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From “Science”, W. M. Adams (August 25, 2016),  p 867-868.

Conservation problems tend to be highly complex, encompassing both biological and social systems and their interactions. Even multidisciplinary research may not be able to deliver the insights needed to solve them. An approach that would solve this problem requires five levels.


Experts and expertise: Confronted with complex social-ecological systems, experts may vary markedly in their ideas and conclusions. The following three disciplines can contribute to making expertise an effective basis for conservation

Transdisciplinarity: Conservation research should seek learning that operates independently of disciplinary boundaries.

Diversity of knowledge: Both local and scientific expertise has contributions to make in terms of understanding system change and in building mutual trust.

Transparency: One practical strategy is to publish a post-mortem that can be understood by later planners and by stakeholders suspicious of scientific methods or analysis.

Speaking lion: Conservation success could be improved by effective openness and dialogue about alternative actions. Wittgenstein famously observed that “if a lion could speak, we couldn’t understand it.”

Conclusion: All worthy efforts, including conservation, product development, marketing and politics require these five levels to be successful.