SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH AND EFFORTS
SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH
Social science research provides useful information to inform the design of programs, evaluates the progress of recovery actions, informs policy decisions, and further explores the relationship between people and their environment.
SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH NEEDS FOR PUGET SOUND RECOVERY
The Social Science for the Salish Sea (S4) project was initiated in response to the Puget Sound Partnership’s stated need for robust social science to inform regional ecosystem recovery strategies. Through a partnership with the University of Washington’s EarthLab, we convened a transboundary team of interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners to develop an action-oriented social science research agenda that serves the pragmatic ecosystem recovery needs of the Salish Sea—the transboundary waters shared by British Columbia’s Georgia Basin and Washington State’s Puget Sound.
Human dimensions refers to the full spectrum of ways in which people relate to the environment including actions and behaviors that affect the health of the Sound as well as the ways in which people benefit from engagement with the natural environment of Puget Sound (e.g., human wellbeing). Human dimensions reflect the complex reciprocal relationship and interactions between humans and the natural environment, including interactions connected to all things social, cultural, linguistic, behavioral, political, economic, psychological, and geographic. The application of human dimensions in ecosystem recovery takes many forms, which include considering, monitoring, and measuring human wellbeing as an aspect of ecosystem health and vitality. Examples include, but are not limited to: (1) the negative impacts human-constructed shoreline infrastructure (e.g., hard armor) has on nearshore habitat and natural landscapes; (2) the inequitable impacts environmental health risks have on Washington communities; and (3) the positive impacts of sense of place on pro-environmental stewardship in Puget Sound. The Puget Sound Partnership in collaboration with Oregon State University, Northern Economics, Inc., and other partners developed the Human Dimensions Protocol as a guide to integrate human dimensions into regional planning efforts (Implementation Strategies).
The Human Wellbeing Vital Signs address the recovery goals for a healthy human population and vibrant human quality of life, particularly as they relate to people’s engagement with the natural environment of Puget Sound. The Vital Signs include familiar aspects of human health that contribute to our wellbeing, such as physical and psychological health, as well as social, cultural, and economic wellbeing and governance, or the way that people participate in decision-making.
SOCIAL SCIENCES ADVISORY COMMITTEE
The Partnership’s Science Panel established the Puget Sound Social Sciences Advisory Committee (SSAC) in 2010. The SSAC engages social scientists from many disciplines to inform and support Partnership goals and advise the Science Panel on matters related to the social sciences, salmon, and ecosystem recovery. Committee members include social scientists, both academics and professionals, from the Puget Sound region. The SSAC meets regularly to discuss advancements in social sciences research and monitoring, guide additional Puget Sound priority social sciences work, review Partnership materials, and provide a liaison to the Science Panel. The SSAC also informs the work of the Puget Sound Institute (PSI) in support of recovery efforts.
In 2013 the Puget Sound Partnership commissioned researchers at the University of Washington to investigate the social connections influencing Puget Sound recovery, because a key part of the agency’s mission is to build working partnerships.
MUNICIPAL BARRIERS TO GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
To better understand the barriers local governments face to installing green infrastructure, like improved stormwater management or low-impact development, the Puget Sound Partnership in 2015 commissioned the LEAF program at Edmonds Community College to conduct research. Researchers identified such barriers as lack of communication across local government divisions and uncertainties in performance and cost. Solutions also emerged, such as providing financial assistance to update infrastructure and train staff.
PUBLIC OPINION SURVEYS
SOUND BEHAVIOR INDEX
Surveys to measure behavior related to yard care, car maintenance, home maintenance, pet/animal waste, onsite septic systems, small farms, and recreational boating and fishing were conducted in 2012, 2013, and 2015. In addition, the first survey established the baseline and included a segment asking about social capital, or the value of social connectedness. The Sound Behavior Index is part of the Sound Stewardship Vital Sign and will continue to be monitored. Sound Behavior Index reports are available here.
GENERAL PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY
The General Opinion Survey focused on people’s general knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and sense of place related to Puget Sound. Conducted in 2012, 2013, and 2015, the surveys helped identify characteristics of the population useful for developing various stewardship activities. The surveys informed the Puget Sound Starts Here campaign and provided pilot data related to the new Human Wellbeing Vital Sign indicators. Public Opinion surveys are available here.
BARRIERS AND MOTIVATORS SURVEY
Three surveys concentrated on practices related to a healthy Sound were carried out in 2012 to better understand barriers and motivators to these practices. After the surveys, researchers conducted follow-up focus groups to gain deeper perspectives into people’s barriers to and motivations for Sound-healthy practices. Barriers and Motivators Surveys are available here.