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Navigating wicked problems as geographers: challenges and strategies for participating in wicked problem research

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural Geography Specialty Group, Ethics, Justice, and Human Rights Specialty Group, Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM (MDT)
Room: Virtual Track 8
Organizers: Jeffrey Swofford
Chairs: Jeffrey Swofford


Wicked problems are problems that are difficult or impossible to solve because they are ill defined, more complex than we fully grasp, and open to multiple interpretations. Wicked problems are overwhelming—for both the communities they impact and the researchers who study them. Indeed, academic and professional engagement related to wicked problems might have the capacity for creating unique stressors and challenges for the experts themselves. Considering that many students and scholars studying geography may focus on wicked problems throughout their careers, understanding the social-psychological challenges of working with wicked problems and the potential strategies that can be used to manage these challenges is an important contribution to both research and teaching in geography.

This organized session will feature early-stage research proposals, conceptual research, empirical research, and pedagogical efforts that highlight the challenges of developing new knowledge and research for wicked problem topics. We especially encourage presenters that showcase real-world examples and/or new methodological approaches for analyzing the geographic dimensions of wicked problems. Possible topics may include but are not limited to:

1. Human-geography research related to wicked problems in areas such as climate change, poverty, food and hunger, violence, health and wellness, politics, global change and the environment, for example.
2. Challenges associated with conducting research and fieldwork in communities impacts by wicked problems; and strategies for addressing these challenges.
3. Exploring researcher-research participant relationships related to wicked problems research.
4. Frameworks and typologies for understanding geographic and interdisciplinary research related to wicked problems.
5. Teaching and curriculum efforts related to wicked problems.
6. Other proposed topics related to wicked problems.

AAG Sponsors: Cultural Geography, Energy and Environment, Environmental Perception & Behavioral Geography, Ethics, Justice, and Human Rights, Health and Medical Geography, Human Dimensions of Global Change.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Jennie DeMarco*, Western Colorado University, Listen, learn, and unite to act: One scientist’s approach to building trust to engage the public in climate science 15 11:10 AM
Presenter E. Melanie DuPuis*, Pace University, E. Melanie DuPuis, Pace University, Wicked Problems and Thorny Solutions 15 11:25 AM
Presenter Jeffrey Swofford*, Arizona State University, Sonja Klinsky, Arizona State University , Blake Ashforth, Arizona State University, Maria Ojala, Örebro University, Maintaining a positive occupational identity while working on wicked problems: lessons from climate change scholars 15 11:40 AM
Presenter Edward Carr*, Clark University, Timothy J Downs, Clark University, Morgan L Ruelle, Clark University, A Curricular Approach to Wicked Problems 15 11:55 AM
Presenter Corrine Knapp*, University of Wyoming, Robin S. Reid, Colorado State University, Maria E. Fernandez-Gimenez, Colorado State University, Julia Klien, Colroado State University, Putting Transdisciplinarity in Context: A Review of Approaches to Connect Scholars, Society and Action 15 12:10 PM

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