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The term “wicked problems” is found in
many disciplines, including public administra-
tion, policy science, health education, ecology,
forestry, and business administration, but the
term is relatively unknown in applied eco-
nomics. Applied economics needs to become
better acquainted with wicked problems; they
are pervasive, and they present challenges if
applied economics is to retain its relevance
in today’s world. This paper explores these
challenges but is necessarily exploratory, as
widespread recognition of the complexity of
wicked problems is leading to new kinds of
research, but these research approaches are
still evolving. My basic thesis is that normal
science assumptions and approaches are in-
adequate for addressing the complexities of
wicked problems in a policy context, but that
science, including social science, remains cru-
cial for the development of alternative poli-
cies. This exploration, therefore, is about both
the characteristics of postnormal science nec-
essary to inform alternative policies designed
to address wicked problems as well as their
implications for policy contributions from ap-
plied economics. Because many wicked prob-
lems involve sustainability issues, I will focus
mainly on sustainability problems.
Wicked vs. Tame Problems
Examples of wicked problem issue areas in-
clude terrorism, global climate change, nuclear
energy, healthcare, poverty, crime, ecological
health, pandemics, genetically modified food,
water resource management, trade liberaliza-
tion, the use of stem cells, biofuel production,
Fellows Address.
Sandra S. Batie is the Elton R. Smith Chair in Food and Agricul-
tural Economics Policy in the Department of Agricultural, Food,
and Resource Economics at Michigan State University,East Lans-
ing, MI. Her email is
Thanks are due to Dave Ervin, Patricia Norris, Christopher Pe-
terson, David Schweikhardt, Carol Shennan, Leonard Shabman,
and Kurt Stephenson, whose suggestions helped to improve this
Fellows Address was presented at the 2008 AAEA annual meet-
ing in Orlando, FL. Invited addresses are not subjected to the jour-
nal’s standard refereeing process.
nanotechnology, gun control, air quality, sus-
tainable development, biodiversity, environ-
mental restoration, forest fire management,
and animal welfare. Other wicked problems
include the locating of not-in-my-backyard
(NIMBY) projects (e.g., a freeway or a half-
way house); reengineering a food supply chain
to address food safety problems; constructing
or removing a hydroelectric project; or open-
ing of a new mineral mine.
Wicked problems, which are sometimes
called social messes or untamed problems,
are dynamically complex, ill-structured, pub-
lic problems. The causes and effects of the
problem are extremely difficult to identify and
model; wicked problems tend to be intractable
and elusive because they are influenced by
many dynamic social and political factors as
well as biophysical complexities (Rittel and
Webber 1973). Also, most wicked problems
are connected to, or are symptoms of, other
problems (Carroll et al. 2007). As a result,
there is no consensus on what exactly the prob-
lem is. Indeed, a wicked problem is not well
understood until after formulation of a po-
tential solution, and therefore, the problem
definition tends to change over time. However,
because of their complex interdependences,
wicked problems are never solved (Conklin
2006), but rather they become better or worse
(Rittel and Webber 1973).
Wicked problems always occur in a social
context, and there can be radically different
views and understanding of the problem by
different stakeholders, with no unique “cor-
rect” view (Horn and Weber 2007). Thus,
their wicked nature stems not only from their
biophysical complexity but also from multi-
ple stakeholders’ perceptions of them and of
potential trade-offs associated with problem
solving. Identification of solutions becomes as
much a social and political process as it is a sci-
entific endeavor (Kreuter et al. 2004). Also,
wicked problems are characterized as hav-
ing high uncertainty associated with them, not
only with outcomes but also with the poten-
tial causes and effects underlying the problems.
