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Oregon State staff address “Wicked Problems”.

July 5th, 2017

Oregon State Scholars publish a new book, “New Strategies for Wicked Problems: Science and Solutions in the 21st Century”, a look into current problems that our society confronts on social, economic, political and environmental topics. This book is a series of articles that addresses these issues and proposes an assortment of problem-solving methodologies to confront them.

Appealing to a large crowd the book is for other scholars, students, policy makers, managers and anyone in our communities facing these “wicked” problems.  From the school of Public Policy at Oregon State staff Edward Weber, Denise Lach and Brent Steel edited and compiled the essays into this book which can be ordered online or by calling 1-800-621-2736 to see if it is available in bookstores.

One example of the issues they touched on was addressing the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as “fracking”. Fracking is a technique used to get gas and oil from the ground by injecting liquid, usually a water mixture, into the Earth at high pressure. This specific article written by Chrisopher Weible and Tanya Heikkila from the University of Colorado-Denver explores how professional expertise, personal-values and affiliation with different groups affects how people approach the issue. In this case how fracking effects not only the environment, but the economy and society.

Another example is an article by Robert Lackey, a fisheries biologist who has worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and OSU, which tackles the issue of wild salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. He argues that the science and technology to restore wild salmon runs is available, but the solutions ultimately would be too restrictive and divisive to succeed. The billions of dollars spent on salmon recovery to make minute inroads into the solution might be considered “guilt money,” he says.

In their concluding essays, editors Weber, Lach and Steel explore whether there is need for a new social contract for scientists and policy implementation. Plans can’t be rushed. They need strong and engaged leadership, sufficient time for implementation, and proper funding.

Editors wrote: “… We also hope to energize the scholarly and practitioner-based conversations and real-world practices around these topics in ways that help leaders and stakeholders imagine new possibilities, conduct new experiments in implementation, and, ultimately, make even more progress in the ongoing, difficult battle against wicked problems and their less-than-desirable effects for society as a whole.

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