About arjenwals

Arjen Wals is a Professor of Social Learning and Sustainable Development. He also is a UNESCO Chair in the same field. Wals has worked at Wageningen University since 1992 in various departments. He is a guest professor at IDPP at Gothenburg University since 2014. His research focuses on learning processes that contribute to a more sustainable world. A central question in his work is how to create conditions that support new forms of learning that take full advantage of the diversity, creativity and resourcefulness that is all around us, but so far remains largely untapped in our search for a world that is more sustainable than the one currently in prospect. Wals has been involved in a number of projects in Africa that seek to make curricula more responsive to current societal and labour market needs and challenges posed by (un)sustainability. Popular books include: 'Higher Education and the Challenge of Sustainability (Kluwer Academic, 2004) and Social Learning towards a Sustainable World (Wageningen Academic, 2007).

A Tribute to Tich Pesanayi (07/12/1965 – 16/04/2019)

Today I found out that the world lost a great African Environmental and Sustainability Educator: Dr. Victor Tichaona Pesanayia.

Tich

Tich Pesanayi (07/12/1965 – 16/04/2019)

Tich was a gentle, kind and understanding person with Mandela-like qualities. From the first day I met him in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal,  he impressed and inspired me – he radiated calmness and wisdom and proved to be a masterful facilitator when we worked with a group from the University of Zululand with colleagues from Wageningen at WESSA.He later involved me in his PhD work as one of his supervisors, although my role was modest and I sometimes think I learnt more from him than the other way around. Just days before his passing he managed to attend the graduation ceremony at Rhodes University.

TichGraduation.png

Tich at his graduation at Rhodes University with his main supervisor and co-learner Heila Lotz-Sisitka

Life is not fair, we know that, but it hurts every time we witness it. I know he was a very religious man with faith – I am sure this provided him a lot of comfort. How wonderful that he was able to attend the gradation ceremony still.

I wish his family and loved ones lots of strength in coping with this tremendous loss. Rest assured though that he touched so many lives and his impact will travel much further still.

Below I am sharing the tribute to him from Mumsie Gumede, the president of the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa EESA.

“We are immensely saddened by the passing of Dr Victor Tichaona Pesanayi, fondly known in our sector as Tich; a friend, colleague, teacher, scholar, mentor, leader, researcher, prolific writer, visionary activist for environmental education in the sub-region, and our Secretary General.

This comes a week after we celebrated his graduation with a PhD in Education at Rhodes University, South Africa.

Tich made his debut in our organisation, EEASA, and regional sector at large during the times of the POEM – a schools’ environmental policy programme that was run by Environment Africa, Zimbabwe, under the leadership and mentorship of Innocent Hodzonge. Some will recall his EEASA 2004 remarkable presentation which was fully subscribed to the point that Janet Snow, the Treverton Colleges conference organizer had to make additional slots available in the programme. Others will remember him during the thorough research and feedback workshops at EEASA 2006 in Harare when EEASA and the SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme (SADC-REEP) were paving the way for bottom up participation in the 2005-1014 UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD). The research he did with Prof. Heila Sisitka, Dr Lausanne Olvitt and Mumsie Gumede was subsequently published through Share-Net as a series of written reports. Some UNESCO Commissioners and EE practitioners will remember him for the UNDESD mid-term evaluation research workshops in the SADC sub-region, working with the SADC REEP team and Prof. Overson Chumba, Zambia. He later joined WESSA in Howick to take over the SADC-REEP management baton from Dr Justin Lupele, Mumsie Gumede, Mike Ward and Dr Jim Taylor with amazing fortitude; hitting the ground running, as the programme was just evolving into a different stage.

Tich contributed to EEASA in many ways. He served in the EEASA Council since 2007 and played a strategic role in keeping EEASA, SADC REEP, and SADC EE Networks together. This work was so strategic that he was co-opted into Council a number of times to support specific areas that enhance the regionalization and scaling of (ESD) through EEASA. Whether he was elected, co-opted or merely volunteering as an ordinary member, his contributions were always profound and insightful. In a way, he was the back-bone of the EEASA Council for many years! He researched and wrote articles on EEASA nodes and networks, and introduced a number of people to the Association as he traversed the region, and indeed the globe, representing the sub-regional ESD voice….”multiple voices, diversity of contributing voices, convergence (solidarity) and divergence of voices, and silent voices…”, in conversation with Tich, Feb 2019.

On Thursday, 11 April 2019 Tich graduated with his PhD from Rhodes University to his and his family’s joy. His PhD was not just written in words, it was realized in the lives of the many people he worked with over the course of his study, including a number of young scholars whom he mentored, some of whom were introduced to EEASA such as Keneilwe Mathaba, Phindi Sithole, Chisala Lupele, and Sarah Durr all of whom have much to offer EEASA in future. Tich would have wanted the next generation to take on the task of carrying EEASA forward where he left it off. His mentorship is aptly captured by the Muxombo Youth Group in Alice who are part of the Amanzi for Food training programme:“The work of Mr. Tich lives through us today at eSixekwe location! Sobonana kwelizayo mnumzana.”

