Bridging Physical and Social Sciences to Unlock New Potential for Addressing Interconnected Resource Challenges
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As urbanizing cities work toward sustainable resource planning, particular attention must be given to the interdependence of interconnected resource challenges. Coherent policies, strengthened by and consistent with, the research understanding of the challenges and their interdependencies, are necessary for sustainable resource allocation. Enabling Environments must be created that allow: 1) development of interdisciplinary research, 2) cross-sectoral stakeholder cooperation in planning resource allocations, and 3) appropriate levels of engagement and exchange of information between researchers and related stakeholders. This dissertation focuses on opportunities for bringing together the knowledge accumulated in understanding and quantifying the interconnections between resource systems with theories in social science and their application. Building on common pool resources and collective action theory, the work uses social network analysis to understand the interactions between stakeholders governing interconnected resource systems. Using convergence theory, a methodology and criteria are developed for assessing the extent to which researchers and stakeholders tend to converge on topics related to the resource challenges, thereby reducing feedback cycles and increasing information exchange and support. This is accomplished through two surveys, in the context of a model resource hotspot in San Antonio, Texas: a growing, urbanizing population with major agricultural activity, situated above the Eagle Ford shale play’s growing hydraulic fracturing development. The study’s main outcomes follow. 1) Identification of challenges faced in developing an interdisciplinary research team, i.e. defining the study region’s physical boundaries, establishing dependency relations between sub-groups, data incompatibilities, varying data access, and funding. 2) Modest levels of communication exist between water institutions, but very low levels of communication exist between water institutions and those responsible for food and energy decisions. Frequency of communication among officials at different water institutions was higher among those who participated in stakeholder engagement activities: significant only in the communication among water officials themselves. Main institutional barriers to higher levels of communication between cross sectoral stakeholders include finance, structure, capacity, or differences in language, interest and value systems. 3) Aspects of convergence were identified between the perspectives of researchers and regional stakeholders on issues of water, energy, and food in the San Antonio Region. Similar aspects of convergence were found in the perspectives of both groups regarding the Texas Water Development Board strategies with the greatest or least potential. Both groups converged on water as a first priority, but not on their perspective of the direction of future regional priorities: they differed in their rankings of energy and food (second and third priorities). The study also indicated convergence regarding potential roles of “increased communication” and “information sharing between agencies” as a means to improve cooperation and address interconnected resource challenges. To realize these potentials, institutional mechanisms and finances for such activities should be revisited: addressing communication barriers is critical to developing cooperative stakeholder environments that allow long-term planning for resource allocation that avoids potentially unintended consequences.
Improved cross-sectoral communication
Daher, Bassel (2019). Bridging Physical and Social Sciences to Unlock New Potential for Addressing Interconnected Resource Challenges. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from