In addition, there are multiple stakeholders’
Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 90 (Number 5, 2008): 1176–1191
Copyright 2008 Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8276.2008.01202.x
Batie Wicked Problems and Applied Economics 1177
Table 1. Summary of Differences Between Tame and Wicked Problems
Characteristic Tame Problem Wicked Problem
1. The problem The clear denition of the problem also
unveils the solution
No agreement exists about what the
problem is. Each attempt to create a
solution changes the problem
The outcome is true of false, successful
or unsuccessful
The solution is not true or falsethe end
is assessed as betteror worseor
good enough
The problem does not change over time The problem changes over time
2. The role of
The causes of a problem are determined
primarily by experts using scientic
Many stakeholders are likely to have
differing ideas about what the real
problem is and what its causes are
3. The stopping
The task is completed when the problem
is solved
The end is accompanied by stakeholders,
political forces, and resource
availability. There is no denitive
4. Nature of the
Scientic based protocols guide the
choice of solution(s)
Solution(s) to problem is (are) based on
judgmentsof multiple stakeholders
The problem is associated with low
uncertainty as to system components
and outcomes
The problem is associated with high
uncertainty as to system components
and outcomes
There are shared values as to the
desirability of the outcomes
There are not shared values with respect
to societal goals
Source: Adapted from Kreuter et al. (2004).
viewpoints with respect to the desirability of
alternative outcomes.
Wicked problems can be contrasted with
tame problems. While frequently complex and
difcult, tame problems are those that can be
clearly delineated and solved by experts who
produce workable solutions using the analyt-
ical approaches of their disciplines (Kreuter
et al. 2004). Examples include landing men on
the moon; determining the specic source of a
food contamination outbreak; identifying the
cost effectiveness of different crop practices to
reduce soil erosion; or determining the costs
and benets of expanding an irrigation project.
Tame problems are characterized by clear def-
initions of the problems which do not change
overtime. Also, the problem denition reveals
potential solutions because of clear cause and
effect mechanisms. Unlike wicked problems,
there is little conict over the desirability of
these potential solutions. Tame problems can
be addressed primarily by experts with little
or no involvement of stakeholders, and unlike
wicked problems, they can be solved.
Table 1 summarizes these differences be-
tween wicked and tame problems as being
about whether there is (1) a common deni-
tion of the problem; (2) a direct involvement
of stakeholders in problem denition and anal-
ysis; (3) a deterministic stopping rule; as well
as (4) the unique nature of the problem.
Challenges Posed by Wicked Problems
Wicked problems pose a dilemma for normal
science activities. Normal science, as dened by
Thomas Kuhn (1962) in his book The Structure
of Scientific Revolutions, is the routine work of
disciplinary scientists puzzle solvingin their
paradigm. Normal science research (i.e., con-
ventional or mainstream research) adds to the
details of the established theory but does not
challenge it or test its assumptions.
Historically, normal science has had a close
relationship with the creation of policy alter-
natives (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993; Stokes
1997). Since World War II, normal science
has been guided by a linear model1which
is illustrated in gure 1 and can be sum-
marized as: [B]asic research, conducted by
scientists that are largely autonomous, is a
1The linear model of normal science and its relationship with
policy development can be traced to concepts articulated in Van-
nevar Bushs 1945 report Science—The Endless Frontier (Stokes
1178 Number 5, 2008 Amer. J. Agr. Econ.
Source: Pielke and Byerly (1998).
Figure 1. The linear model of science
resource for applied research. Applied re-
search is the source of results useful to prac-
tical concerns, including policy development
(Pielke 2007, p. 81). In this model scientic
ndings ow into a reservoir that can then
be drawn on by society to create benecial
technologies and outcomes. Basic science is
judged by criteria internal to science, such
as disciplinary standards, whereas applied re-
search and development is judged by criteria
external to science, such as the potential use-
fulness to society. There is also more status
conveyed to those engaged in basic re-
search than to those undertaking appli-
cations that involve the integration of
science into decision-making processes (Pielke
Byerly 1998; Stokes 1997). Many research
institutionsuniversities and agenciesare
reective, supportive, and reinforcing of this
linear model of normal science (Bonnen 1986;
Peters 2007; Stokes 1997).