Indeed, Tichaona’s contributions to EEASA are deep and strong, eternally captured in his prolific academic writing and book contributions. His PhD is one that can provide leadership for the SADC sub-region for many years to come. This is the citation that was read on his PhD study on Thursday morning at his PhD graduation:

African communities have been disconnected from land, and from traditional agro-ecological practices including seed saving and water harvesting. In this study Tichaona recovers African cultures of agriculture. Working generatively with agricultural colleges and farmers in South Africa and Zimbabwe he re-centres the smallholder farmer in agricultural education and learning systems. His expansive, boundary-crossing learning network approach to transformative learning in agricultural learning systems offers a new model for agricultural education and training in Africa with significant theoretical and practical implications”.

Our hearts go out to his dear wife Amanda, his mother and the broader family. We thank them for sharing this kind giant with us at home and away from home. May they be comforted by the knowledge that it was not in vain as accolades keep coming in for Tich from all over the world.

“…I remember him very well from various meetings and I always enjoyed working together. Warmest condolences”Alexander Leicht, UNESCO, Paris, France.

At SWEDESD we are honored and blessed to have known Dr Victor Tichaona Pesanayi. His passing is a loss for the environment and sustainability community, EEASA, SADC, and the UNESCO Global Action Programme. I cannot say in words what he has done for the sector and those who came to know him. Although we have lost him, his legacy as a model in our professional and personal life – no one can take away….”Dr Shepherd Urenje, SWEDESD, University of Uppsala, Sweden.

Tichaona has left us a beautiful legacy. He has taught many of us how to live a life of kindness, care and always show the greatest generosity of spirit and mind. He will be sadly missed at the ELRC, in EEASA, in SADC and elsewhere”Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Rhodes University

I will miss Tich, a humble and dedicated personality who loved to touch everyone with care. I have always enjoyed working with Tich, and every time he spent a weekend in Windhoek he insisted that we go together to the Seventh Day Adventist Church…..” Dr Alex Kanyimba, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia

Even when his health was failing him, he actively participated in the last EEASA Conference in Zambia with zeal and dedication. He chaired sessions and volunteered to manage some sessions. Tich was a great listener and thoughtful person.”Dr Justin Lupele, Education for Sustainable Development Specialist, Managing Consultant Beehive Associates Limited, Zambia

Much love and honor to a truly great man, a caring friend, a Room 20 study mate, and OUR cherished Comrade in education that translates to sustainability in all practices – in thinking, learning, living and development. He will be missed by many but never will he be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to have known him”… Dr Presha Ramsarup, Dr Caleb Mandikonza, Dr Dick Kachilonda

Dear Tich, although our words may never tell the full story of the man you were, may we grow with and grow from your legacy – let our appreciation and respect for your contributions be seen in the growth of EEASA and all that you stood for.”

Mumsie Gumede

(EEASA PRESIDENT)

17 April 2019

TichCollage

COMPOSE – A transdisciplinary Masterclass in the Art of being a Researcher in turbulent times of fake news and climate change

Compose

In May I will be part of, what promises to be, and exciting one-day Masterclass in Gothenburg about the art of being a researcher  in turbulent times of fake news and climate change.

Climate scientists regularly emit dire warnings illustrating dangerous changes to the oceans and atmosphere. At the same time there’s a lack of connection between the facts drawn from climate science and the immediate motivations required to drive active prioritisation of climate action

This gap between fact and action is possibly most staggering at universities. As their academics publish one distressing fact after, universities largely continue with business as usual. This is arguably because climate science primarily originates from epistemologies that prioritise measurability and predictability of climate change rather than interpretative, subjective approaches that deal with people’s perceptions of change and their ability to respond. From a positivist position, scientists are expected to separate themselves from their subject. In the case of climate change, where the researcher is inherently part of the social and climatological system that they are researching, such assumed separation and exemption of action is proving to become fatal.

We invite academics of all stripes and disciplines to reinvent the role of the researcher to be reliable authors of facts, as well as pioneers in acting upon those facts. We will explore what it means to be impacted by and embedded in our research whilst retaining a degree of scientific distance and composure. How can we be a researcher/scientist, as well as a parent, community member and essentially human living in these increasingly complex and confusing times? What are the unique attributes that a researcher brings to this matter and what (new) epistemologies fit this reimagined position?

Hosted by former Carl Bennet Guest Professor in Education for Sustainable Development Arjen Wals and his international colleagues, the day aims to radically shift our perspectives and research practice. The session will draw from the results of the international research project Imaginative Disruptions, funded by The Seed Box.

The Masterclass is free and lunch will be provided, but places are limited and must be booked in advance here. We will take bookings until the 23rd of May.

