In early 2006, following meetings of the CLEANER (Collaborative Large-Scale Engineering Analysis Network for Environmental Research) Social Science Committee and Executive Committee, plans were developed for a workshop on improving social science integration into CLEANER and other NSF Environmental Observatories (EOs). This effort was motivated by the realization that first, social, behavioral, and economic science theory and research were centrally important to resolving the major "grand challenge" questions being addressed by the observatories, and second, more coordinated research efforts across social science, natural science, and engineering disciplines were necessary to "rise to these challenges."
This report is the product of these early discussions. Developed for a National Science Foundation-funded workshop, "Integrating Social Science at NSF Observatories," held on January 24-26, 2007, in Arlington, Virginia, the goal of this paper is to address both fundamental research and process questions associated with social science integration at NSF EOs. Given the broad aims of this effort, the workshop and this report target ongoing observatory efforts including National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), the Water and Environmental Research Systems (WATERS) Network, and parallel developments within the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network, as well as addressing the lessons learned from past observatory initiatives, such as Collaborative Large-Scale Engineering Analysis Network for Environmental Research (CLEANER) and Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science (CUAHSI).
These observatories are intended to provide multidecadal, continent-scale platforms for environmental science data collection; however, for a variety of reasons, the process of integrating social science into these efforts needs improvement and encouragement. Because NEON and WATERS are now in the early stages of agenda setting, there is currently a window of opportunity to begin to address basic social science integration issues within ongoing infrastructure planning and decision-making. To this end, a workshop was convened to bring together program officers from participating NSF Directorates, members of the different observatories' leadership, and representatives of the broader community of social and natural scientists. The workshop discussions offered a wide range of ideas for long-term multidisciplinary research and identified many overarching research opportunities and process barriers to linking social and natural science data collection at the observatories.
This report builds on these discussions and expands on the implementation issues facing the EOs as they move toward greater social science integration and large-scale, long-term multidisciplinary research. We identify three research themes-human activities and behaviors, human impacts and responses, and human welfare and development-as opportunity areas for potential advances in core social environmental science research and future collaboration at the EOs. Based on lessons learned from ongoing integration efforts within NSF's Coupled NaturalHuman (CNH) program, the Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) priority area, and the LTER Network, we also identify four primary implementation issues-organization, funding, infrastructure, and data that are central to integration at the observatories. Each of these issues is individually described here, specifically in the context of improving integration, to lay the groundwork for integrated EO planning in the near term.
Finally, to build on the interest and enthusiasm for integration, evidenced by the support of both social and natural scientists for this workshop, and to maintain the momentum from these dynamic discussions, we also make several key recommendations targeted at the research and process issues outlined in this paper. We propose, in collaboration with NSF and the broad community of social and natural scientists to (1) initiate a demonsh·ation or test-bed project for integrated observation; (2) develop a cross-observatory advisory committee to guide integration efforts; (3) coordinate with the Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) Sciences Directorate at NSF to align incentives for social scientists to participate in observatory planning and agenda setting; (4) engage NSF and other funding agencies to design programs and funding vehicles to sustain collaborative observatory research in the long term; and (5) establish a center, modeled on the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), to encourage and strengthen observatory collaborations. These recommendations are only a first step toward integration, and we see this paper and workshop as important building blocks in ongoing efforts to address existing and emerging grand challenges in environmental science.
Vajjhala, Shalini; Alan Krupnick; Eleanor McCormick; Morgan Grove; Patricia McDowell; Charles Redman; Leonard Shabman; and Mitchell Small. "Rising to the Challenge: Integrating Social Science into NSF Environmental Observatories." (2007). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/lter_reports/35