, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 998-1011
Date: 19 Aug 2012

Barriers and Opportunities for Integrating Social Science into Natural Resource Management: Lessons from National Estuarine Research Reserves

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Abstract

The need for cross-disciplinary scientific inquiries that facilitate improved natural resource management outcomes through increased understanding of both the biophysical and human dimensions of management issues has been widely recognized. Despite this broad recognition, a number of obstacles and barriers still sometimes challenge the successful implementation of cross-disciplinary approaches. Improving understanding of these challenges and barriers will help address them and thereby foster appropriate and effective utilization of cross-disciplinary approaches to solve natural resource management challenges. This research uses a case study analysis of the United States National Estuarine Research Reserve System to improve understanding of the critical factors that influence practitioners’ decisions related to incorporating social science into their natural resource management work. The case study research is analyzed and evaluated within a Theory of Planned Behavior framework to (1) determine and describe the factors that predict practitioners’ intent to incorporate social science into their natural resource related activities and (2) recommend potential strategies for encouraging and enabling cross-disciplinary approaches to natural resource management. The results indicate that National Estuarine Research Reserve practitioners’ decisions related to incorporating social science are primarily influenced by (1) confidence in their own capability to incorporate social science into their work and (2) beliefs about whether the outcomes of incorporating social science into their work would be valuable or beneficial.