participatory methods can be employed to understand the vulnerability of social-ecological systems threatened by various drivers of change including climate change and land-use change. Understanding this vulnerability is critical for managing natural resources, particularly water resources that flow across jurisdictional boundaries, and support conflicting uses. This paper demonstrates Q-methodology, a promising participatory method infrequently applied in the vulnerability context, with a case study investigation of the vulnerability of stakeholders reliant on water-based ecosystem services derived from the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming, USA. The approach identified four distinct viewpoints regarding vulnerability, including an environmental perspective, agricultural perspective, Native American perspective, and recreation perspective. The distinct viewpoints highlighted disparate levels of importance related to 34 water benefits, such as commercial irrigation, oil and natural gas extraction, river-based fishing, and cultural and spiritual use. A diverse range of drivers of change threatening important water benefits were also identified, including pollution, too much management intervention, and development of recreation opportunities. The potential benefits of Q-methodology for vulnerability assessment include a rank-ordering exercise that elicits preferences for tradeoffs, and statistical derivation of a small number of perspectives about the topic.

Christopher A Armatas <christopher.armatas> is a doctoral student in the College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT (USA).

Q Bibliography: Strickert et al. on viewpoints on water security

Strickert, Graham, Kwok Pan Chun, Lori Bradford, Douglas Clark, Patricia Gober, Maureen G. Reed, & Diana Payton (2016). Unpacking viewpoints on water security: Lessons from the South Saskatchewan River Basin. Water Policy, 18, 50-72.

Abstract: Water is essential for human development and the environment; however, its security is challenged by factors such as competing uses, over extraction, and divergent perspectives. The focus of this paper is to better understand how different stakeholders define water security in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, a large (121,095 km2) transboundary basin that exemplifies global water security challenges. Understanding the perceptions of water security held by water stewards across multiple jurisdictions working in the public, private, and civil society sectors is critical for policy formulation and implementation. We used Q-method during three workshops to identify the factors that summarize perceptions about water security from water stewards spanning two provinces in Canada. Participants perceived that water security is linked to sustainability through concerns for intergenerational equity, ecosystem maintenance, and ‘balanced’ growth. Study participants generally disagreed with framings of water security that were shorter, self-centred, and narrow. We find some support for risk and vulnerability based framings of water security which centred on ‘reliability’ and ‘limited resources’ as core themes. In particular, the geographic and jurisdictional location, as well as the roles of water stewards affected the relative importance of core themes about water security.

Graham Strickert <graham.strickert@usask.ca> is with the Global Institute for Water Security, National Hydrology Research Centre. All authors are from the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada.

Q Bibliography: West, Cairns, and Schultz on what constitutes a successful biodiversity corridor

West, Simon, Rose Cairns, & Lisen Schultz (2016, May). What constitutes a successful biodiversity corridor? A Q-study in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Biological Conservation, 198, 183-192.

Abstract: ‘Success’ is a vigorously debated concept in conservation. There is a drive to develop quantitative, comparable metrics of success to improve conservation interventions. Yet the qualitative, normative choices inherent in decisions about what to measure — emerging from fundamental philosophical commitments about what conservation is and should be — have received scant attention. We address this gap by exploring perceptions of what constitutes a successful biodiversity corridor in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa, an area of global biodiversity significance. Biodiversity corridors are particularly illustrative because, as interventions intended to extend conservation practices from protected areas across broader landscapes, they represent prisms in which ideas of conservation success are contested and transformed. We use Q method to elicit framings of success among 20 conservation scientists, practitioners and community representatives, and find three statistically significant framings of successful corridors: ‘a last line of defence for biodiversity under threat,’ ‘a creative process to develop integrative, inclusive visions of biodiversity and human wellbeing,’ and ‘a stimulus for place-based cultural identity and economic development.’ Our results demonstrate that distinct understandings of what a corridor is — a planning tool, a process of governing, a territorialized place — produce divergent framings of ‘successful’ corridors that embody diverse, inherently contestable visions of conservation. These framings emerge from global conservation discourses and distinctly local ecologies, politics, cultures and histories. We conclude that visions of conservation success will be inherently plural, and that in inevitably contested and diverse social contexts success on any terms rests upon recognition of and negotiation with alternative visions

Simon West <simon.west@su.se> is a PhD student at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm.

Q Bibliography: Howard et al. on notions of fairness in Fair-trade Carbon Projects

Howard, Rebecca J., Anne M. Tallontire, Lindsay C. Stringer, & Rob A. Marchant (2016, February). Which “fairness”, for whom, and why? An empirical analysis of plural notions of fairness in Fairtrade Carbon Projects, using Q methodology. Environmental Science & Policy, 56, 100-109. (doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2015.11.009) (Open access text available: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1462901115301106)


  • Uses Q methodology to identify three factors on fairness in carbon projects.
  • Links factors with contested fair trade and carbon processes and practices.
  • Maps key fault lines in fair carbon debates onto theoretical dimensions of fairness.
  • Signals need to make fairness definitions explicit when designing Fairtrade standards.

