Grappling with the Social Dimension of Australian Forestry: Re-Framing the ‘Social’ Problem through Research and Working with Forestry Practitioners

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Research on the social dimension of Australian forestry faces methodological challenges. Social sciences in this context have traditionally been under-developed (Williams et al. 2001). Selecting methodologies requires consideration of the research audience. Specifically, how they will accept the research and judge the quality based on their experience with social science and with particular scientific methods. Past research, taking a post-positivist approach to selecting method has been received as aligned with the technical expertise of forestry practitioners. A constructivist approach in this context would suggest that a re-framing of the ‘social’ problem in forestry is necessary to better understand assumptions about knowledge, and in order to cross the boundaries between forestry and social sciences. However, the experience of some social researchers in Australian NRM (Gill 2006, Roughley 2005) has been that the audience may not feel that this kind of re-framing is useful for them. This paper explores the experience of doing social research in this context with consideration for how practitioners make practical meaning.

Keywords: Forestry, Social Research, Methodologies, Post-Positivist, Constructivist
Stream: Natural, Environmental and Health Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Grappling with the Social Dimension of Australian Forestry

Caroline Dunn

PhD Student, School of Resource Management, Faculty of Land and Food Resources, University of Melbourne
Abbotsford, VIC, Australia

I began working on the CRC for Forestry Communities project in July 2006 after qualifying for a Master of Environment at The University of Melbourne. The interdisciplinary Master degree consisted of part coursework and part research and followed transition from my previous life as an accountant. I studied a range of academic disciplines; from biophysical sciences to anthropology and sociology. My research included social research based in Thailand around community forestry.
As a result, I am convinced that solutions for sustainable land management lie in bringing together different disciplines. In particular, social research has a lot to offer forest management, by helping to understand the community.

Ref: I08P0351