For more information please contact Åse Bjurström on ase.bjurstrom@gu.se

In collaboration with the University of Gothenburg

Living Spiral Framework – Seeds of Sustainable Transitions

LivingSpiral

Over the past three years I have been fortunate to be a part of an ISSC supported Transformative Knowledge Network (TKN) called the T-Learning Network (see: T-Learning Network Website). The network has yielded several highly cited academic papers but, fortunately, also more practical ideas, concepts and tools. Three young and talented people in the network -Thomas Macintyre, Martha Chaves and Dylan McGary – co-created a lovely guide in both Spanish and English introducing one of the networks most exciting ideas: the Living Spiral Framework. This guide is targeted at researchers and practitioners interested in sharing their research into transformative and transgressive learning in the field of sustainability, climate change, and social and environmental justice.

In the introduction the guide states:

“We can understand transformative learning as transformations in beliefs, values and practices in a way that helps us live a more socially and ecologically responsible way. Delving deeper into the intricacies of transformation, we arrive at the emerging field of ‘transgressive learning,” a critical and action-oriented form of learning which challenges normalised systems which have become oppressive and detrimental to life.

We believe questioning our unsustainable beliefs, worldviews and practices as well as offering alternatives, is needed for such deeper learning to occur and transgress. To achieve this we need voices and narratives from actors within and outside of academia: from social learning facilitators, to indigenous shamen; from the city-based sustainability practitioners to the rural farmer, to have different perspectives on understanding transformation towards sustainability.

This guide provides a step-by-step guide for discovering how and to what extent, personal and collective learning journeys result in transformations towards sustainability, including the challenges and tensions experienced along the way. Moreover, it will allow you to follow the process cautiously to find your own indicators of transformation, unexpected results and opportunities, as well as other experiences along the way.” (Macintyre, Chaves, McGary, 2018 – p. 8).

Below you see the core of the framework which can be found here in its entirety Living Spiral Framework. If you want to more you can go http://www.transgressivelearning.org or email one of the authors: Thomas Macintyre <thomas.macintyre@gmail.com>

SpiralYou can also read our latest academic paper related to this work in the Journal of Action Research in its recent special issue on action research and climate change here: T-labs and climate change narratives: Co-researcher qualities in transgressive action–research

Climate change, education and sustainable development – Podcast on FreshEd

freshed

What’s the connection between education and climate change? I was interviewed about this question by Will Rehm of FreshEd – a popular podcast on the future of education –  at the 2018 Global Education Meeting, a high-level UNESCO forum held in Brussels. The Forum reviewed the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. In our conversation, I raised the issue of the ‘hidden curriculum of unsustainability that is born out of schools focusing on preparing learners for the globalizing economy as workers and consumers’. I tried to move beyond providing a critique – which is relatively easy – to also sketch some hopeful practices and possibilities of whole school approaches towards sustainable development. In the interview I call for more freedom and dissonance in education systems to engage with every day and emergent challenges in relation to sustainability in general and climate change more specifically. You can find the interview here!

Citation: Wals, Arjen, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 144, podcast audio, January 14, 2019.

“We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people” Ghent University wants to become a place where talent feels valued and nurtured

ghent

“A university is above all a place where everything can be questioned.”

My last two blog posts have been raising some critical questions about the viability and legitimacy of the scientific ‘enterprise’ in neo-liberal times. The Publish AND Perish blog post led to a lot of responses from colleagues within academic but also from the publishing ‘industry,’ including from the CEO of MDPI, Paul Vazquez. Coincidentally, a few weeks later, Ghent University in Belgium released a statement in which the university declared to go  – what I would call – ‘off-the-grid’ of commodification, marketization and economic globalization by turning towards, autonomy, (local) relevance, responsibility towards people and, hopefully planet as well, by creating spaces for transdisciplinarity, boundary-crossing and collaborative action (perhaps I am filtering the statement using my own lens – apologies if I do so). Below some excerpts form the statement which can be found here as well: Ghent University’s New Pathway

Here is the message from Ghent’s Vice Chancellor Rik van de Walle

‘We are transforming our university into a place where talent once again feels valued and nurtured’

(17-12-2018)

Our university should once again belong to the academics, rather than the bureaucracy, writes the rector of Ghent University, Rik Van de Walle.

Ghent University is deliberately choosing to step out of the rat race between individuals, departments and universities. We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people.

