Friday, March 04, 2011

Is ecological economics becoming a "post-normal" science

Some paper titles cannot be ignored especially when I am not entirely clear what it means. The title suggests that ecological economics is (1) a science and (2) normal.

So far so good. Ecological economics is a normal science (not a social science?).

However, now we have to worry that it is becoming post-normal or perhaps that is a good thing. It appears to hinge on the empirical content of the paper. A regression in a paper appears to be post-normal.

In that case, all my EE papers have contributed to this big push into post-normality and now I feel a little guilty. In fact my et al. from the previous post is an EE paper.

Time to investigate further.

A bibliometric account of the evolution of EE in the last two decades: Is ecological economics (becoming) a post-normal science?

Manuela Castro e Silvaa and Aurora A.C. Teixeira


In ecological economics the debate on formalism and formalization has been addressed in the context of a lively discussion on ecological economics as a ‘post-normal’ (versus ‘normal’) science. Using ecological economics (EE) as a ‘seed’ journal and applying bibliometric techniques to all (2533) the articles published in EE from January 1989 to December 2009, we analyze the evolution of the field of ecological economics aiming to shed light on this debate. We observe the predominance (and increased relevance) of certain research topics: ‘Methodological issues’, ‘Policies, governance and institutions’ and ‘Valuation’. Moreover, ‘Collective action’, ‘Technical change and the environment’ and ‘Values’ stand as emergent themes of research. Finally, we note that ecological economics experienced an ‘empirical turn’ reflected in a shift away from exclusively formalized papers towards exclusively empirical and, to a larger extent, ‘formal and empirical’ ones. The combination of the prominent and emergent topics and the ‘empirical turn’ mirrors the increasing awareness among researchers in the field of the need to address a key specificity of ecological economics — the interdependence of the economic, biophysical and social spheres. On this basis, we argue that at least through the lens of EE, ecological economics has evolved towards a post-normal science.

Keywords: Ecological economics; Bibliometrics; Research trends; Methodology; Post-normal science


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