With respect to policies and decision mak-
ing, linear, normal science models maintain un-
derlying assumptions that scientic progress
leads to societal progress (Frodeman and
Holbrook 2007) and getting the science right
is necessary to settle political disputes and for
effective policy making to occur (Pielke 2007;
Sarewitz 2004). However, as gure 1 illustrates,
normal science frequently has a division be-
tween those who do the science and those who
use it: Autonomy is implicit in the [linear]
model, because the reservoir [of scienticnd-
ings] isolates science from society; science
assumes no responsibility to apply the knowl-
edge it puts into the reservoir, and society does
not set scientic priorities(Pielke and Byerly
1998, p. 42). This division implies that reduc-
ing scientic uncertainty will reduce political
uncertainty, and reaching a consensus on the
science is a prerequisite for a political consen-
sus and for policy action to occur (Vatn and
Bromley 1994).
These assumptions are tantamount to con-
ating the what isand the what ifprod-
ucts of science with the what ought to be
product of politics. They are also quite prob-
lematic but tend to be more realistic (1) where
there is widespread agreement by stakehold-
ers as to what are desirable outcomes as well
as (2) where there is low uncertainty surround-
ing the system components and outcomes of
alternative course of actions (Pielke 2007).
That is, they tend to be more realistic with
the tamerproblems of society. For example
the research to develop a vaccine for a seri-
ous human disease falls in this tame problem
category. With most vaccines, there tends to be
widespread agreement that protecting humans
from the disease is desirable, and there is low
uncertainty about the system components or
outcomes. Thus, for vaccine development the
assumptions of the linear model of normal sci-
ence are apt.
Batie Wicked Problems and Applied Economics 1179
Normal Science and Applied Economics
To illustrate Pielkes points, consider applied
economics. As with all disciplines, normal
science is applied economists’“bread and but-
terwork. The American Journal of Agri-
cultural Economics showcases normal science
research, most of which tends to follow what
Lindbloom (1965) calls the rational analytical
method.That is, applied economics research
projects normally follow formal decision logic,
and the applied economist is the expert
selecting assumptions and methods, dening
signicance, and using theory (e.g., welfare
theory) as criteria to isolate end states such
as equilibria or optimal outcomes (Stephenson
2000). Examples include formal benet-cost
analysis, nonmarket valuation techniques, dy-
namic optimization, multiattribute utility anal-
ysis, econometric demand modeling, spatial
equilibrium modeling, and willingness to pay
estimations. And for much of applied eco-
nomics policy research, getting the science
rightcan equate with getting the prices
Advocates for the rational analytical ap-
proach, following the linear model, defend its
use in policy making as a systematic and ratio-
nal way for decision makers to decide between
competing ends (Shulock 1999; Stephenson
2000). That is, research can be placed in a
reservoir to be drawn out by policy and de-
cision makers as needed. As discussed above,
the potential for this research to inuence
policy is higher when the system components
and outcomes are known and probable out-
comes are generally viewed as desirable. Thus,
the selection of, say, the least-cost alternative
to reduce (the relatively tame problem of)
erosion is more likely to have policy accep-
tance than is the identication of the optimal
allocation of resources to reduce (the more
wicked problem of) perceived global warming
The distinction being made is that within a
policy context, there is a difference with what
is(and what if) types of research and the
what ought to betypes of research as they
address tame and wicked problems. What is
issues, such as What are the impacts of land
uses given the new Energy Act?and what if
issues, such as What would be the impact on
the economy if there was more development of
wind power sources of energy?are appropri-
ate for both tame and wicked problems. Where
societal goals are broadly known and accepted,
such as in the vaccine research example, re-
searchers can proceed with there ought to be
types of questions (e.g., there ought to be a
vaccine) with broad acceptance and support.
The same cannot be said for the what ought
to beresearch with wicked problems. Con-
sider water management, where the old west-
ern saying of Whiskey is for drinking and
water is for ghtinghighlights water manage-
ments wicked nature. An example of a what
ought to beresearch question is: What is
the efcient reallocation of water among com-
peting interests?The implicit assumption is
that efcient allocation is a policy goal, but
policy goals do not emanate from disciplinary
paradigms (Bromley 2008b; Stephenson 2003).
