ATREE@20 Event: Round Table Discussion on Interdisciplinarity in Environmental Research, 4 January 2016

ATREE marked the beginning of its 20th year by organizing a round table discussion "From Ecological Economics to Ecology, Economy and Society: Engagements with Interdisciplinarity" at the 8th Biennial Conference of the Indian Society of Ecological Economics (INSEE). The event was held on 4 January 2016 at the Satish Dhawan Auditorium, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The audience included close to 200 scholars and practitioners from India and abroad, with representation from Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, China, Nepal, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

Twenty years ago, the idea of environmental research that bridges the natural and social sciences was still a nascent one in the Indian context. Ecological economics proposed the idea of bridging ecology and economics and today the work of ATREE and INSEE members is better captured in the phrase "Ecology, Economy and Society", reflecting a wider understanding of the environmental problem.

The panelists in this round table discussion were:

  • Prof Kanchan Chopra, Former Director, Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi; and Founding President of INSEE
  • Prof Desmond McNeill, Head of Research and Director of SUM's Research School, Center for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo
  • Prof Arild Vatn, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB); and Former President of European Society for Ecological Economics

The session was moderated by Sharachchandra Lele, Senior Fellow & Convenor, Centre for Environment & Development, ATREE.

This panel discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by this broader framing for interdisciplinarity in environmental research, including its conceptual, organizational, and pedagogical aspects. The panelists reflected on their own motivations in venturing into interdisciplinary research. Drawing on their own experiences in working with researchers from different disciplines, they recalled how different scientists would look at the same problem in different ways. As economists they often found it easier to work with natural scientists than with social scientists from other disciplines. Even if it is difficult for researchers from different disciplines to work together, such a collaboration can result in meaningful policy recommendations.