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On the evolution of my thinking and research trajectory

A month or so ago, I began writing a document that mapped my writing output and my research trajectory. More than the research trajectory that other writers and myself have referred to at some points (i.e., the roadmap of what research output you need by when in order to achieve tenure, a-la-Karen Kelsky), the document I’m writing maps what I have written and researched in the past 5 years (2008-2013). It’s kind of an REF report and a research trajectory altogether. The report is a narrative account of my scholarly output and my research plans towards the future.

Lynn Canyon

This document (my research trajectory and output file) is important to me because it gives me (and anybody who is interested in finding out more about what I do, including university administrators, fellow academics and potential graduate students) a clear map of how my thinking has evolved throughout the years. How I began some projects and how I’m closing others out.

Parque El Cedazo (Aguascalientes)

I can clearly tell you that I just recently realized in 2013 how I came about starting to study water conflicts. In 1998 (a decade ago), I began trying to understand how strategic alliances between large pharmaceutical companies and small biotechnology firms could be designed so that the small biotech businesses did not suffer from moral hazard conditions. I found that they cooperated through repeated games of information sharing in an information-asymmetric environment. For this project, I created a game-theoretic model that explained the entire process. It was fascinating. More than 15 years ago I fell in love with the idea of cooperation between actors, and that is one that to this day, still drives and fuels my research interests. Why do agents cooperate and under which conditions?

In 2004, I began (on a side project) studying cooperation for wastewater governance through river basin councils, almost a decade ago. Given that I had been a specialist in cooperation within industrial districts (and that was what I was doing for my PhD dissertation work), studying cooperation in water management seemed to be naturally dovetailing my work. Given that I was interested in understanding how firms within an industrial district cooperated for survival, analyzing how individuals cooperated to manage the wastewater generated within their region seemed like a plausible detour from my original scholarly trajectory. While I wasn’t bent on any particular theory, I quickly discovered Ostrom, North and Williamson’s institutional theories fit well with my interest in collaboration for water management.

Two years ago (2011), I narrowed down the analytical core of my research agenda: I’m someone who uses questions of how can agents cooperate for appropriate resource management under complex governance conditions. I am interested in intractable, wicked problems. It was important for me to see this.

Recent book acquisitions April & May 2013 CIDE Region Centro library

Last year (2012), as I was asked to write a book chapter on water conflict, I realized that I knew very little about the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and conflict resolution literatures. I also knew very little about water conflict. Much of the literature (the vast majority, in fact) I had read dealt with resource self-governance processes (a la Ostrom and collaborators). Very little had I read about “conflict transformation” and “conflict framing” (a la Barbara Gray).

Strangely enough, when I did my PhD, I took courses on multistakeholder, participatory processes for water governance (with UBC Professor Tony Dorcey). I did know about this literature, but my keen interest in cooperation quickly made me forget about it. I had read Barbara Gray, Judith Innes, Fisher and Ury and a number of planning theorists on how to get collaboration (”getting to yes”) in resource planning contexts, but in the past decade, I forgot about them. I’m just now getting back into this literature.

I am really excited for my next 5 years (2013-2018) research trajectory. I’m excited about learning more about water conflicts (and working on water conflict in Mexico at the sub-national scale). I’m fascinated by the chasm between water cooperation and water conflict bodies of work. And I’m delighted to be delving more into the solid waste governance field (one that I always wanted to explore more, but I didn’t explore in enough detail).

Posted in academia, research, water governance.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. The spatial, political and human dimensions of water infrastructure – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on March 1, 2014

    [...] (ECR) and a more seasoned, established scholar, I have spent the last few years thinking about where my research is taking me and exploring new topics and ideas. I have also gained access to different funding sources, [...]

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