Bringing it all together

Linking economists and other social scientists to ICES integrated ecosystem assessment network.
Published: 2 April 2020

​​​Since 2010, ICES has increasingly combined social, economic, and natural sciences within the integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA) process. Recently, the Workshop on Challenges, Opportunities, Needs and Successes for including human dimensions in IEAs (WKCONSERVE) brought more players to the table, matchmaking the established IEA groups with social scientists and economists from outside ICES network and developing a roadmap for the inclusion of social and economic data and analyses in each IEA.

Jörn Schmidt, WKCONSERVE co-chair highlighted the progress over the past decade. “We started in 2010 with the Workshop on Introducing coupled ecological – economic modelling and risk assessment into management tools (WKIMM) where we managed to get economists and ecologists together on modeling. Since then we have come a long way, and it is great to see the progress."

With WKBEMIA in 2012, WKRISCO in 2014, the establishment of the Strategic Initiative on the Human Dimension in 2015, WKIDEA in 2016, and now WKCONSERVE, ICES has expanded its understanding that the involvement of wider civil society needs to be taken into account for IEAs to be effectively utilized in advice and management.

The organizers of WKCONSERVE point out how such meetings increase ICES social and economic capacity while also engaging a wider network who contribute to our work. “The key here is our IEA network", explains Mette Skern-Mauritzen, co-chair, “They have focused on what is happening in the natural system. Now, at this workshop we have brought in economists and social scientists - to understand what the societal needs are for that information."

Match makers

Eva Lotte Sundblad, co-chair, notes that creating these expert groups is essential to bringing ideas and people together. “We understand that we need these people but we don't always know where to find them. Now they are in the room with us. This is the first time this type of matchmaking has happened in one of our meetings. Also, since the establishment of WGECON​ and WGSOCIAL, we have a cluster of about 50 people that are available for the IEA groups and the rest of ICES. These are people that can meet with our demands and we can discuss with them."

Co-chair Alan Haynie explains the match-making element. “In this meeting, we had a diversity of our IEA groups present. We looked at common elements across these groups - types of data and research - but also at the specific special cases and issues of each of the ecoregions, considered the particular challenges that those groups face, and connected the group with the right people on the social science side."

“However", he emphasizes “this is a process. We will continue to become more integrated, we still have a long way to go. As we do this, we solve a bunch of problems and answer questions but then find there are a bunch of new questions and problems to solve."

The presence of several participants from NOAA's IEA programme generated discussions about the US experience. The US has had longer experience and involvement with social scientists in the process. Haynie feels that the reason for this is that there has been more institutional commitment to support the researchers in the process in the US whereas in Europe there is not as much support for IEA scientists. “Non-economic social scientists are not part of the national research agencies in Europe – whereas we do have those in NOAA – so that's one structural difference and one of the challenges for European countries".

Including the human dimension in IEAs

Martin Lindegren, chair of ICES/HELCOM Working Group on Integrated Assessments of the Baltic Sea (WGIAB), wanted the workshop to provide a list of socio-economic objectives and indicators - or at least a roadmap for how to identify these - a meta-database of information needed to estimate these indicators, and any ideas on reference levels (i.e., what constitutes a good or bad status of various indicators). Afterwards he commented, “I think WKCONSERVE managed to outline a solid framework and roadmap by which the various WGs involved in IEAs and human dimensions (including WKBESIO, WGECON, and WGSOCIAL) can work together toward identifying and including socio-economic objectives and indicators as part of IEAs."

Including human dimensions is still only an occasional occurrence, explains Sonja van Leeuan, co-chair of the Working Group on Integrated, Physical-biological and Ecosystem Modelling (WGIPEM). “As a group, we want to have more structural inclusion and to feed human dimensions into our work, not just the other way around. This workshop helped in sketching out our position, and gave very valuable connections and examples we can use to try and interest our membership in including the human part of the ecosystem. It also showed that our specialty (ecosystem modelling) is very suitable as a way of including human dimensions in marine ecosystem assessments, whether they be IEAs or ecosystem overviews."

MSEAS 2020

The upcoming Marine Socio-Ecological Systems: Navigating global change in the marine environment (MSEAS 2020) symposium is due to take place in Yokohama, Japan (original dates postponed 6–12 months due to COVID 19 disruption) and will focus on the integrated assessment of multiple ocean uses across sectors. The emphasis will be on the methodological and empirical challenges involved in including the human dimensions in integrated ecosystem assessments.

Understanding these complex social-ecological systems is a challenging new area of research that combines multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary components. The integrated marine focus is relatively new, as previous research efforts have either been terrestrially focused or dealt primarily with single sectors.

Read the full report from WKCONSERVE now.​

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Bringing it all together

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