It is a common complaint among academic staff that the mountain of paperwork, the cumbersome procedures and the administrative burden have grown to proportions that are barely controllable. Furthermore, the academic staff is increasingly put under pressure to count publications, citations and doctorates, on the basis of which funds are being allocated. The intense competition for funding often prevails over any possible collaboration across the boundaries of research groups, faculties and – why not – universities. With a new evaluation policy, Ghent University wants to address these concerns and at the same time breathe new life into its career guidance policy. Thus, the university can again become a place where talent feels valued and nurtured. We are transforming our university into a place where talent once again feels valued and nurtured.
With the new career and evaluation model for professorial staff, Ghent University is opening new horizons for Flanders. The main idea is that the academy will once again belong to the academics rather than the bureaucracy. No more procedures and processes with always the same templates, metrics and criteria which lump everyone together.
We opt for a radically new model: those who perform well will be promoted, with a minimum of accountability and administrative effort and a maximum of freedom and responsibility. The quality of the individual human capital is given priority: talent must be nurtured and feel valued.
This marks the end of the personalized objectives, the annual job descriptions and the high number of evaluation documents and activity reports. Instead, the new approach is based on collaboration, collegiality and teamwork. All staff members will make commitments about how they can contribute to the objectives of the department, the education programmes, the faculty and the university.
The evaluations will be greatly simplified and from now on only take place every five years instead of every two or four years. This should create an ‘evaluation break’. 

 

We opt for a radically new model: those who perform well will be promoted, with a minimum of accountability and administrative effort and a maximum of freedom and responsibility. At the same time, we want to pay more attention to well-being at work: the evaluations of the supervisors will explicitly take into account the way in which they manage and coach their staff. The model must provide a response to the complaint of many young professors that quantitative parameters are predominant in the evaluation process. The well-known and overwhelming ‘publication pressure’ is the most prominent exponent of this. Ghent University is deliberately choosing to step out of the rat race between individuals, departments and universities. We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people.

Through this model, we are expressly taking up our responsibility. In the political debate on the funding of universities and research applications, a constant argument is that we want to move away from purely competitive thinking that leaves too little room for disruptive ideas. The reply of the policy makers is of course that we must first do this within the university itself. This is a clear step in that direction, and it also shows our efforts to put our own house in order.
With this cultural shift, Ghent University is taking the lead in Flanders, and we are proud of it. It is an initiative that is clearly in accordance with our motto: ‘Dare to Think’. Even more so, we dare to do it as well.
A university is above all a place where everything can be questioned.
Where opinions, procedures and habits are challenged. Where there is no place for rigidity.

 

I am absolutely convinced that in a few years’ time we will see that this new approach has benefited the overall quality of our university and its people.

Rik Van de Walle, rector.

Frank Vazquez, CEO of MDPI, Responds to “Publish AND perish” Post

The blog on the commodification of scientific publishing, posted earlier in December, has received lots of interest from many concerned academics. Some people responded to the blog (see under ‘replies’ at the end of the post), some contacted me by email and several people offered alternatives to the current system that seems to invite strategic behavior, a focus on ‘production’ (number of papers published) and efficiency (short turn-around), rather than on quality that is supported by a critical review system. One of the responses to the blog  came from MDPI’s – the publisher of the journal Sustainability that is featured in the post – CEO Frank Vazquez. I am posting his elaborate response after the key messages from the blog. I do appreciate that he took the time to do this.

Note the blog post on this can be found here: Update – Publish AND perish: how the commodification of scientific publishing is undermining both science and the public good

—————————————————————–

Key messages

“Everybody is writing, nobody is reading, everybody is writing for nobody.”

  • Academics are spending hundreds of hours a year, getting their work published, in peer-reviewed journals, providing free labor to commercial publishing companies.
  • The pressure to ‘produce’ and grow is huge, both in academia and in the publishing industry; this undermines quality and the university’s ability to serve the public good and, indeed, public trust in science.
  • Open access journal Sustainability publishes over 4000 contributions in its current Volume 10 – where most contributors will have to pay 1400 US Dollars* to have their work published. Its publisher MDPI has close to 200 journals working in a similar vein.’
  • Sustainability has 561 associate-editors from mostly public universities all working for free for the journal.
  • Of all industries, the publishing industry has the highest profit margin according to a recent article in the New Scientist.
  • A transition in science is needed to restore quality, trust and a culture of co-learning, peer-to-peer feedback and dialogue, and to unlock the the power of science in creating  more sustainable world.

* Sustainability just announced that the fee for having an article published in 2019 has been raised to 1700 US dollars…


Here you find the respons of MDPI’s CEO Frank Vazquez – without comment. Should you have a comment of your own, feel free to reply.

MDPIResponse_1

MDPI_Response_2

MDPI_Response_3

 

Update – Publish AND perish: how the commodification of scientific publishing is undermining both science and the public good

(since this post appeared 10 days ago it has been updated a few times which is why I am re-posting it)

Key messages

“Everybody is writing, nobody is reading, everybody is writing for nobody.”

  • Academics are spending hundreds of hours a year, getting their work published, in peer-reviewed journals, providing free labor to commercial publishing companies.
  • The pressure to ‘produce’ and grow is huge, both in academia and in the publishing industry; this undermines quality and the university’s ability to serve the public good and, indeed, public trust in science.
  • Open access journal Sustainability publishes over 4000 contributions in its current Volume 10 – where most contributors will have to pay 1400 US Dollars* to have their work published. Its publisher MDPI has close to 200 journals working in a similar vein.’
  • Sustainability has 561 associate-editors from mostly public universities all working for free for the journal.
  • Of all industries, the publishing industry has the highest profit margin according to a recent article in the New Scientist.
  • A transition in science is needed to restore quality, trust and a culture of co-learning, peer-to-peer feedback and dialogue, and to unlock the the power of science in creating  more sustainable world.

