Mind the Gap: overcoming the language barrier in water resource management

Date and Time: 
Friday, 17 May, 2013 - 14:30 to 14:50
SIMON, Eric - University of North Texas

Recent literature suggests that the implementation gap in integrated water resource management is a result of differing mental models—cognitive frameworks that influence perception—among researchers, policymakers, and end users.  The dominance of particular mental models in management discourse acts as a disincentive to participate for those who do not share them.  This paper attempts to sketch a neutral framework that can accommodate divergent mental models, and can be used effectively to communicate among them.  I analyze the mental models argument in terms of post-positivist epistemology, and construe the lack of effective stakeholder participation as resulting from a language barrier.  I examine several attempts by researchers to breach this barrier via social learning theory, and argue that these exercises retain elements of discursive dominance.  I then propose a conceptual model—the water phase—as a tool to translate among the various languages that seek to describe water from differing perspectives.