This post is Rachael’s summary of the Focal Scales, Knowing Spaces and Methods of the Nexus workshop session run by Dr Saurabh Arora from SPRU.
Introducing the workshop, Saurabh Arora suggested that the nexus can be viewed at many different focal scales, creating scope for diverse framings of nexus characteristics and challenges and also that these diverse framings are possible because of the methods we adopt.
Nexus Methods and their limitations
The workshop kicked off by participants considering a framework of 100 research methods, which Saurabh developed with Professor Andy Stirling, highlighting the huge diversity of ways of framing and understanding nexus issues.
Saurabh argued of the use of multiple methods and warned that any single method carries in it the framing of the researcher, often with unspoken assumptions on the application of the method which creates ambiguity and uncertainty. Acknowledging the ambiguity of data produced using a particular method is important, because the data have been produced with associated assumptions and framings.
Some participants argued, however, that there can be exceptions to using multiple methods and that some closed methods can be of value.
New methods, same answers?
During the discussion some asked if we need new methods to fully understand complex nexus issues and to understand the nexus as a whole rather than using a different method for each interconnected sector. But would different methods give the same answers?
The discussion highlighted the contention around the combination of social and natural science methods and perspectives within one area of research. Although many argue that it is necessary to incorporate a transdisciplinary approach to understanding nexus issues, across both social and natural sciences, there continue to be differences in the way these issues are framed and researched.
The potential for developing a new method, or suite of methods, for researching nexus issues was again stressed by some. When explicitly considering complex nexus issues, the development of a new method may be able to incorporate social and natural science perspectives and bridge transdisciplinary boundaries from the outset.
a new set of criteria
Saurabh put forward a new set of criteria for approaching food-energy-water-environment issues:
- broadening out inputs
- opening up outputs
- politics and policy