* Sustainability just announced that the fee for having an article published in 2019 has been raised to 1700 US dollars…


publish_or_perish_academic_publishing_ecology_cartoon

Let me apologise first, for this post has turned into a bit of a rant but I had to get if off my chest. Here we go:

The open-access journal Sustainability (IF 2,025) just published Volume 10, issue 11 which contains 508 papers of which – with some, often, negotiated exceptions – the authors, provided their labor free (that is, usually sponsored by public money to cover their salaries) will have paid its publisher MDPI 1400 Swiss Francs (about 1400 US Dollar) per paper. I looked into this after being invited by the journal to edit a special issue a few weeks ago. Below I share what I found out.

+++++++++++

Dear Prof Wals,

We invite you to join us as Guest Editor for the open access journal Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050), to establish a Special Issue. Our suggested topic is ‘Higher Education and Education for Sustainable Development’. You have been invited based on your strong publication record in this area, and we hope to work with you to establish a collection of papers that will be of interest to scholars in the field.

++++++++++++

I have published in Sustainability (Impact Factor: 2,025) before and am currently also involved in co-editing a Special Issue for the same publisher, MDPI, but for another one of their journals called Water (Impact Factor: 2,069), so my initial response was positive. The invitation seemed serious and the journal seems reputable. It was not one of those almost daily invitations from a bogus journal that usually starts with: “Greetings!! We read your paper on social learning and believe you could make and excellent contribution to our forthcoming issue in Preventative Cardiological Medicine” (usually a journal on a topic I know nothing about) and ends with something like: “I hope you have good days ahead”. No, this one was serious and caught my interest.

I responded by saying that I found the proposed topic a bit outdated – there is a lot available and being done in the area of Higher Education for Sustainable Development (in fact there is an entire journal on the subject that’s been around for more than 20 years) but that I would like to focus on the role of higher education in sustainability transitions. The assistant-editor responded immediately that that would be fine and she sent me the template to fill out. I drafted a text for a Call for Papers with input from two colleagues and asked her if the text was fine. Instead of getting a reply I received a link to the Special Issue Announcement (will be removed shortly by MDPI at our request).

“Wow, that went really fast,” I thought. Then, just days later, I received an invitation from another colleague working in more or less the same field:

“We write to invite submissions of papers to a Special Issue of the Sustainability Journal focusing on “Innovation, Higher Education and Sustainable Futures” which we are editing. We think that the work you are doing in this area would make an excellent contribution to this journal.”

I was very surprised: basically, our SI would be competing with that of my colleagues which is on more on less the same topic! Why did the editors not check for overlap or connect us? I then decided to have a look at the journal’s special issue website and was shocked to find that at the moment “Sustainability” has planned about 200 (!) Special Issues  for the year 2019 have a look here….

Let’s think about this. Sustainability publishes 12 issues per Volume and integrates these ‘special issues’ in one of those issues. On average each issue will have 10 articles normally, I figured naively, based on old times when publishers would actually print journals, but then I started thinking: how can they cram in all these special issue articles in the 12 issues of a volume? This became clear yesterday when I received an advertisement from MDPI announcing its ‘release’ of Sustainability’s Volume 10, Issue 11 titled: Historic Rural Landscapes: Sustainable Planning Strategies and Action Criteria. The Italian Experience in the Global and European Context.

In the email the table of contents was embedded and I started scrolling down to read some of the titles. Then something odd seemed to be happening, there was no end to the list of papers; I kept on scrolling and scrolling… How many papers are in one volume I wondered… well 508!  Feel free to check this here.

So, I then checked Issue 10: 468 articles…, Issue 9:  401 articles, and noted that with every new issue the number of published papers tends to go up. On average the journal has published just over 380 articles per issue this year which will result in about 4560 articles. Now for some of the editorial papers and for some other papers, authors will get their open access fee waived. Let us assume that about 10% of all papers will have the fee of 1400 US Dollar waived. The total revenue for 2018 for this MDPI journal would be 1400 x 4100 = 5.740.000 US Dollar.

Now, figure this, MDPI publishes more than two-hundred journals varying from the Journal of Acoustics to the Journal of World Electric Vehicles, all using more or less the same business model. Here is a list of MDPI-s journals And let us not forget the other big publishers like Taylor & Francis/Routledge, Elsevier, Springer, etc. who use the same or a similar model.

