My participation in TRACKS has come to an end for now. In this last blog post I will sum up my experiences as an inside observer in TRACKS over these past few months, and reflect on the main challenge I think the TRACKS researchers will face in the next phases of the project.
Back to common sense
When I first heard about post-normal science it sounded alien and complicated to me. Throughout this semester I’ve learned that it’s rather the opposite. As someone said at a symposium SVT held at the University last week: Post-normal science is about going back to common sense. It emerged from the idea that in order to change the society and solve complex problems, our ways of doing research must also change. We can’t solve the problems we’re facing with the same science that created those problems. Thus, post-normal science is a critical challenge to traditional science.
We can’t solve the problems we’re facing with the same science that created those problems.
When we’re facing challenges like global warming with so much uncertainty, complexity and high stakes, we must acknowledge that we are not in control. The uncertainty and complexity cannot be removed, ignored or denied – it must be perceived as part of the picture we must act within. Post-normal science projects like TRACKS are indeed about seeing the whole picture. In the real world, everything is connected – so why shouldn’t scientific disciplines also be? It has been an inspiration to witness how the TRACKS researchers collaborate across their disciplines, how they are motivated by an enthusiasm to help Bangladeshi communities to cope with a destabilizing climate – and not least their humility towards different forms of knowledge.
Challenges with conflicting perceptions
As TRACKS progresses I think conflicting stories will be a major challenge. As the TRACKers have already experienced from their pilot in Bangladesh this autumn, the people interviewed have widely different perceptions of the same phenomena. I guess that may be the main challenge of post-normal science – acknowledging all kinds of perceptions can make it hard to reach consensus, which in turn might make it hard to agree on solutions.
Still I believe that through communication and respectful, constructive discussions between all stakeholders, it’s possible to come to a common understanding of the main problems – which will be the fundament for solutions to evolve. If not, I can’t imagine what kind of approach that will.
My experiences as an inside observer
To be involved in a project doing research on one of the fields I am personally most engaged in, surrounded with inclusive, enthusiastic people, has been the ultimate learning situation for me. I believe all universities and faculties should have more courses that give students the opportunity to learn by doing. Thanks to Roger and all the TRACKers for the unique experience it has been to follow TRACKS as an inside observer – I’m looking forward to the continuation of this pioneer project.