Evidence orientation in Earth System Governance Research

Aktivität: Vorträge und GastvorlesungenKonferenzvorträgeForschung

Jens Newig - Sprecher*in

Michael Rose - Sprecher*in

Research in earth system governance (ESG) aspires to be both academically sound and policy-relevant. Arguably, both objectives require the production of reliable evidence by cumulating – refining, challenging, complementing and synthesizing – existing research. In line with a growing focus on evidence cumulation in sustainabiltiy science, we ask how and to what extent ESG research contributes to evidence production and cumulation.

To this end, we first define what constitutes ESG research. Rather than considering only those publications which explicitly use the phrase “earth system governance”, we also analyse the publications which have emerged from the previous ten ESG conferences. To be precise, we define the body of ESG research as all journal articles published in or before 2019, listed in Scopus, which use the term “earth system governance” in abstract, title or keywords, or which can be attributed unequivocally to an abstract accepted for an ESG conference. (For later analyses, articles appearing in the Journal Earth System
Governance should, too, count as ESG research.) We show descriptive statistics and network graphs to characterise this body of research.
The resulting set of journal papers are coded for their theoretical, conceptual, normative-prescriptive or empirical orientation. Empirical papers are coded for a qualitative, quantitative, interpretive or meta-analytical research approach, and whether they can generally be regarded as positivist or
constructivist. We code in what way papers add to, refine, challenge or synthesise existing research, and in what way they contribute to developing shared frameworks, definitions or datasets.
Overall we find that evidence cumulation is still poorly developed within the ESG community. Like the field of environmental policy and governance more generally, ESG research may be characterised as a “fragmented adhocracy”,
explaining the widespread failure to produce robust and cumulative knowledge. We close by suggesting a number of avenues for stronger production and cumulation of evidence in the ESG community. These include
the development and use of more widely shared core terminology, e.g. through broadly accepted dictionaries and common research protocols, allowing to produce shared and compatible datasets, and meta studies that synthesise existing (case-based) research following shared frameworks. Hence contributing to a growing body of – cumulating – evidence on what “works” in ESG will, so we
hope, more likely and more lastingly inform policy and governance.


Bratislava Conference on Earth System Governance - 2021


Veranstaltung: Konferenz