Now, to be fair, I must say that scrolling down the ToC of Vol. 10 (11), I saw many intriguing titles and some very inspiring and high-quality authors: there is some good work out there and indeed it is open access – that’s what the 1400 US pays for after all… But all the journal needs to do is to invite lots of Special Issue editors (when telling this story to colleagues at an international conference, it seemed that everybody there had been asked recently to do a SI…), have a good manuscript management system with a big reviewer database and have a good website where papers can be easily downloaded, plus they need mechanisms to make sure that the impact factor of the journal goes up (that’s another blog post…). They don’t need to print anything anymore, neither do they need to do any graphic design work as nowadays people submitting need to do that themselves in accordance the journal’s instructions.

The job of the assisting editor is really one of acquisition editor: soliciting special issues and making academics responsible for gathering content, reviewing content, editing content, citing content, all for free! I would not be surprised if journals and editors receive bonuses based on growth in revenue. The whole industry is driven by targets, growth and expansion. This leads to a lot of pressure on everybody involved which undermines scientific quality. See below an example of this: “An Aberdeen University researcher resigned from a prestigious international journal after claiming she was put under pressure to do “mediocre” work.” Aberdeen researcher washes her hands off of overbearing publisher(excerpt below)

ScotishResearcher

To return to the journal Sustainability… since the first version of this post appeared there has been a lot of activity on twitter with lots of comments, including the one below.

Picture1

Sadly our ‘business’ of academia has been contaminated by the same modus operandi: an increase in the production of papers and number of citations and the growth of one’s ‘h-factor’ (see an older post about this here), is driving much of what we do today. Quantity over quality. Who has time to review, to read with intend and concentration, to organise a seminar or a debate? All activities for which no brownie points can be earned but essential for scientific quality.

Academics trying to stay on top of their game or trying to climb the tenure track ladder, are frantically trying to get their work published, all working for free for the private sector, paid for by, often, public money, then having to pay the journal to make the publicly funded research accessible for ‘free’ to the public. This leads to absurd performances: I know of colleagues, some with whom I have co-authored papers, who average one scientific peer-reviewed article per week, per week

As suggested already, all this also has implications for the quality of the work of course: as people only get rewarded for their production (published papers) and not for their contributions to assuring quality (e.g. reviewing and critical reading), the quality of the review process goes down rapidly as both the people working for the publishing industry and the academic industry need to achieve their targets and show growth to remain competitive and to climb the rankings.

There is a huge unsettling paradox in contemporary academia where everybody is writing while nobody seems to be reading, really, which means that everybody is writing for nobody. This also makes me wonder: what does it mean to be cited? In the meantime, all that time we spend behind a screen making letters flow from our brains, through our hands to a computer screen, is sponsored mostly by public money, which we then move to the publishing industry, where the top management and the shareholders are all anticipating the next quarterly earnings report, good salaries and bonuses, and good returns on investments.

HERE is a trivia question for you: what is the most profitable business in the world? You might think oil, or maybe banking. You would be wrong. The answer is academic publishing. Its profit margins are vast, reportedly in the region of 40 per cent. (Source: The New Scientist)

NEW

Needless to say, this is a system that will run itself into the ground eventually. Science for impact factors in journals will need to transition towards science for impact in society. This will require that the world of higher education and academia becomes more autonomous and independent from globalising neo-liberal forces that undermine academic quality and integrity. Fortunately there are counter-movements in science seeking to disrupt this tragically resilient system such as the science-in-transition movement, the global alliance for community-engaged research  and the living knowledge network (send me more examples if know of nay, I will add them here). Furthermore, mainstream universities are beginning to recognise the problem and are beginning to emphasise the importance of healthy working environments, societal impact, citizen science and knowledge co-creation. More on this in another blog post.

p.s. you may also find the Beall’s list of predatory journals and publishers an interesting resource to help you check whether a journal or publisher you are considering is legitimate (also read the cautionary note stating that this is a rather dynamic and fluid world where a list like this one needs constant updating)

Environmental and sustainability education in the Benelux countries: research, policy and practices at the intersection of education and societal transformation

The journal Environmental Education Research recently published its third regional special issue covering trends and research in environmental and sustainability education in the BeNeLux countries. Together with Katrien van Poeck (UofGhent, Belgium) and Katrien van Poeck (UofLuxembourg, Luxembourg, I was a co-editor. Earlier regional special issues focussed on the Nordic countries (Scandinavia) and on Germany. Here you find a link to the introductory paper we wrote: BeNeLux Special Issue and here is a link to the Special Issue itself: Routledge Link to SI

Below some more information.

SIBeneLux

Table of Contents

Toc_1

ToC_2

ToC_4

Irish Radio Podcast – Sustainability and Disruption in Education

IrishRadioThank you Seán Delaney for giving me the opportunity to share some ideas about ‘off-the-grid’ education that can become relevant, responsive, responsible, re-imaginative and reflexive in light of urgent globals challenges. Here you find the link to the interview Seán held with me last August. Podcast Sustainability Education in Times of Systemic Global Dysfunction Below a description!