As an approach to making policy decisions,
[the] rational analytic approach vests power
and decision-making authority in the hands of
unelected analysts(Stephenson 2000, p. 11),
thereby substituting the researchersvalues of
what is considered to be the best outcome for
those of others. Also, the assumption of the lin-
ear model that all research will ultimately add
value to decision making is awed with wicked
problems. Failure to recognize its inappropri-
ate nature for wicked problems may account
for much of the limited acceptance of such pol-
icy research (Batie 2005; Bromley 2008b; Shu-
lock 1999). The assumption of build it and
they will comeis not appropriate; there is no
assurance that the supply of knowledge about
wicked problems (e.g., naturehuman interac-
tions) will have demanders.
Normal Science and Wicked Problems
Normal science is ill suited for wicked
problemswith their attendant conict over
values and high uncertainty about system com-
ponents and outcomes. By their nature, wicked
problems cannot be easily categorized into
separate disciplinary boxes nor can they be di-
vided into more manageable parts under the
assumption that there are clear and known ca-
sual paths (Weber and Khademian 2008). With
wicked problems it is difcult to decide what
facts to gather without rst discussing values;
thus, it is necessary not only to have many dis-
ciplines involved, but also to have interaction
with those whose resources and cooperation
are indispensable for tackling the problem
that is, with stakeholders (Bueren, Klijn, and
Koppenjan 2003).
These various actors bring different values
and perceptions to the policy dialog. For ex-
ample, with respect to sustainability of ecosys-
tems, environmental ethicists may focus on the
intrinsic value of nature; applied economists
1180 Number 5, 2008 Amer. J. Agr. Econ.
may focus on the instrumental value of na-
ture; and nonacademics may bring tacit knowl-
edge garnered from practical experiences and
personal values associated with nature and
resource use (Norton 2005). Also, manage-
ment agencies might consider natural re-
sources from the viewpoint of wildlife survival,
whereas project agencies might consider nat-
ural resources as commodities (Ingram and
Bradley 2006). Even when dialog occurs and
includes all of the actors, clear solutions rarely
emerge; rather, via negotiation processes are
identied which are judged as better or worse
(not right or wrong) in addressing the wicked
problem (Norton 2005).
Why the Concern About Wicked Problems
Linear model and normal science were not
challenged as long as society and policy mak-
ers felt that they were meeting social needs
(Bonnen 1986; Pielke and Byerly 1998; Stokes
1997). But over the last several decades, that
situation has changed. It is no longer widely
assumed that scientic progress leads to soci-
etal progress (Frodeman and Holbrook 2007;
Peters 2007). The reasons are multiple.
First, our improved understanding of system
connections as well as recent volatility in nat-
ural resource and commodity prices has raised
widespread concerns about the sustainability
of many of our current development paths and
practices (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
2005). The complex connections between na-
ture and society are seen as vulnerable. The
warming of the global climate, for example,
appears to be threatening the prosperity of
economies as well as the functioning of ecosys-
tems and the survival of many species. As more
sustainability concerns arise, and as technolo-
gies appear to produce more risks than they
resolve, many are challenging the postWorld
War II concept that our science can control
the risks that it produces (Gallopin et al. 2001;
Nowotny, Scott, and Gibbons 2001). Further-
more, the aforementioned critics note that sci-
ence itself introduces new risks For example,
the use of pesticides may reduce pest damage
but may increase the risk of damages to human
health (Russell 2001).
Gallopin and his colleagues (2001) note that
what is at stake is not an admission of par-
tial ignorance but rather the signicance to
be attached to the inability of science to exer-
cise mastery over eventual outcomes. The ear-
lier protection that provided science with the
now questioned belief that more knowledge
will reduce uncertainties, increase capacity for
control of nature, and permit the remedying
of past mistakes is stripped awayalong with
the ideological privilegethat gave presump-
tive preference to the intended outcomes of
scientic research while discounting any unin-
tended side effects.
Second, wicked problems do not t the lin-
ear model of science, which has smoothed
over its wicked, rough edges with abstracting
assumptions.2In ecosystem sustainability de-
bates, for example, many question the assump-
tions that there are simple linear causes and
effects of problems; science can control nature;
the past is a good predictor of the future; or
there are equilibrium conditions to which nat-
ural systems will return following disturbances.
