Mapping for Decision-makingpublished Nov 16, 2018 1:34pm
Addressing wicked challenges like climate change, natural hazards, and water resource planning requires working across and between time, space, jurisdictional, institutional, management, and social networks to improve societal outcomes (Cash et al., 2006). Thinking about time, space, and complex systems are key foci of geoscience education (Kastens et al., 2009) that make our discipline especially important to problem-solving. But while we feature programs designed around these learning goals, we may not be providing our students with what they need to work with communities facing the consequences of our planning and response networks. Improving connectivity between scientists and the community is central to science literacy and improving community outcomes (NAS, 2016). If we seek to build science literacy in our courses what are the strategies that help our students build criss-cross (i.e. across disciplines and from science to socio-cultural structures) and cross-level thinking (i.e. between levels. e.g. moving between patch, region and globe)? We have the opportunity to reinforce central learning of the geosciences and build connectivity across scales and socio-cultural structures. There is some evidence that geoscience educators could do more to connect earth systems and processes to local decisions. Recently, 263 geoscience faculty responded to a survey assessing current civic and societal issue practices in courses and programs (Fortner and Wilson, 2018). One question asked: Do any of the courses you teach require students to make connections between the geosciences and societal decision making? Faculty were asked to respond yes, no, or unsure at global, national, regional, state, and local or campus levels. Below are the yes responses.
Faculty most frequently taught societal connections with decision making at global scales (75.9%) and responses fell as the scale decreased. Less than half (45.6%) of all geoscience faculty reported teaching societal connections at local or campus scales. Interestingly, 80% of those who teach societal issues at local scales also teach at all other levels. Faculty who teach societal decision making in a local context are also more likely to criss-cross between geoscience and socio-cultural perspectives central to science literacy. Those who reported teaching earth issues at local levels were 35% more likely to report that they included diverse or underrepresented minority perspectives in their courses and 36% more likely to include current regulations and legislation. Exploring local geoscience society issues may make criss-crossing more likely. For example, community development initiatives may be ideal places for land use or stormwater planning. Local code ordinances may impact vacant lot development. Issues like community development may be how the community relates to the geosciences. This idea of improving connectivity to the issues that are at the front of community conversations aligns with ideas of Van der Linden et al., 2015 on tips to improve public climate engagement. A focus on present local connections, experiential activities, social group norms, near future positive outcomes, and pleas to support intrinsically valued outcomes all help build trust and connections (Van der Linden et al., 2015).
In sum, we highlight opportunities and challenges to bringing natural and social sciences together to support community decision making: 1) the special skills of geoscientists are central to translating spatial tools to broader audiences, 2) aligning spatial tools with community priorities (i.e. local scale geoscientific work) likely improves their usefulness and enhances student thinking about the system of change. Finally, 3) defining priorities depends on who is brought into decision-making discussions.The freely available OpenStreetMap has already generated new forms of crowdsourced maps that have emerged from the decision making priorities of grass roots efforts (Holder, 2018). This is exciting, because it highlights the potential for spatial tools to better serve community outcomes. Cash et al., 2006 points out that working across and between scales generates research and implementation ideas needed for innovation and resilience. Thinking about how we educate to improve criss-cross and cross-level analyses and connect with our students and communities is central. In my classes, this has already inspired student and community-interest informed maps (e.g. soil nutrients, heat island, recycling, bike racks, soil lead) and sharing county-level analyses from open source mapping tools with community partners.
- Cash, D. W., Adger, W. N., Berkes, F., Garden, P., Lebel, L., Olsson, P., Prichard, L., & Young, O. (2006). Scale and cross-scale dynamics: governance and information in a multilevel world. Ecology and society, 11(2).
- Dennis, A. R., & Carte, T. A. (1998). Using geographical information systems for decision making: Extending cognitive fit theory to map-based presentations. Information Systems Research, 9(2), 194-203.
- de Sherbinin, A. (2014). Climate change hotspots mapping: what have we learned?. Climatic Change, 123(1), 23-37.
- EPA, EJScreen Tool, https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen
- FEMA, Flood Map Service Center, https://msc.fema.gov/portal/home
- Fortner, S.K. and Wilson (2018). Civic engagement in our classes, programs, and outreach practices: Implications for supporting science literacy and our workforce https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2018AM/webprogram/Paper322157.html
- Holder, S (2018). City Lab. Who Maps the World? https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/03/who-maps-the-world/555272/
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/23595.
- National Research Council. 2012. Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13457.
- OpenStreetMap Contributors (OSM), 2018 OpenStreetMap https://www.openstreetmap.org/
- SoilWeb: an online soil survey, U.C. Davis, https://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/gmap/
- USGS, National Climate Change Viewer, Climate Research and Development https://www2.usgs.gov/landresources/lcs/nccv.asp
- Van der Linden, S., Maibach, E., and Leiserowitz, A., 2015, Improving public engagement with climate change: Five "best practice" insights from psychological science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, v. 10, no. 6, p. 758-763.