The Role of Scientists in Multiscale Land Use Analysis: Lessons Learned from Dutch Communities of Practice

J. Bouma, J.A. de Vos, M.P.W. Sonneveld, G.B.M. Heuvelink, J.J. Stoorvogel

Research output: Book/ReportBookAcademicpeer-review


Many research and scientific organizations emphasize the importance of science for society in their strategic plans. This is certainly true for land use studies being discussed in this chapter as new environmental policies are introduced at European and national level. Such policies reflect concerns of society so that a structural link between science and policymaking would appear to be logical and desirable. Rather than following traditional top‐down and disciplinary research approaches, emphasis is increasingly being placed on interactive, interdisciplinary work in Communities of Practice (CoPs) in which scientists work together with various stakeholders and policymakers in a joint learning mode. But this requires new research approaches including long‐term engagement during the entire policy cycle asking for a new attitude of scientists. Few experiences have been reported so far. Three Dutch case studies are therefore discussed to illustrate the functioning of CoPs by focusing on up‐ and downscaling (called multiscaling hereafter), a key element of land use research. Five types of multiscaling were used in the three case studies. Three were technical: (1) use of model‐ or design‐based (geo)statistical techniques, (2) extrapolation of data obtained from experimental plots to larger areas, and (3) use of quasi‐3D process models to upscale grid data in a Geographic Information System (GIS) to regions. Two were policy oriented: (1) nutrient balances for farms to allow upscaling from fields to farm and (2) a research framework for regions, based on the DPSIR approach, which sequentially covers aspects mentioned in environmental laws as being important for sustainable development. Quite diverse and unrelated questions about land use issues by different members of the CoP cannot be a fruitful basis for research programs. Scientists have therefore an important role to play within a CoP in orchestrating a demand analysis that puts questions into context and defines existing knowledge as well as knowledge gaps. Defining research on the basis of a demand analysis in a CoP creates innovative ideas, creates commitment of participants, and allows definition of needed research that is functional. This includes cutting edge research publishable in literature and requires for land use studies updating of valuable existing soil survey information to a level that can be used in modern modeling techniques including functional characterization of soil series, development of pedotransfer functions, and definition of phenoforms. Particular attention is needed for introducing modern monitoring techniques for soil and water because the high cost of traditional methods implies that little monitoring is done now with detrimental effects for the calibration and validation of simulation models that increasingly secure a live of their own. The scientific community needs to take a fresh look at its paradigms. Next to the establishment of CoPs, we therefore advocate development of Communities of Scientific Practice (CSP) within the research community that define different functions for members of the scientific community in terms of (1) communication within CoPs by shaping the demand analysis and to the outside world and (2) defining research needs and its execution, using knowledge chains including basic research.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages175
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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