For sustainability issues, the alternate assump-
tions are that there is nonlinearity and un-
predictability to system components; science
cannot control the negative and cumulative ef-
fects of technologies on nature and society; and
there are thresholds (e.g., tipping points) that
can cause irreversible outcomes.
Thus, while normal science assumptions
might have tted well with earlier conserva-
tion practices of the progressive conservation
periodwhen natural resources were viewed
as commodities and there was considerable
public consensus about the goals of resource
managementthat t is no longer the case.
Now, these assumptions are challenged in the
age of environmentalism because ecosystems
are assumed to provide many functions and
services, including life support, and when there
is considerable public conict about which ser-
vices are the most valuable and about how
to practice environmental management (Batie,
Shabman, and Kramer 1986; McCool and
Guthrie 2001).
As a consequence, there is increasing dis-
satisfaction with curiosity-driven, disciplinary-
based science. Criticisms abound with the
stove-pipedor the silonature of the disci-
plinary approach for addressing wicked prob-
lems. As the old saying goes: The world
has problems, while universities have depart-
ments.It is becoming more evident that
2An example in applied economics would be the assumption
that Pareto-irrelevant externalities (i.e., where there are no fur-
ther gains from trade) should not be addressed by environmental
policies (Bromley 2008a,b). As Bromley notes, labeling an exter-
nality as Pareto irrelevant implies that all costs of the status quo fall
on the victims, who probably desire regulation to change that situ-
ation regardless of their ability to pay. Similarly, Norgaard (2002)
argues that environmental problems are thought of as market fail-
ures when they more accurately could be considered to be evidence
of the applicable limits of the market model.
Batie Wicked Problems and Applied Economics 1181
normal science is inadequate in resolving
wicked problems with their attendant conicts
over whose values will prevail in deciding (a)
what future is desirable; (b) what trade-offs
are worth making; and (c) who bears the costs
or gains the benets of decisions (Weber and
Khademian 2008). When values are in conict
and when outcomes are of high consequence,
but uncertain, or where there is signicant
scientic disagreement,3scientic experts are
not allowed to dictate preferred policies (Fear
et al. 2006). Indeed, if normal science is used
to address wicked problems, the frequent re-
sult is controversy and gridlock (Pielke 2007;
Sarewitz 2004). The decision of whose values
count is made in the political world, not in the
world of science (Bromley 1997).
Third, globalization has also challenged the
monopoly of the western sciences arbitration
of what constitutes valid knowledge. Within
policy discussion, there is broader acceptance
of the experience of practitioners as tacit
(e.g., silent) knowledge; there is more focus
on unique local situations that contextualize
knowledge, and there is inclusion of alterna-
tive knowledge as well as hybrid knowledge
which combines various types of knowledge.
The distinct boundaries between science and
nonscience are dissolving to be replaced with
a wider framework of sources of knowledge to
inform policy (Nowotny, Scott, and Gibbons
Fourth, these challenges to normal science
are enabled and reinforced by new ways of
communicating among stakeholders that pro-
vide civil society low-cost access to a wealth
of data and information as well as low costs to
political organizing (Hawken 2007). Currently,
for example, food companies are struggling
with how to meet some consumersdemands
for more sustainability attributes in their prod-
ucts and processes; they know that even small
groups of consumers can effectively organize
and communicate their concerns to others via
the Internet4and impact company revenues,
but the companies struggle to determine what
they should do to protably address the wicked
problem of sustainability.
3For a good discussion of types of conict in science in policy-
making context, see Lord (1979).
4The uncertainties surrounding wicked problems can easily lead
to the scientizationof politics,where there is a selective use of sci-
enticndings to support particular political positions, and where
some scientists may become issue advocates (Pielke 2000; Sarewitz
2004). Sarewitz explores how to avoid such scientization via such
means as articulating value positions from the beginning of a con-
troversy. Scientization of politics further confuses the distinction
between isand oughttypes of policy research and undermines
the legitimacy of scientists in policy.
