Response to Expanding the role of social science in conservation through an engagement with philosophy, methodology and methods

Nibedita Mukherjee (Lead Author), David C. Rose, Davide Geneletti, Mark Everard, William J. Sutherland

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


In a previous series of papers (Sutherland, Dicks, Everard, & Geneletti,), we summarise the use of a range of social science methods in conservation decision-making. Moon et al. () claim that the special feature risks narrowing the scope of social science research and suggest that we presented a limited perspective on the field. They thereby criticise the special feature for not doing something that it never intended to do in the first instance. We did not claim that the list of articles covered in the special feature is a comprehensive list (which it obviously is not) and we are unclear why anyone would think it is. While we consider the Moon et al. () paper to be a useful contribution for conservation scientists as a supplementary paper, it serves less as a critique to the special feature. Moon et al.('s () paper makes very few direct and substantive criticisms of points raised in the special feature. We respond to areas of contention referring specifically to research philosophy, bias, and data reporting. Moon et al. () criticise the set of papers for perpetuating an objectivist view of the world. We believe that it would be rather disconcerting for the research community if there were no social truths to discover. Rather, social science research methods conducted in specific places can be good ways of exploring how truths vary in different contexts. We also note that Moon et al. () completely missed the point we were trying to make about psychological biases, which are quite different to the issues associated with researcher bias highlighted by them. We encourage readers to pay close attention to the use of social science methods in conservation science. We reiterate, however, that the main purpose of the special feature was to ensure that social science methodologies for decision-making are accessible for all conservation scientists to use, regardless of disciplinary background.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-307
Number of pages5
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3
Early online date8 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • bias
  • conservation social science
  • decision-making
  • focus groups
  • interviews
  • philosophy
  • policy-making
  • qualitative methods

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