New book from US university to help address "wicked problems"

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/7/2 6:57:20

A group of scholars have written about a number of past "wicked problems" that confounded the society, economy, environment and politics in the United States.

Writing for a new book, just published by the Oregon State University Press, Robert Lackey, a fisheries biologist who has worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Oregon State University (OSU), tackles the issue of wild salmon recovery in the US Pacific Northwest.

Lackey argues that the science and technology to restore wild salmon runs is available, but the solutions ultimately would be too restrictive and divisive to succeed. The billions of US dollars spent on salmon recovery to make minute inroads into the solution might be considered "guilt money," he writes, noting that "it is money spent on activities not likely to achieve recovery of wild salmon, but it helps people feel better as they continue the behaviors and choices that preclude the recovery of wild salmon."

Another such issue in the book addresses the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as "fracking." The process involves injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc., so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas. Written by Christopher Weible and Tanya Heikkila of the University of Colorado at Denver, the essay explores how professional expertise, personal values, and affiliation with different groups affects how people approach the issue, and how the process might be regulated.

By addressing these challenges and proposing problem-solving methodologies to tackle wicked problems, the scholars, together with their editors, hope to help guide the United States through its current era of political polarization and complex issues.

The essays were compiled into the book, titled "New Strategies for Wicked Problems: Science and Solutions in the 21st Century."

Editors Edward Weber, Denise Lach and Brent Steel of the School of Public Policy at OSU, explore whether there is need for a new social contract for scientists and policy implementation, arguing that plans to address issues are often rushed and lack sufficient time for implementation, and the timetable for addressing such issues rarely matches funding cycles. And in addition, leadership needs training, not only on issues, but on how to engage stakeholders and collaborate on processes.

"We also hope to energize the scholarly and practitioner-based conversations and real-world practices around these topics in ways that help leaders and stakeholders imagine new possibilities, conduct new experiments in implementation, and, ultimately, make even more progress in the ongoing, difficult battle against wicked problems and their less-than-desirable effects for society as a whole," they write in the concluding essay.

While expressing the hope to provide much-needed guidance to policymakers, citizens, public managers and other stakeholders, Marty Brown, marketing manager for the OSU Press, was quoted as claiming in a news release from the university this week that "the book will appeal to scholars, students and decision-makers wrestling with wicked problems and 'post-normal' science settings beyond simply environment and natural resource-based issues."

Posted in: BOOKS

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