Addressing Wicked Problems
Society is changing what it is asking of sci-
ence; as a result, the role of science in deci-
sion making is becoming quite complex (Pielke
2007). Addressing wicked problems in a policy
context requires both use-driven science that
recognizes and addresses uncertainties and
meaningful engagement of stakeholders in de-
cision making that propels knowledge into
action. While science can offer new ways of
thinking or catalyze new technologies, only
changes in policies and management lead to
action (Ingram and Bradley 2006). The latter
requires engagement of stakeholders.
There is a large and growing literature about
various approaches to postnormal science that
addresses uncertainties (e.g., Funtowicz and
Ravetz 1993; Nowotny, Scott, and Gibbons
2001). An example is the eld of ecologi-
cal economics (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1994),
which has its own transdisciplinary journal and
focuses on the human/nature nexus, frequently
in a policy context. Ecological economics has a
pluralistic but scientic approach to the study
of environmental problems and policy solu-
tions. It is characterized by systems perspec-
tives and appropriate physical, biological, and
social contexts as well as a focus on long-term
environmental sustainability.
Another postnormal science example is
complexity economics, some of which traces its
roots to the Sante Fe Institutes exploration of
relationships between economics and physics.
Complexity economics is highly mathemati-
cal and statistical, and it focuses on complex
adaptive systems in pursuit of real worldrel-
evancy. The core components of complexity
dynamic models include the psychology of the
economic agents, the process of learning, adap-
tion to a changing environment, and coevolu-
tion processes. Complexity economics stresses
nonlinearities, disequilibria, and path depen-
dences5(Colander 2000). Both ecological eco-
nomics and complexity economics emphasize
postnormal science and assumptions but do
not necessarily address engagement or policy
Another postnormal science is that of sus-
tainability science. It is highly integrated and
5As Brock and Colander (2000) write with respect to complex-
ity economics, Complexity ...takes away the reference point for
[economic] theorys defense of the market. In the complexity vi-
sion there is not proof that the market solves problems. There is
not unambiguous way of stating what is and what is not an exter-
nality and there is no guarantee that the market leads to the most
desirable equilibrium(p. 82).
1182 Number 5, 2008 Amer. J. Agr. Econ.
multidisciplinary; it has a direct focus on
wicked problems (e.g., sustainable develop-
ment) and includes engagement with stake-
holders through such institutions as boundary
organizations. Therefore, sustainability sci-
ence is a good example to illustrate how sci-
ence can address wicked problems in a policy
Sustainability Science
Sustainability science has emerged in the last
two decades; it is dened by the problems
that it addresses rather than the disciplines
involved. It seeks to inform and facilitate a
societal transition toward sustainable devel-
opment (Clark 2007). It is integrative in that
it is committed to bridging the communities
engaged in promoting environmental conser-
vation, human health, and economic develop-
ment. It includes research knowledge from the
natural, social, and engineering sciences with
insights from the humanities. It also incorpo-
rates knowledge from those who move knowl-
edge to action (Clark 2006). Thus, sustainabil-
ity science needs to be engaged, since it is
stakeholders who will help frame the problem,
determine goals, and implement the desired
Thus, sustainability science, while still evolv-
ing, has become an integrated, multidisci-
plinary use-driven science that seeks to (1)
analyze and predict the behavior, at multiple
scales, of complex self-organizing systems; (2)
identify and characterize the irreversible im-
pacts of interacting stresses on such systems;
and (3) assess the roles of people in the func-
tioning of such systems (Cochran 2000). Cen-
tral questions include the following: How can
dynamic interactions be better incorporated
Scientific Community
(e.g. Sustainability
Policy Makers
Resource Managers
The Public
& Adopters
Dual Accountability
of New Knowledge
User-Driven Science
Safe Harbor
Explicit Knowledge Tacit Knowledge
Source: Clark and Holliday (2006)
Figure 2. Boundary organizations: Linking knowledge with
into emerging models and conceptualizations
that integrate the Earth system, social de-
velopment, and sustainability? What systems
of incentive structures can most effectively
improve social capacity to guide interactions
between nature and society toward more sus-
tainable trajectories? (Bolin et al. 2000).
Engagement Using Boundary Organizations
Effective engagement of stakeholders is chal-
lenging (Jacobs, Garn, and Lenart 2005; Mc-
Dowell 2001). While there are resources that
help to guide critical engagement, and exten-
sion faculty have been pursuing such engage-
ment for decades, there remains more to learn
(Fear et al. 2006).
