What is socio-ecological research delivering? A literature survey across 25 international LTSER platforms
Van Ryckegem G
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With an overarching goal of addressing global and regional sustainability challenges, Long Term Socio-Ecological Research Platforms (LTSER) aim to conduct place-based research, to collect and synthesize both environmental and socio-economic data, and to involve a broader stakeholder pool to set the research agenda. To date there have been few studies examining the output from LTSER platforms. In this study we enquire if the socio-ecological research from 25 self-selected LTSER platforms of the International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER) network has produced research products which fulfil the aims and ambitions of the paradigm shift from ecological to socio-ecological research envisaged at the turn of the century. In total we assessed 4983 publically available publications, of which 1112 were deemed relevant to the socio-ecological objectives of the platform. A series of 22 questions were scored for each publication, assessing relevance of responses in terms of the disciplinary focus of research, consideration of human health and well-being, degree of stakeholder engagement, and other relevant variables. The results reflected the diverse origins of the individual platforms and revealed a wide range in foci, temporal periods and quantity of output from participating platforms, supporting the premise that there is a growing trend in socio-ecological research at long-term monitoring platforms. Our review highlights the challenges of realizing the top-down goal to harmonize international network activities and objectives and the need for bottom-up, self-definition for research platforms. This provides support for increasing the consistency of LTSER research while preserving the diversity of regional experiences.