Based on a preceding exploratory study and research conducted as part of the In-Forest project, Susanne Koch and Camilla Tetley have published a first co-authored paper in Forest Policy and Economics to share findings with the forest research community.
In this article, we examine the often implicit values, norms and orientations that guide international forest policy research (FPR). Thereby, we draw on Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology of science and valuation studies, and rely on conference observation and reflexive interviews to study valuation practice in FPR. Conferences provide spaces where scholars negotiate ‘what counts’. In presenting and discussing research, they enact values of ‘good’ scholarship that reflect basic orientations of doing science in the field. Starting from this presumption, we observed talks and discussions at the International Forest Policy Meetings taking place in 2021 and 2022, and conducted thirteen interviews with scholars involved.
Our findings show a tendency towards an objectivistic understanding of science, and an affective orientation towards forest practice. They indicate that FPR has not yet achieved full autonomy as a scientific field: what counts as scientific and relevant seems still impacted by other disciplines, i.e., forest and political sciences, and oriented to external expectations. This prevents the field from utilising the full potential of its interdisciplinarity as it lowers the relevance of scholarship not meeting these norms; it entrenches an inequality between different strands of research within the field, without anyone intending this.
Our study gives input for reflecting values, norms and orientations underlying FPR, and seeks to inform the on-going discourse on its nature, purpose and future in science and society. The paper has been published as part of a Special Issue in Forest Policy and Economics, and is available open access.
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