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Interdisciplinarity in biodiversity project evaluation: A work in progress

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JournalWildlife research
DatePublished - 1 Jan 2013
Issue number2
Volume40
Pages (from-to)163-168
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

A range of methodological frameworks is available to assist decision-makers with evaluations of projects concerned with biodiversity conservation (the protection, management or restoration of biodiversity), but their uptake has been relatively limited. Some researchers suggest a lack of research interest to be one contributory factor, in particular in relation to the application of interdisciplinary approaches that integrate methods from the natural and social sciences, despite the insights that such approaches can bring. We evaluated this assertion by examining the provenance of some examples of current research in this area. Specifically, we compared two exemplar papers published in a conservation journal and one in an interdisciplinary ecological economics journal. We scored the cited references in each paper according to standard subject categories. These scores were then weighted and aggregated to give an overall quantified subject category distribution for each of the three focal papers. Comparison of the three papers revealed an expected dominance of subject categories most closely aligned with ecological science. However, there were different patterns of provenance in the three papers. One paper from the conservation journal was dominated by citations of other papers in the biodiversity conservation literature. The second paper from the conservation journal and the paper from the ecological economics journal displayed similar overall patterns of disciplinary provenance, although they diverged in disciplinary provenance for the less commonly cited disciplines, such as the social sciences. Our results suggest that research in biodiversity project evaluation may be developing along at least three, relatively distinct, pathways rather than as a genuinely interconnected research theme. This is likely to hinder progress in research but also in practical application of the techniques, in terms of reducing the likelihood of identifying inadequate, inappropriate or inefficient conservation investments. There is still considerable opportunity for further collaboration in the areas of biodiversity evaluation among researchers in a range of disciplines, including ecology, economics, statistics, forestry and wildlife management. Biodiversity conservation evaluation is a growing field, but its potential is unlikely to be fulfilled unless biodiversity researchers seek to develop a more integrated community, and particularly, to learn from researchers in other disciplines where evaluation has a longer history.

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