The second day at US-IALE was mostly taken up with the Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHANS) discussion. This is a funding stream within the NSF, aimed towards funding interdisciplinary work in the area of coupled human and natural systems (although there is some dissent about the "coupled" part of it, as people feel that we should see it more as one system!).
They have a website at [http://www.chans-net.org/] for people to share information about their projects and discuss areas of this kind of research.
Lots of the talk was about how to get funding from the NSF, how to get tenure, how to put together interdisciplinary teams - I won't discuss this.
We started with a panel question/answer session, where I'll try to summarise the most interesting questions.
* How do you keep a balance between abstract (and general) work, and contextualised studies?
Make sure that the problem is more important than the place; explaining doesn't always make things less theoretical; take research questions from headlines; lots of meetings with stakeholders to shape the research.
* How much does your research plan get altered by the real world?
designs never survive contact with the field, but the big picture should stay the same; surprising directions suggested by the real world are good;
* What fields are under represented in this kind of work?
Technology; historians; PolSci; Public relations; cartographers
* How do you manage different perceptions of what humans are in this context (e.g. invaders, managers, stakeholders, organisms etc.)
It's just one system; can't talk of ecosystems without humans; look to the [http://geography.about.com/od/studygeography/a/4traditions.htm 4 Traditions of Geography]
* How to link pattern to process?
have tools at coarse levels, and at fine, but it's the stuff in the middle that's interesting; find the simplest models that produce the patterns you need.
In general, the stuff that came out of the group discussions was:
* we'd like an overarching descriptive framework for comparing case studies, and avoiding re-inventing the wheel.
* we should look to people outside our disciplines to identify the components and connections which are invisible in our disciplines
* models are good discussion tools
* need lots of coffee breaks, speeddating
* need to get better at dealing with "non-scientific" knowledge