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Collaborative Research HSD DHB: Program for Research on Human and Environmental Interactions

a PSC Research Project [ARCHIVE DISPLAY]

Investigators:   Arun Agrawal, Daniel G. Brown, Rick L. Riolo

When shaped by the information humans derive from their contexts, beliefs are the basic parameters around which humans construct their preferences and actions. The interdisciplinary research project will investigate (a) how social-ecological and political-economic conditions shape individual belief formation and decision making related to collective action, (b) how importantly and in what ways do network and social-spatial relationships affect individual beliefs and decisions, and (c) what are the aggregate effects of individual interactions and responses on the forests resources on which individuals depend and on local socio-political and institutional structures. To answer these questions, the investigators will use data from India, Uganda, and Bolivia to build and test statistical and computational models that help analyze the dynamics of human beliefs and actions over time, their interactions, and their influence on environmental outcomes. The research will build upon a decade-long experience of research in forested environments through the International Forestry Resources and Institutions program and will take steps toward establishing the degree to which environmental variability (from both physical and social-political conditions) and the degree of unpredictability of such variation affect information collected by resource users and the level of reliability humans attach to different sources of information.

By focusing on beliefs, the relevant dimensions along which individuals can be grouped, and the differential involvement of different groups of individuals in collective action to govern forest resources, this project will help fill two critical gaps in existing knowledge about human-environmental dynamics: (1) the absence of systematic, empirically based research on the features of the context that shape the distribution of beliefs in a population and (2) the lack of attention that has been given to determining how the distribution of beliefs in a population shapes collective action to govern resources. By focusing on human-environment interactions related to forest resources in specific sites, the project aims to shed new light on questions that are important to theoretical development as well as the design and implementation of public policy. The ecological and social processes on which the project focuses underpin resource governance outcomes for hundreds of thousands of households all over the world. The project will permit an examination of interactions between resource governance policies, human livelihoods, changes in human beliefs, and the decision making of agents related to collective action. Ensuing insights will facilitate the design of more effective policies and governance mechanisms. An award resulting from the FY 2005 NSF-wide competition on Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) supports this project. All NSF directorates and offices are involved in the coordinated management of the HSD competition and the portfolio of HSD awards.

Funding Period: 09/01/2005 to 02/28/2011

Country of Focus: USA

This PSC Archive record is displayed for historical reference.

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