IrishPodcast

Duurzaam voortgezet onderwijs – special in “Van twaalf tot achttien”

Duurzameschoolspecial.png

This post is a rare post in Dutch!

Onlangs verscheen een speciaal nummer uit in “Van twaalf to achttien” – een van de oudste onderwijsbladen voor het voortgezet onderwijs – met daarin fraaie praktijkbeschrijvingen en vergezichten van de wijze waarop onderwijs leerlingen actief, betekenisvol en hoopvol kan betrekken bij lokale en mondiale duurzaamheidsvraagstukken. Het is een fraai vormgegeven nummer dat niet alleen inspireert maar waarin ook concrete adviezen staan. Ik hoop dat het ook digitaal beschikbaar komt binnenkort. Frans Ottenhof interviewde mij over mijn visie op duurzaam onderwijs. Ik heb een scan gemaakt van het resultaat – (zie onderaan deze post!)

DuurzameschoolInterview.png

Hier is het hele interview te lezen! InterviewDuurzaamOnderwijsSpecial_2018

Act Now for Environmental Education – A renewed global pledge for strengthening education and learning for a more sustainable world

GlobalActionThe Global Environmental Education Partnership (website) has created a pledge for reinvigorating Environmental Education world-wide in light of urgent sustainability challenges. In the pledge the global environmental education community is asked to work toward three visionary goals:

Every nation has an environmentally informed, empowered, and active populace and         
   workforce.
The leadership of every government, business, NGO, and educational institution uses
    environmental education to achieve environmentally sustainable outcomes.
Every educational institution incorporates environmental literacy into its mission, goals,
   and activities.
A tall order? Yes. But goals should be tall to keep them in sight as we advance step-by-incremental-step towards attaining them.

pledge letter  can be found here. By signing it you are endorsing these long-term goals and committing to do your part to achieve them. This website highlights 10 suggested areas for action. Hundreds of educators around the world have vetted these actions and helped outline key areas of focus for the field. Over time, GEEP will provide resources and support, including ongoing campaigns and activities, to help inspire action to move our collective agenda forward. By signing the pledge, you can stay connected to this global network.

Groundbreaking Network ENSI hands over the baton with a great collection to accelerate sustainability in schools

ENSIBook

Last week a wonderful collection of contributions recognizing the work of the Environment and School Initiatives network (ENSI) became available as a free online open-access pdf. In 32 chapters people who have played a role in the network reflect on history, trends and prospects of education engaging with sustainable development in a meaningful way. Below a part of the introduction by one of the editors and driver of ENSI Christine Affolter. Here you find the link to the book.ENSI Final Book

ENSI – 30 Yearof Engagement for Educatioand School Development

by Christine Affolter

ENSI has been an independent, self-managed network of experts drawn from the fields of Environmental Education (EE) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and financed by member countries and individual members. During the life time of the organisation ENSI often anticipated upcoming themes and new demands and through analyses, reflection, and participative debates drew up an annual working programme to meet these needs.

Often ENSI was the forerunner of themes and developments and as a result its work had a significant impact on schools in Europe, Asia and Australia through curriculum development, teacher education, and quality indicators. But having the favourable status of a self-managed network also involved a permanent challenge to find appropriate financing and over three decades ENSI had to find a balance between the professional quality of its work and the available funding resources.

Thanks to the commitment of the ENSI experts the network gained a high international reputation. Initially ENSI was founded by OECD/CERI in 1986 and aimed to respond to two related triggers (Elliott, 2018):

The increasing pressure from ‘grassroot-groups’ concerned about the impact of economically driven developments on the environment that were asking for school programmes to support students and teachers in the development of new competences such as critical thinking, dealing with complexity, and reflectivity.

Governments and schools that had to deal with the educational implications of the increasing social complexity resulting from rapid economic and social change. Schools needed to find answers in their local environment realising that centralized curricula couldn’t completely fulfil the needs of the local communities.


The chapter I wrote (see below) can be found here: Wals_Lessons_from_the_ENSI_Network-split-merge (1).

Pendulum.png

 

Socio-Psychological Perspectives on the Potential for Serious Games to Promote Transcendental Values in IWRM Decision-Making – new review paper

Water2018

water-10-01097-g001

I was fortunate to be part of a comprehensive review paper identifying design principles for serious games that seek to move participants beyond improving their understanding of complex water management issues to also include discussions on values and ethics which are often forgotten or, worse, ignored in such games. Much applies also to the use and design of serious gaming in other sustainability related challenges. Special thanks to Diana Marini and Wietske Medema for initiating this paper and doing the bulk of the hard work to realise it. The article is part of a Special Issue in Water called Understanding Game-based Approaches for Improving Sustainable Water Governance: The Potential of Serious Games to Solve Water Problems which I am co-editing with some of the authors of this paper (led by Wietske Medema). Here is a link to that emerging SI: Gaming and Water Governance

Keywords: serious games (SGs); water management; value change; transcendental values; social equity; sustainability; Schwartz’s Value Survey (SVS); Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM); psychosocial perspectives; decision-making processes

Abstract: Modern day challenges of water resource management involve difficult decision-making in the face of increasing complexity and uncertainty. However, even if all decision-makers possessed perfect knowledge, water management decisions ultimately involve competing values, which will only get more prominent with increasing scarcity and competition over resources. Therefore, an important normative goal for water management is long-term cooperation between stakeholders.

