DDD Conference

Prof. Colin MacDougall

Ecological Climate Health Research Beyond Numbers

Flinders University and University of Melbourne, Australia

Climate change, drought and desertification combine ecological, economic, political and moral problems. Multiple streams of political theory helps us understand what researchers can do to increase the chances that their work reaches crowded policy agendas. This happens when three streams of problem definition, policy formulation and political will converge. Science and numbers are excellent for defining the problem. Policy development requires co-production with communities and policy makers using qualitative data to craft credible proposals. Despite the use of knowledge transfer and exchange strategies, influencing the political stream remains a methodological problem. Researchers can act as policy entrepreneurs, synthesising action research methods to bring the problem, policy and politics streams together.

This paper draws lessons from two Australian case studies about promising methodologies mixing qualitative and quantitative methods. The first reflects on empirical research into a decade long drought in South Australia showing how co-production of local mixed methods data with policy makers produced credible policy proposals. The second describes published research into the long Queensland drought, calling for a new combination of scientific and community indicators and knowledge.

The paper concludes with a call to action for Australian researchers to redress centuries of colonialism in science and water management. This requires mixed methods research informed by Indigenous epistemology and strengths-based approaches. Examples of this approach show how two way learning between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers helps each to walk together towards decolonising research for the sake of the planet.

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