Abstract: Fairness is a relative concept with multiple, subjective and competing notions of what it is, how to achieve it, and for which beneficiaries. Fairtrade International’s collaborative efforts to develop a standard to certify Fairtrade Carbon Credits (FCCs) brought together multiple stakeholders in a deliberative context. This paper uses Q methodology to empirically assess the notions of fairness this wider consultation group held. Three distinct ‘factors’ (or perspectives) are identified, and discussed in relation to a multi-dimensional framework for exploring fairness. The first factor prioritises development delivered through organisations, participation in decision-making and use of minimum prices to adjust trade imbalances. The second factor conceptualises a non-exclusive approach maximising generation and sales of FCCs, involving a commodity chain where everyone performs their optimum function with financial transparency and information-sharing to facilitate negotiations. The third factor involves minimising intervention, allowing carbon commodity chains and project set-ups to function efficiently, and make their own adjustments to enhance benefits access and quality received by beneficiaries. The three factors reflect debates within carbon and fair trade spheres about who should be playing which roles, who should be accessing which benefits, and how people should be supported to interact on an uneven playing field. Communicating findings to standards organisations enables a more open and inclusive policy process. Our research provides a critical reflection on these plural notions of fairness, identifying areas of (dis)agreement within the FCC dialogue, and provides a wider, yet manageable, set of inputs for supporting the FCC process during its inception and subsequent implementation. Clearer definitions of “fairness” are also useful for standards organisations in reviewing ex post whether “fairness” goals have been met.

Rebecca J Howard <R.J.Howard12@leeds.ac.uk> is with the Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK.

Q Bibliography: Chandran et al. on designing a transboundary enforcement monitoring system

Chandran, Remi, Robert Hoppe, W.T. De Vries, & Yola Georgiadou (2015, October 15). Conflicting policy beliefs and informational complexities in designing a transboundary enforcement monitoring system. Journal of Cleaner Production, 105, 447-460. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.12.068) (previously posted as in press)


Recognizing the need for a crowd sourced geospatial decision support system to monitor wildlife crime, in 2005, a team of scientists at the United Nations University (UNU) designed a GIS-based transboundary monitoring system, called Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System (WEMS). The tool was intended to support the compliance monitoring task of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES Secretariat questioned the WEMS prototype due to the significant role it accorded to certain Non-governmental organizations in the information collection process. Subsequently, it led to the redesign of WEMS, where governments were the custodians of enforcement information. In this paper, we explain why the previous NGO based design of WEMS was a concern for CITES secretariat. We applied Q methodology, a research method used to study people’s “subjectivity”, to elicit the ways of thinking of wildlife conservation actors in India, Japan and Thailand, countries where the NGO based WEMS were intended to be piloted. Our analysis revealed four competing perspectives of wildlife conservation, namely – ecocentrism, mix of neoliberalism and anthropocentrism, authoritarianism and scientific rationalism; each with a particular implication on the adoption of a decision support system to monitor wildlife crime. The findings of our study reveal that scientific experts cannot expect unwavering support from the other groups for their aspirations, though they agree that some form of science mechanism is one way forward in bringing a policy consensus. We conclude that, transboundary enforcement information sharing is a complex problem where information system designers or policy makers alone cannot judge its acceptance within a policy context. Since very few studies have been carried out on linking the actor-belief dynamics in a decision support system and its use in environmental policy making within the context of a MEA, this study brings more insight in understanding the inherent policy challenges in information sharing within MEAs and broadly, across the disciplines of environmental governance.

Remi Chandran <r.chandran> <chandran.remi@nies.go.jp> is in the Department of Earth Observation Science, University of Twente, The Netherlands, and the Center for Social and Environmental Systems Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba-City, Japan. He is responsible for having developed the Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System (WEMS) (see Government Information Quarterly, 28, 231-238).

Corresponding author. Center for Social and Environmental Systems Research,
National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba-City, 305-
8506 Ibaraki, Japan.

Winner of the 2009 Harold Lasswell Award for best article in Policy Sciences

The Harold Lasswell Prize for the best article in the 2009 volume of the journal Policy Sciences has gone to the following:

Rutherford, Murray B., Michael L. Gibeau, Susan G. Clark, & Emily C. Chamberlain (2009 May). Interdisciplinary problem solving workshops for grizzly bear conservation in Banff National Park, Canada. Policy Sciences, 42(2), 163-187.

Abstract. We used the policy sciences as an organizing framework for a series of workshops with stakeholders in Banff National Park on “Interdisciplinary problem solving for grizzly bear conservation and management”. In recent years, bear conservation efforts in this region have been hindered by acrimonious disputes about the production and use of scientific knowledge in management. The workshops introduced the policy sciences as a means of thinking more effectively about problems, and encouraged participants to use this approach to develop innovative solutions to the problems of grizzly bear conservation. Each workshop addressed different aspects of the policy sciences framework: (i) Standpoint Clarification; (ii) Problem Orientation; (iii) Social Process Mapping; and (iv) Decision-Process Mapping. In this article, we discuss the design and outcomes of the workshops and assess their effectiveness in integrating knowledge to find common ground.

Although it does not say so in the abstract, Q methodology was critical to this study. Q Method appears among the keywords and was instrumental in establishing the various stakeholder standpoints referred to in point (i) above. Murray Rutherford and Emily Chamberlain are in the School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. (Rutherford was the program chair for the 2005 Vancouver Q conference.) Michael Gibeau is with Parks Canada, Mountain National Parks, Lake Louise, AB, Canada. Susan Clark is in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.

This is the second year in a row in which a Q-based study has won the journal’s Lasswell Award, the 2008 winner being David G. Ockwell’s “‘Opening up’ policy to reflexive appraisal: A role for Q methodology? A case study of fire management in Cape York, Australia”, Policy Sciences, 41(4), 263-292. It is also worth remembering that the 1999 Lasswell Award winner went to the Q study by David Pelletier et al., “The shaping of collective values through deliberative democracy: An empirical study from New York’s North Country” Policy Sciences, 32, 103-131. And while on the topic, it is also worth remembering that the best article of 2001 in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (vol. 20, pp. 391-414) went to Michel van Eeten for his “Recasting intractable policy issues: The wider implications of The Netherlands civil aviation controversy”.