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Methods

Description of the research cluster Food Systems

One of the major challenges concerning agriculture-related activities is to compromise the continue provision of human goods and services while the conflictual social-ecological side effects are minimized.

To unravel these situations is usual to appeal to the integrated assessment concept. Tough there is no common definition for integrated assessment, it is acknowledged that it should run across disciplines and (spatial and temporal) scales, merging scientists’ foci and local stakeholders’ interests while combining diverse types of data and procedures. The challenge that integrated assessment suppose leads not only to develop the right tools, but to choose the precise approach in order to obtain better elucidations and suggest proper advising to decision makers.

Most agricultural-related problems fall in the category of complex systems[1] and cannot be handled by reductionist[2] insights: hardcore answers to respond hardcore questions resulted of limited help when is aimed to deal with various problems at the same time. This intricacy and the multiple expectations that are claimed to them, lead to the emergence of tools, where multidisciplinary, functionality, recursion, participation, multicriteria, resilience/vulnerability, adaptability, etc. became more useful operational premises.

These operational procedures conform together the systems thinking[3] paradigm[4] that provides the conceptual foundation to our research.

Research themes/questions

Having in mind the above detailed principles, a wide gamut of agricultural-related issues can be analyzed. The following list aims to be a showcase based on our current demands rather than an exhaustive inventory:

 

 

a) Fitting demand for agricultural goods with the environmental services provision in agricultural land-use systems.

  • To determine the optimal set up where environmental services provision (conservation of the ecosystem stock) allows a continuous and profitable market-demanded goods’ production.
  • To determine the optimal resources’ agronomic management for sustaining the continuous provision of environmental services, hence ecological sustainability of the system.
  • To determine the social, institutional and organizational drivers that bolster the ecological and financial sustainability of the system.

 

b) Resilience/vulnerability and adaptability of agricultural land-use systems to disturbing processes or abrupt changes.

  • To identify the drivers of an agricultural land-use system to succumb/cope with disturbing events/processes.
  • To determine the subsequent adaptation abilities and strategies to disturbing events/processes.
  • To propose measurements to maximize resilience, minimize vulnerability and smooth adaptation processes.

 

c) Impact evaluation of programs that involve any change factor, e.g., technological innovation, management practice, organizational instance, etc.

  • To determine the impact on stakeholders’ circumstances (productivity, diversification, poverty, nutrition, etc.) due to the implementation of a change factor.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of the change factor proposed on the targeted subjects/region/circumstances.
  • To compare importance of impact drivers in a variety of circumstances (web analyses)
  • To identify the extent and recursion of the outputs of the system on perpetuating the phenomenon targeted and aimed to change.

 


[1] Complex system is a system where the understanding of its parts does not lead to its understanding as a whole

[2] Reductionism affirms that the understanding of a phenomenon can restrict to accounting its individual constituents

[3] Systems thinking entails seeing the parts and the whole at the same time, seeking for relationships rather than components and patterns rather than snapshots, functionally ST aims at ease the system’s run rather than explain it.

[4] Paradigm is normative framework that is characterized by shared tools, vocabulary, protocols and questions


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