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An ongoing lecture with a visiting scholar.
Every year CeCAR welcomes leading collective action researchers as visiting scholars.
Photo: Benjamin Aikynemi
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CeCAR Visiting Scholars

Every year CeCAR welcomes scholars from around the world to attend seminars, workshops, and events. In this section we introduce you to a few of these leading researchers in the field of collective action.

Erick was Visiting Scholar at the CeCAR Lunch Seminar on Tuesday 19 February, 2019.

What are you currently researching?
I have a number or research projects going on at the moment. First, I have an on-going interest in studying political debates around carbon pricing. This includes research on what structures opinion on carbon pricing (and climate policy more generally), as well as how different frames and instrument design can influence support. As part of this project, we are conducting a panel study of Canadians this year to examine how the federal government’s policy of returning proceeds from the federal carbon tax to citizens through tax credits will affect support over time. Second, I study public risk perceptions related to climate change, and compare the perceptions of the public to expert assessments of risk (e.g. flood mapping) in Canada. This has led me to develop maps of Canadian climate opinion at the local level (www.umontreal.ca/climat). I’ve also just begun a project with 14 of Canada’s largest environmental groups. We are surveying a random sample of their members (who make up over 1 million Canadians) to examine the pathways to environmental engagement in Canada. We will compare results of this survey with those of a general population study we are running simultaneously.

How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society?
The kind of research I do is closely related to actual debates we are having in Canada. It is problem driven. Because of this, I work hard to disseminate the results of our research to a wider audience. This includes policy reports and presentations to decision-makers, insurance companies, and groups working in Canada on issues related to climate change.

What do you enjoy most about your research?
I enjoy working collaboratively with other researchers from around the world on common problems the world is facing. I also really enjoy the interdisciplinary aspect of research on climate change. The problem is so complex it demands that we pay attention to science, economics, politics, health and psychology, among other aspects. I find this intellectually stimulating, though it can also be a challenge.

What is the most challenging aspect of your research?
The complexity of the climate change problem is challenging. The world is slow to act, despite the fact that solutions are available. So the real challenge is getting people, governments, groups to act on the results of our research. This is really challenging and can be frustrating, but is also drives me to work harder to communicate solutions and best practices that the research community has to offer.

Selected readings
Montpetit, É. and Lachapelle, E. (2015). Can Policy Actors Learn from Academic Scientists?Environmental Politics 24(5): 661-680.

 

The complexity of the climate change problem is challenging. The world is slow to act, despite the fact that solutions are available. So the real challenge is getting people, governments, groups to act on the results of our research.

Erick Lachapelle
Erick Lachapelle, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Montreal.

Patricia Villarrubia Gomez was Visiting Scholar at the CeCAR Lunch Seminar on Monday 28 January, 2019.

What is your research and work about?
Previosly, at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, I had been working within marine plastic pollution and the planetary boundaries. I had also been involved in the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS), which in this topic/issue is providing information on how marine plastic pollution affects the fishing, aquaculture and feeds industries. In the project “Vision for a Circular Textile Fiber Industry Operating Within Planetary Boundaries Project”, I had the opportunity to work in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, H&M and SRC. We explored the links between the circular economy within the textile industry and the planetary boundaries framework. My role was to lead a case study on synthetic fibers (with a focus on polyester), to understand their local and global environmental impacts along the value chain.

Now, I am working as a Plastic Pollution Expert at GRID-Arendal, a Norwegian centre collaborating with the United Nations Environmental Program, where I will have the opportunity to work with governments and organizations around the world to build capacity, and increase information and awareness on marine plastic pollution.

How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society?
I aim to explore possible ways to bring relevent information to the attention of policymakers, private industry, and civil society. I believe it is very important to really understand how the system works - from the production of plastic, to consumption behavior, to how plastic could impact fish and humans by plastic ingestion. If we are to create impactful and effective solutions, we should have holistic, collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches towards this topic, and work at raising awareness and bringing sound information to governments and international policymakers.

