The MAB Approach: Problems, Clarifications and a Proposal

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Department of Anthropology Papers
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Agricultural and Resource Economics
Human Ecology
Social and Behavioral Sciences
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Despite MAB's general success in promoting research on ecological problems from various points of view, the goal of integration still seems beyond reach. To the degree that integration has worked it has invariably involved the domination of one scientific discipline over others that could be persuaded to cooperate - especially of natural over social sciences - both in definition of research design and in formulation of questions. This problem derives partly from the relative scarcity of social scientists professionally interested in ecological problems, but also from the fact that social science comprehends a variety of approaches, based on different assumptions, all equally valid, leading to different but complementary results. A closer look at the variety and complementarity of a selection of different social science approaches suggests a promising model for the future development of the MAB Programme in the 1980s, which would take it closer to the goals it had previously sought through integration, and also towards the goal of improved communication and application of research findings. Not only the various social science approaches and different natural science approaches, but also the approaches of the other relevant actors-planners, politicians, extension workers, and, especially private (i.e. local) people -must be seen as complementary from the initial stage of the definition of the research problem through to the synthesis and application of the results. In this way, not only will the social sciences be effectively integrated into MAB but the more important goal of communication and application will also be assured.

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