The significance of meaning. Why IPBES needs the social sciences and humanities

Jens Jetzkowitz*, C.S.A. van Koppen, Rolf Lidskog, Konrad Ott, Lieske Voget-Kleschin, Catherine Mei Ling Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The term “biodiversity” is often used to describe phenomena of nature, which can be studied without a reference to the socially constructed, evaluative, or indeed normative contexts. In our paper, we challenge this conception by focusing particularly on methodological aspects of biodiversity research. We thereby engage with the idea of interdisciplinary biodiversity research as a scientific approach directed at the recognition and management of contemporary society in its ecological embedding. By doing this, we explore how research on and assessments of biodiversity can be enhanced if meaning, aspiration, desires, and related aspects of agency are methodically taken into account. In six sections, we substantiate our claim that the discourse on biodiversity (including the IPBES (Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) debate) is incomplete without contributions from the social sciences and humanities. In the introduction, a brief overview of biodiversity’s conceptual history is provided showing that “biodiversity” is a lexical invention intended to create a strong political momentum. However, that does not impede its usability as a research concept. Section 2 examines the origins of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by way of sociological discourse analysis. Subsequently, it proposes a matrix as a means to structure the ambiguities and tensions inherent in the CBD. The matrix reemphasizes our main thesis regarding the need to bring social and ethical expertise to the biodiversity discourse. In Section 3, we offer a brief sketch of the different methods of the natural and social sciences as well as ethics. This lays the groundwork for our Section 4, which explains and illustrates what social sciences and ethics can contribute to biodiversity research. Section 5 turns from research to politics and argues that biodiversity governance necessitates deliberative discourses in which participation of lay people plays an important role. Section 6 provides our conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S38-S60
JournalInnovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research
Volume31
Issue numbersup1
Early online date14 Jul 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Keywords

  • biodiversity
  • ethics
  • foundations of biodiversity research
  • IPBES
  • methodology
  • science–policy interface
  • social sciences

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