One approach to critical engagement is the
use of a boundary organization, which is a
bridging institution which links suppliers and
users of knowledge and recognizes the im-
portance of location-specic contexts (Ruttan
et al. 1994). As dened by Ingram and Bradley
(2006): Boundary organizations are situated
between different social and organizational
worlds, such as science and policy. According
to advocates, boundary organizations succeed
when three conditions are met. First, they must
provide incentives to produce boundary ob-
jects, such as decisions or products that reect
the input of different perspectives. Second,
they involve participation from actors across
boundaries. Third, they have lines of account-
ability to the various organizations spanned
[by the boundary organization] (Guston 2001).
Adaptive and inclusive management practices
are essential to the functioning of boundary
Figure 2 presents a gure of a boundary or-
ganization: on the left side is science and on the
Batie Wicked Problems and Applied Economics 1183
right side are users of science. The boundary
organization is used to link scientic knowl-
edge (in this example sustainable science re-
search) to the users. The arrow goes both ways
because boundary organizations link those
who have explicit knowledge, such as faculty,
with those potential users of knowledgesuch
as resource managers, civil society, or policy
makerswho have tacit knowledge garnered
from experience.6Thus, a boundary organiza-
tion by combining tacit and explicit knowledge
can co-create new, transformational knowl-
edge and shared understanding which may be
critical to the innovation in the policy process
(Conklin 2006; Guston 2001; Peterson 2008).7
This cocreation process, by allowing partici-
pants to critically reect on each others views,
enables participants to reect not only on their
own preferences and viewpoints but also on
how they might be changed (White 1994).
Boundary organizations can function to rec-
oncile supply and demand of existing knowl-
edge; cocreate new knowledge; translate, ne-
gotiate, and communicate among the multiple
parties on both sides of the scienceuse nexus;
make transparent tacit assumptions and val-
ues embedded in models, paradigms, and asser-
tions; identify uncertainties; seek alternative
framing of problems; build hybrids (objects
such as indicators or maps that contain both
science and policy information); and build ca-
pacity to link knowledge to action (Miller
1999). In addition, boundary organizations can
provide process accountability and safe har-
borto all parties when there is serious conict
by functioning in a nonpartisan manner.
To illustrate how a boundary organization
can function, consider the Arizona Water In-
stitute (AWI).8As Ingram and Bradley (2006)
note, water management disputes are not nor-
mally solved by the revealing of a scientic
nding; rather, they emerge from negotiated
consensus with water users and water man-
agers. Thus, in addressing water management
issues, the AWI combines the expertise of
6Explicit knowledge is that which is codied, rational, separable
from context, and thus transmittable by formal means such as text-
books or manual. Tacit knowledge is context specic and informal
arising from experience and practice (Peterson 2008).
7See Peterson (2008) for a discussion as to how this framework
of the cocreation of transformational knowledge can be applied to
supply chain and network performance management.
8For an excellent discussion of the history and use of another
boundary organization, the California Bay Delta Authority, see
Ingram and Bradley (2006). Jacobs, Garn, and Lenart (2005) also
provide a discussion of a climate-themed boundary organization in
Arizona. Another boundary organization called Oregon Solutions
is at Portland State University (
Arizonas water managers with over 400 water
researchers at three Arizona universities; the
Institutes mission is to support water resource
management and technology development in
real-world applications. The program includes
stakeholder engagement and use-driven sci-
ence in support of water management objec-
tives as well as intermediaries who translate
and connect science to users.
One method used is the formulating of sce-
narios of alternative water futures. Scenario
work enhances integration across themes and
serves as a mechanism for interdisciplinary
work that engages stakeholders. With dynamic
scenario development, alternative futures are
identied (sometimes with forecast models),
and then the analysis works backward in time
to identify crucial pathways that avoid unde-
sirable outcomes or result in desirable ones.9
What is a desirable future is arrived at through
a negotiated process among stakeholders.
