- Adaptive governance
- Adaptive management
- Practice theory
- Qualitative methods
- Social science
- Biosphere reserves
- Biodiversity conservation
Simon West’s research examines the people, practices and politics that shape how we know and act in the context of complex social-ecological change
West is a postdoctoral researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. His expertise lies in the sustainability, environmental and conservation social sciences.
West currently holds a Formas Early Career Mobility Starting Grant, for which he is exploring practices of collaborative and transdisciplinary knowledge-making in relation to Indigenous Land and Sea Management in Northern Australia.
He is also co-leading, together with centre researcher Caroline Schill, the Formas-funded project ‘Living with the new normal: exploring human responses to abrupt environmental change in the Arctic using behavioural and interpretive social science,’ which involves fieldwork in North Slope, Alaska. West is an Honorary Lecturer at the Australian National University’s Fenner School of Environment and Society, and a Visiting Fellow at the Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University.
His research interests span three broad themes:
- Empirical focus: How people generate, share and use knowledge within the everyday practices of environmental governance
This involves the empirical study of knowledge-intensive initiatives, policies and management approaches in the conservation and sustainability sectors, including adaptive management, monitoring and evaluation, and evidence-based policy. In his current research in Northern Australia, West is drawing on insights from Interpretive Policy Analysis and Science and Technology Studies to explore the development of intercultural, multiple evidence-based approaches to the monitoring and evaluation of Indigenous ranger work.
In his PhD, completed in 2016, West studied practices of adaptive management in Australian national parks. His PhD was conducted within the GLEAN project (A Global Survey of Learning, Participation and Ecosystem Management in Biosphere Reserves), through which West also studied the development of biodiversity corridors and community-based monitoring programs in South African and Australian UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.
- Theoretical interest: Developing interpretive, critical and relational approaches within the sustainability, conservation and environmental sciences.
In particular, West draws on insights and approaches from the humanities and social sciences, including Interpretive Policy Studies, Science and Technology Studies, Indigenous Studies, Environmental Humanities, and Human Geography, to better understand key real-world problems and challenges in the practical pursuit of conservation and sustainability.
His PhD thesis, ‘Meaning and Action in Sustainability Science: Interpretive Approaches for Social-Ecological Systems Research,’ was the first to systematically relate interpretive research methodology to sustainability science.
- Methodological approach: To work collaboratively across academic disciplines and societal sectors, in order to co-produce knowledge through inter- and trans-disciplinary research
As part of his current research in Northern Australia, West is participating in two collaborative action-research projects – the Intercultural Monitoring and Evaluation Project, and the Cultural Mapping Project – together with the Arafura Swamp Rangers Aboriginal Corporation, Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, conservation NGO Bush Heritage Australia, and various academic partners.
In the ‘New Normal’ project in Alaska, West is collaborating with the Village of Wainwright and the behavioural economist Caroline Schill, to explore how interpretive and behavioural social science can be brought together in practically useful ways to better understand and respond to rapid social-ecological change.
West has a keen interest in teaching and education. He has co-designed and run a PhD course, together with Wijnand Boonstra, titled ‘Why bother with Durkheim? Using (classical) social science to understand the social dynamics of social-ecological systems,’ and has also co-run with Lisen Schultz the SRC’s MSc programme course module ‘Adaptive Governance’ in 2015 and 2017.
West is currently studying for a Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Policy Development at Charles Darwin University, Australia.
News articles with West, Simon
Research news | 2021-09-22
How can intersectionality contribute to social-ecological systems research?
Intersectionality is firmly making its way into research thinking. What does it offer sustainability scientists?
Research news | 2021-05-19
Can relational thinking contribute to sustainability transformations?
Sustainability scientists debate how to understand and nurture connections between humans and nature
Research news | 2019-12-09
Knowledge as a tool rather than an underlying requirement
New study demonstrates the benefits of developing new ideas about what knowledge and action are and how they relate to each other
Research news | 2019-08-28
Practice makes perfect
Why the idea that scientific expertise rests on the strict application of pre-determined technical methods is misplaced
Publications by West, Simon
Negotiating the ethical-political dimensions of research methods: a key competency in mixed methods, inter- and transdisciplinary, and co-production research
Journal / article | 2022
Methods are often thought of as neutral tools that researchers can pick up and use to learn about a reality ‘out there.’ Motivated by growing recognition of complexity, there have been widespread calls to mix methods, both within and across disciplines, to generate richer scientific understandings and more effective policy interventions. However, bringing methods together often reveals their tacit, inherently contestable, and ...
Key advantages of the leverage points perspective to shape human-nature relations
Journal / article | 2021
This perspective paper synthesises the special issue ‘Human-nature connectedness as a leverage point for sustainability transformation’. Based on the articles in this special issue, we aim to foster the operationalisation of the leverage points perspective to shape human-nature relations to enable sustainability transformations. Specifically, we draw on four key advantages of the leverage points perspective: (i) the explicit ...
Impact Indicators for Biodiversity Conservation Research: Measuring Influence within and beyond Academia
Journal / article | 2021
Measuring, reporting, and forecasting research impact beyond academia has become increasingly important to demonstrate and understand real-world benefits. This is arguably most important in crisis disciplines such as medicine, environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation, where application of new knowledge is urgently needed to improve health and environmental outcomes. Increasing focus on impact has prompted the...
Putting relational thinking to work in sustainability science – reply to Raymond et al.
Journal / article | 2021
We welcome Raymond et al.’s invitation to further discuss the ‘pragmatics’ of relational thinking in sustainability science. We clarify that relational approaches provide distinct theoretical and methodological resources that may be adopted on their own, or used to enrich other approaches, including systems research. We situate Raymond et al.’s characterization of relational thinking in a broader landscape of differing approa...