Work Package 3

WP3 AGRISPACE framework and methods

AGRISPACE will employ innovative and ambitious methods of spatial analysis of the combined interdisciplinary data gathered in WP4. These data will be obtained from multiple sources, come from a variety of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and will be both aggregated and site specific in nature.

AGRISPACE research needs data that reveals variation across space on natural, economic, social and political indicators. Analysis of spatial variation can describe differences between spatial indicators. However, the great potential of AGRISPACE lies in its ability to explore dynamics (interactions and correlations) between these indicators and within different interpretations of space. The spatial dispersion of agriculture and the changes therein is the combined result of the dispersion of natural resources, of human, social and economic capital, and of regional policy measures.

Regional science contributes valuable methodologies for descriptive spatial analysis and spatial dynamics. Firstly, there is a tradition of inter-disciplinarity which AGRISPACE will join. Secondly, the analysis of regional dynamics is, to a large extent, carried out with highly structured economic models, which will be part of AGRISPACE (e.g. Daniel & Kilkenny 2009). Third, spatial analysis is a computational challenge. One might get a view of the result of spatial processes, but the drivers are to a considerable extent unobserved and need be inferred from aggregate or site-specific observations. Recently, new statistical tools have been introduced to cope with this challenge within reasonable computer time (Rue et al., 2009; Lindgren et al., 2011).

The success of AGRISPACE depends on its inter-disciplinarily – a problem focused iterative research approach coordinated between disciplines/work packages where effort is made to cross epistemological and ontological boundaries (in particular, qualitative and quantitative research methodologies). In this research we will adopt a methodological pluralism approach to integration, primarily because it enables projects to “focus more directly on the problems, rather than the particular intellectual tools used to solve them” (Haddorn et al., 2006: 120). However, methodological pluralism itself represents a serious intellectual challenge (Midgely, 1996). A number of steps will be taken to ensure integration, in particular: (a) developing an understanding of each other’s language/key concepts in the early stages, (b) involving all the research teams at the early stages of project development, (c) maintaining collaboration activities throughout the project , (d) coordinating access to all emerging results, and (e) integrating the knowledge of stakeholders (Höchtl et al., 2006; Deconchat et al., 2007; Mottet et al., 2007; Stevens et al., 2007). In addition the research tasks have specific cross-disciplinary iterative linkages embedded in the methodology. Towards the end of the project an assessment will be made of interdisciplinary success through a ‘communal reflection’ process and an assessment of the ‘significant outcome’ (contribution of the research to problem solving) as suggested by Wickson et al. (2006).
Work package leaders: Øyvind Hoveid, NILF and Rob Burton, CRR. Additional participants: NFLI, Arild Blekesaune (NTNU), Maureen Kilkenny (US) & Thomas Heckelei (Germany)