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Stream restoration and the surprisingly social dynamics of science

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Stream restoration is deeply shaped by social influences. A substantial body of literature has demonstrated the ways in which social dynamics shape myriad aspects of restoration practice. After illustrating these findings via brief reviews of existing research on public participation and environmental justice, I turn to the less commonly addressed influence of social dynamics on the practice and content of river science. I first review the approach and some of the key findings of Science and Technology Studies, a body of research that takes the practice of science as its empirical object of study. I then use the Rosgen Wars, a conflict that has strongly influenced the development of stream restoration science and practice in the United States, as a case study for examining the impacts of social dynamics on the practice of river scientists, the redistribution of scientific authority, and on fluvial landscapes more broadly. Given that is impossible to avoid social influences, I argue that it is crucial that we examine them, and that we choose research and implementation practices that reflect our ecological, scientific, and political commitments rather than passively accepting the existing commitments embedded in our work. WIREs Water 2016, 3:75–81. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1115 This article is categorized under: Human Water > Value of Water

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