According to the principles of integrated water resource management (IWRM), this necessitates that managerial decisions support social equity and intergenerational equity (social equity that spans generations). The purpose of this discussion is to formulate preliminary recommendations for the design of serious games (SGs), a potential learning tool that may give rise to shared values and engage stakeholders with conflicting interests to cooperate towards a common goal. Specifically, this discussion explores whether SGs could promote values that transcend self-interest (transcendental values), based on the contributions of social psychology.

The discussion is organized in the following way. First, an introduction is provided as to why understanding values from psychological perspectives is both important for water management and a potential avenue for learning in SGs. Second, a review of the description of values and mechanisms of value change from the field of social psychology is presented.

This review highlights key psychological constraints to learning or applying values. Based on this review, recommendations are made for SGs designers to consider when developing games for water management, in order to promote transcendental values.

Overall, the main conclusions from exploring the potential of value change for IWRM through SGs design are as follows: 1-SGs design needs to consider how all values change systematically; 2-SGs design should incorporate the many value conflicts that are faced in real life water management, 3-SGs could potentially promote learning by having players reflect on the reasoning behind value priorities across water management situations, and 4-value change ought to be tested in an iterative SGs design process using the Schwartz’s Value Survey (SVS) (or something akin to it). Keywords: serious games (SGs); water management; value change; transcendental values; social equity; sustainability; Schwartz’s Value Survey (SVS); Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM); psychosocial perspectives; decision-making processes

You can find a copy of the paper here for your own use: Personal PDF but you can of course also get the paper at MDPI’s website for the journal WATER here: Link to the paper on MDPI’s Water Website

Open on-line course – Civic Ecology: Reclaiming Broken Places – Registration now open

CivicEcology2018

In September the Cornell Open On-line Course “Civic Ecology: Reclaiming Broken Places” will run again. Participants of this online course explore the people, places, and practices that restore nature and revitalize neighborhoods. Colleague and environmental educator Marianne Krasny and her team at Cornell University have been running this course successfully for a few years now and the topic is more timely then ever. The content connects with a some excellent publications which Krasny and her team have put together recently and published with Cornell University Press. Including – just out – Grassroots to Global: the broader impact of civic ecology More info and Urban Environmental Education Review (edited by Krasny and Russ). More info!

Course Dates: Sept 18 – Nov 5, 2018
Register: Registration Form

View Course Trailer

Just out: Serious games as a catalyst for boundary crossing, collaboration and knowledge co-creation in a watershed governance context

GamingBoundaryCrossing

Thanks to the wonderful work mainly of Steven Jean and Wietske Medema I am glad to be part of the above paper that appeared in the latest issue of the Journal of Environmental Management (Jean et al., 2018, JEMA, 223, 1010-1022). You can have a look here: Serious Gaming, Boundary Crossing and Water Governance

ABSTRACT

Novel methods for enhancing collaboration and interactions are required to ensure that stakeholders and governments are able to develop a shared vision that supports sustainable watershed governance. Particular attention must be placed on integrating stakeholders who would otherwise have limited decision-making power. By crossing professional, ideological and jurisdictional boundaries, stakeholders’ perspectives are more likely to change than when staying within those boundaries. This process, known as boundary crossing, requires boundary objects; either artifacts, people, or institutions that play a bridging role between different boundary spaces. For this study, serious games powered by scientific models are identified as potentially effective boundary objects. A serious game simulation called Aqua Republica was used to organize game simulation events allowing stakeholders to connect in an in-person, informal and novel setting. This exploratory research aims to study the role and impact of serious games as boundary objects to enhancing collaboration and knowledge co-creation. The following research questions are addressed: (1) Do interactions increase over the course of a game simulation event? (2) Does the quality of interactions change over the course of a game simulation event? (3) Are the quantity and quality of interactions affected by pre-existing relationships? And if so, how? (4) How does the relationship between participants change over the course of a game simulation event? As part of this study, four game simulation events were organized that included students, professionals and diverse stakeholder groups working in watershed management contexts across Eastern Canada with 40 participants in total. Participants were divided into teams of 3–5 members and were surveyed and their interactions recorded. An interaction and social network analysis of the audiovisual recordings of each game simulation event indicates that interactions between participants increase in both quantity and quality as the game progresses. The analysis shows that serious game simulations provide an intervention platform not only to facilitate cross-boundary interactions, but also to strengthen relationships between diverse stakeholders, as expressed by an increase in mutual trust and empathy, as well as an improved understanding among the participants of the watershed system and the complex issues at stake.