What do you enjoy most about your research?
The part I enjoy the most is its complexity. Researching plastic pollution is similar to doing a million piece puzzle. Also, collaboration means meeting and learning from many different people, with many different points of view and backgrounds, which is personally one of my favorite things. There are still many pieces missing (to be identified and understood) to know the magnitude of the effects of plastic pollution. This collaborative work will take many years, but it is already certain that we have enough evidence to see the urgency and need to act now.

What is the most challenging aspect of your research?
One of the most challenging aspects of working with marine plastic pollution, from a holistic point of view, is the complexity of the system. Understanding the drivers, sources, pathways, fates and effects of plastic pollution is complicated. The way I see it, we cannot just simply decouple marine plastic pollution from plastic pollution itself. Another challenge is the lack of funding dedicated to interdisciplinary work. Since plastic pollution is a very interconnected and transboundary problem, we all have a role to play, from natural science to social sciences, as well as from the private sector, policymakers, civil society actors and consumers.

 

Researching plastic pollution is similar to doing a million piece puzzle.

Patricia Villarrubia Gomez
Patricia Villarrubia Gomez, Plastic Pollution Expert, GRID-Arendal.

Tijs van den Broek was Visiting Scholar at the CeCAR Lunch Seminar on Friday 15 March, 2019.

What are you currently researching?
My research is about online collective action, from online protest targeting corporations to fundraising campaigns, and the social evaluation of organizations on the Internet, for example criticism or legitimacy judgments. First, I study the organization and effectiveness of slacktivism: low-threshold, symbolic protest actions on the Internet. Digital media has lowered the threshold for citizens to express their judgment about firms that transgressed societal norms. How does this lower threshold change the motivations of citizens to take symbolic action on the Internet? We answer this question by conceptualizing this lower threshold with the mental effort that social evaluators may expend on making their judgement: do they elaborate on arguments on digital media (active evaluative mode) or do they follow peripheral cues to form their judgment and decide to act (passive evaluative mode)? The experimental setting we designed is an online petition asking citizens to publicly criticize a hotel booking website. Our results show that active evaluators are more influenced by instrumental and moral judgments, while passive evaluators are more influenced by their affective response and by their identification with those suffering from the firm’s purported behavior.

Second, together with Twitter, the Movember campaign (www.movember.org) and researchers from the University of Twente (NL) and UCLA (USA), we study the boundary conditions of online healthcare fundraising. What factors increase the average amount of funds collected by national campaigns and fundraising teams within the campaigns? In a cross-national panel study, we particularly focus on the interaction between network structure and prosocial values in a country. In a team-level study, we focus on how the organizational context of fundraising teams affect the composition and motivations of team members, and hence their fundraising performance.

How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society?
My research will help firms, NGOs (such as Movember) and policy-makers to better understand the collective action that takes place on the Internet, and for example explain when online collective action is effective. I involve societal partners in my research to collect data, interpret results and disseminate my research to relevant stakeholders. For example, my research on legitimacy judgments may explain to policy-makers when and why citizens express their grievances regarding firms’ human rights violations. Ultimately, I hope my research will inspire interventions to make discussions and actions on the Internet more useful and constructive (e.g. decreasing polarization).

What do you enjoy most about your research?
Each research project is some kind of intellectual adventure or journey to me. I really like how slowly, but steadily, we can better understand the complex dynamics of collective action and social evaluation on the Internet. It is the same excitement as solving a puzzle together. Furthermore, I enjoy when I can help stakeholders with the insights from my research. I often have meetings or workshops where I present my research to practitioners.

What is the most challenging aspect of your research?
My work is interdisciplinary, which is exciting but remains challenging. How do you assure that you talk and write about the same things? Disciplines bring their own methodological traditions and even language. For example, not all computer scientists recognize the value of theory-driven research and vice versa. Hence, interdisciplinary research often requires patients and a pragmatic and open attitude.

Selected Readings
Den Broek, T., Langley, D., & Hornig, T. (2017). The effect of online protests and firm responses on shareholder and consumer evaluation. Journal of business ethics, 146(2), 279-294.

My research on legitimacy judgments may explain to policy-makers when and why citizens express their grievances regarding firms’ human rights violations. Ultimately, I hope my research will inspire interventions to make discussions and actions on the Internet more useful and constructive.

Tijs van den Broek
Tijs van den Broek, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, VU Amsterdam.