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Connecting social research and scientific practice to improve plant biosecurity management

In March and early April 2011 Ruth Wallace attended two conferences, at which she met with leading scholars and practitioners from Kansas State University. The trip allowed Ruth to develop her knowledge and skills in policy and community engagement in land management – which can be applied to plant biosecurity – and to disseminate the findings of the Community Engagement on Plant Biosecurity project to an international audience.

Ruth attended and presented the following papers at the Resilience 2011 Conference in Arizona and the International Rangeland Congress in Rosario, Argentina:

  • Indigenous led responses to biosecurity management policy and practices Northern Australia (Resilience 2011)
  • Aboriginal Models of Workforce Development and Training in Northern Australia (IRC).

The Resilience 2011 conference brought together scientists from various backgrounds to examine the scientific and policy challenges in global change. The papers presented focused on the relationships between resilience, vulnerability, innovation and sustainability as they relate to the dynamics of interconnected social–ecological systems. The attendees also included representatives from government, non government organisations and the academic sector involved in resource governance, economic and social development.

There was a strong theme that explored the role of Indigenous people in social-ecological systems and the work that is being undertaken to value Indigenous ecological, social and historical knowledge. Participatory methodologies, as they are being used in international jurisdictions, were also a key part of many presentations. Ruth found it interesting to see the language being used to describe the process and the underlying assumptions. There was a lot of interest in the CRCNPB’s work around using technology to enhance participatory methodologies within a rigorous scientific approach.

The International Rangeland Congress was an opportunity for Ruth to learn about research and action related to new knowledge about the people, networks, multilevel institutions and organisations that are involved in ecosystems management, feedback and services. Ruth focused on the presentations around Indigenous engagement, educational extension as well as the social and cultural dimensions of rangelands management.

The Indigenous engagement theme was led by Indigenous people who discussed the challenges of land management under different jurisdictional arrangements and treaties. The papers discussed the issues of negotiation of multipurpose lands, multistakeholder interaction in managing resources, livelihoods and environment, resources for facilitation, moving from pilot to regional management and interdisciplinary approaches. The paper Ruth presented outlined the educational framework that had been developed through the CRCNPB project with Aboriginal people which has led to considerable interest in adapting the key principles to other land management contexts.

In addition, Jim Stack also hosted Ruth on a visit to Kansas State University to meet with key researchers and extension officers involved in the National Plant Diagnostic Network. Ruth was interested in some of the decisions that were made through the development and implementation process and how these have changed as the project has moved into becoming sustainable. The extension officers also showed Ruth the science education program that is operated through competitions throughout every level of education across the United States.

This trip resulted in the development of a growing network with leading researchers and practitioners in plant biosecurity internationally. Ruth is now in regular contact with a group of people interested in the social-ecological-policy nexus and how research develops in this environment.

The trip broadened Ruth’s understanding of the current work undertaken and the methodologies used around knowledge integration between the natural and social sciences in culturally diverse contexts. In particular the work undertaken with Indigenous and other marginalised cultural groups to recognize Indigenous knowledge within national policy contexts and the ways that can contribute to policy and community action. Ruth can see how the work undertaken through the CRCNPB fits within this framework and can provide leadership in thinking about participatory research in culturally diverse situations and the role technology can play to advance shared understandings.

Ruth thought the main benefits of the trip were:

  • learning about the strengths and weaknesses of social impact and assessment processes and tools in use that are relevant to biosecurity
  • developing the language to talk about the social element of biosecurity management
  • gaining a better understanding of the existing modelling for evaluating and improving behaviour, adaptation and resilience related to change
  • understanding current research about the key factors for better and specific models of biosecurity management partnership that engage end-users
  • improved understanding and networks related to best practice in interdisciplinary research in land management
  • international recognition of the work conducted through the CRCNPB in Northern Australia
  • learning about some of the priorities of large government funded agencies to integrate policy and community engagement strategies
  • identifying education and workforce strategies to improve integration of biosecurity management by diverse and disenfranchised communities
  • developing a strong and active network of international researchers in this field
  • developing a better understanding of where the CRCNPB and her work fits within the international research, policy and community action frameworks.


When: March-April 2011

In March and April 2011 Ruth Wallace attended two conferences on behalf of the CRCNPB, at which she met with leading scholars and practitioners from Kansas State University.