I recently ran a short workshop on the statistical challenges in the sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR) for wellbeing. The participants were a mix of scientists working in SMNR and statisticians working in areas that I thought might be relevant.
We had lots of interesting and lively discussions. In particular around the types of statistical and data challenges that those working in SMNR face and the nature of interdisciplinary collaboration. Some of the key points were:
- By its very nature, SMNR is already interdisciplinary. It involves researchers from both the natural sciences and the social sciences
- There is a rich seam of statistical challenges in SMNR
- Collaborations between scientists in SMNR and statisticians would be beneficial to both sets of researchers
- Initially most scientists thought that statisticians were useful once the study had been designed and data had been collected – ie at the analytical stage. But during the workshop there was a recognition that statisticians are also scientists. And so they should be part of the interdisciplinary team from the start. They can then be involved in designing the research plan and conceptual framework. This might lead to alternative approaches to tackling the problem.
- Building collaborations takes time and trust. Successful collaborations often start from small beginnings where there is less to lose if they don’t work out. For example collaborating on masters level projects. These small collaborations might focus more on the analytical side of a project.
- To increase interest and awareness of statistical challenges in SMNR future workshops could involve giving participants an opportunity to work on specific problems in SMNR.
We are planning a second and third workshop in 2020. And we are in the process of writing up what we have learnt from the first workshop. We will circulate this to interested parties prior to the second workshop. Please drop me a line if you wish to keep up-to-date on what is happening next.
We are very grateful to the Mardia Interdisciplinary Workshop Prize of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) who funded the workshop. It was the first of a three part series of workshops with the International Development Section of the RSS.