From Practical Science to a Practice Based Approach: A Short History of Forest Policy Studies

  • K. Freerk Wiersum
  • Bas Arts
  • Jim van Laar
Part of the World Forests book series (WFSE, volume 14)


This chapter presents a short history of forest policy studies, with the aim of situating the practice based approach of this book. Forest policy studies emerged as a sub-discipline within forestry science in the mid-20th century. Its early focus was strongly influenced by traditional forestry science, but since then it has evolved. The chapter first explores the basic characteristics of forestry science that prevailed when forest policy analysis emerged, and identifies the disciplinary matrix underlying conventional forestry science. The next sections describe how forest policy studies’ normative view on professional practice changed into an analytical perspective on governance processes, and how a critical perspective on policy practices has recently been added to the discipline’s repertoire. During this process, the conceptualisation of the ‘forestry practitioner’ gradually widened from professional foresters to include both forest policy makers and laymen practitioners. Concomitantly, the role of the forest policy scientists has gradually changed, from (1) advising foresters, to (2) explaining policy dynamics, to (3) reflecting upon the social practices of scientists, policy makers and professional foresters alike.


Forest policy studies Practical science Analytical science Critical studies Practice based approach Disciplinary matrix 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forest and Nature Conservation Policy GroupWageningenThe Netherlands

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