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Acting, Predicting and Intervening in a Socio-hydrological World : Volume 10, Issue 8 (16/08/2013)

By Lane, S. N.

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Book Id: WPLBN0004011483
Format Type: PDF Article :
File Size: Pages 59
Reproduction Date: 2015

Title: Acting, Predicting and Intervening in a Socio-hydrological World : Volume 10, Issue 8 (16/08/2013)  
Author: Lane, S. N.
Volume: Vol. 10, Issue 8
Language: English
Subject: Science, Hydrology, Earth
Collections: Periodicals: Journal and Magazine Collection (Contemporary), Copernicus GmbH
Publication Date:
Publisher: Copernicus Gmbh, Göttingen, Germany
Member Page: Copernicus Publications


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Lane, S. N. (2013). Acting, Predicting and Intervening in a Socio-hydrological World : Volume 10, Issue 8 (16/08/2013). Retrieved from

Description: Faculté des géosciences et de l'environnement, Université de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland. This paper asks a simple question: if humans and their actions co-evolve with hydrological systems (Sivapalan and Blöschl, 2012), what is the role of those humans who are simultaneously hydrological scientists, bound up within this system? To put it more directly, can we, as socio-hydrologists study the socio-hydrological world in isolation from that world in a way that mirrors the supposed separation between scientists and society? I answer this question, in the negative, from three linked perspectives. The first draws directly upon science-technology studies to make a case to the (socio-hydrological) community that we need to be sensitive to constructivist accounts of science in general and hydrology in particular. I review three positions taken by such accounts and apply them to hydrological science, supported with specific examples: (a) the philosophical critique of the claimed abstraction of scientists and scientific activity from the socio-hydrological world; (b) the way in which hydrological science is embedded in wider societal decision-making; and (c) the recognition that socio-hydrological knowledge is much more distributed than we as (socio-)hydrologists commonly recognise. For the second perspective, I consider predictive modelling as a socio-hydrological practice. I draw upon wider studies of the practice of modelling, coupled to empirical evidence for one element of hydrological modelling, roughness parameterisation, to consider how it is that socio-hydrological modellers come to believe in the predictive models that they use. This will show that if predictive modelling is to be more than analytical, that if it is to effect more sustainable socio-hydrological futures, then we need to rethink the basic tenets of how we practice predictive modelling. These first two perspectives are themselves, in combination, analytical, prone to the criticism that they cause us to degenerate into an anything goes relationship with the world around us. Thus, in a third perspective I explicitly challenge this degeneration by setting out a number of practices that might be valuable for doing prediction within a socio-hydrological system. These include: (1) working with conflict and controversy in hydrological science, rather than trying to eliminate them; (2) using hydrological events to avoid becoming paradigm-bound; (3) being empirical and experimental but in a socio-hydrological sense; and (4) co-producing socio-hydrological predictions. I will show how this might be done through a project that specifically developed predictive models for making interventions in river catchments to increase high river flow attenuation, in which I found myself becoming detached from my normal disciplinary networks and attached to the co-production of a predictive hydrological model with communities normally excluded from the practice of hydrological science.

Acting, predicting and intervening in a socio-hydrological world

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