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The Geography of Publishing in the Anthropocene 10/6/2020


By Karen B. Moore

A trio of ESF students published a paper in Conservation Science and Practice finding that conservation framed as "Anthropocene" is more cross-disciplinary collaborative science.

Students Megan Hazlett, Kate Henderson and Ilana Zeitzer noted differences manifest in the causes and impacts of pollution, climate change, and species extinctions, and looked to see if they are also present in the ways researchers write about the Anthropocene?

This paper started as a final project for Dr. Joshua Drew's Conservation in the Anthropocene seminar in the fall 2019 semester.

"Two major ideas had recurred during our seminar discussions that semester," said Henderson in an email. "how we define the Anthropocene and what makes it a distinct field, and what voices are being heard and not being heard when we discuss conservation issues."

"The Anthropocene is the idea that the earth is in a new geological epoch characterized by human influences," explained Drew. "We've influenced biodiversity all on a scale on a par with sort of other geologic epochs, such as the Cretaceous.

The researchers wanted to see if people studying the Anthropocene in the Global South were predominantly from the Global North, or if there was some equity in the research. They examined 77 peer-reviewed papers from 2009 to 2019 published in conservation journals that used the phrase "Anthropocene," and then compared them to a control set that was solely conservation. And they wanted to see if there were these ideas of injustice broken into it.

They found the majority of papers taking place in the Global South were done by researchers in the Global North. However, the number is much less than what was seen in previous studies.

"We found although it has improved over time, authors from the Global South - places like South and Central America and Africa - are still underrepresented in publications," said Henderson.

Said Henderson, "This finding is important because people who live in a region will have insight into the system that visiting researchers may not, and their voices are important for successful conservation."

These analyses showed that while both groups are interdisciplinary, Anthropocene papers had more distributed authorship networks and greater linkages across topics. Their work suggests that conservation research programs explicitly grounded in the Anthropocene as a theoretical framework are more likely to reach across disciplinary lines.

The other interesting thing that came out of the study was the idea of the Anthropocene is multidisciplinary, noted Drew.

While mapping out keywords for the study, the group noted that papers focusing on conservation through an Anthropocene lens tended to be broader. By linking conservation to the Anthropocene the results are more cross-disciplinary and collaborative.

"Our term-linkage analysis of abstracts from Anthropocene conservation articles and general conservation articles showed that the Anthropocene is a distinct and more interdisciplinary field," said Henderson, "leaving us with exciting new opportunities to do interdisciplinary research involving a wide variety of perspectives in the future."