The role of science is fundamental as a con-
vening focus for AWI partnerships between
faculty and water managers. In the language
of boundary organizations, science can be a
boundary objectbut only if a better under-
standing of physical and socioeconomic condi-
tions is desirable from all partiesperspectives.
An illuminating outcome of AWIs ap-
proach is how engagement can change the
identication and framing of problems. Prior
to engagement of stakeholders in a science
center associated with the AWI, faculty an-
ticipated that the critical questions to be an-
swered by water management research might
be: (1) What are the costs and benets of ri-
parian preservation/restoration? and (2) What
kinds of water markets and banking are feasi-
ble? Once the project commenced, it was de-
termined that these were not key questions for
water managers. Questions that emerged af-
ter discourse with managers were largely re-
lated to climate change and drought (Jacobs
2008). Sharing viewpoints and knowledge went
both ways. For example, the faculty found
that stakeholders did not always distinguish
between important concepts such as weather
and climate, nor between risk and uncertainty
(Jacobs, Garn, and Lenart 2005).
Linking insights and knowledge to action is a
large challenge (Ingram and Bradley 2006; Ja-
cobs, Garn, and Lenart 2005; Stephenson and
Shabman 2007); achieving and implementing a
9Analogue scenarios are those which use similar situations
(sometimes from the past) that shed light on future conditions
(Jacobs, Garn, and Lenart 2005).
1184 Number 5, 2008 Amer. J. Agr. Econ.
negotiated consensus on which actions will be
undertaken is a complicated process that takes
time and resources (Jacob, Garn, and Lenart.
2005). And as the scale of a problem expands
to include regional, national, or global phe-
nomena, the challenges become even larger
(witness the Doha rounds in World Trade Or-
ganization negotiations!). However, the end
result of using a well-functioning boundary
organization can be a product that is dis-
tinctly different and more broadly accepted
than would have emerged from either the re-
searchers or the stakeholders if they operated
independently (Ingram and Bradley 2006).
Engagement Methods
There are many engagement methods and
techniques that can enhance engagement and
link researchers with users. One technique is
discourse10 enabled by computer-aided dis-
pute resolution models; another is the explo-
ration of alternative policies as experimental
case studies using adaptive management.
Discourse between stakeholders and re-
searches can be added with computer-aided
dispute resolution (Stephenson and Shab-
man 2007). These decision aids provide an
approach to resource management decision
making which engages stakeholders in a mean-
ingful manner and manages (but does not
avoid) conict. The technical relationships of
the model (traditionally the domain of model-
ers with the support of scientists) are jointly
constructed with stakeholders. The involve-
ment of stakeholders provides another way to
verify technical relationships, level the techni-
cal playing eld over diverse stakeholder in-
terests, and build trust in science. The fact
that there is some mechanism for collabora-
tive model development sets computer-aided
dispute resolution apart from the decision sup-
port literature which builds user-friendly
Computer-aided dispute resolution models
have no single disciplinary focus, but they sup-
port negotiation among various stakeholders
using computer simulation models. Their ob-
jective is not to simplify the range of choice,
but rather they are used to separate arguments
about what isfrom what should beacross
10 White (1994), in an article entitled Policy Analysis as Dis-
course,discusses three types of discourse: analytic, critical, and
persuasive. Analytical discourse draws on multiple theories and
data sources; critical discourse emphasizes critical reection and
links evidence to value discussion; and persuasive discourse focuses
on the roles of ideas and persuasion by policy entrepreneurs.
a broad range of potential choices. That is, the
models are in service of decision making, and
they are neither substitutes for the decision,
nor the means of deciding. They are not deci-
sion models designed to maximize some goal;
rather, they are used to fashion mutual under-
standing through discourse and are based on
the premise that decision making is an itera-
tive process with learning taking place as stake-
holder preferences are developed or discov-
ered when confronting choices (Stephenson
and Shabman 2007). Stephenson and Shabman
(2007) note that effective models are those that
are credible, understandable, and useful to the
decision participants and which avoid hiding
or embedding those value judgments in the
model that should instead be the appropriate
domain of the discourse and collaborative ne-
Using policies as experiments (e.g., pilot
programs) can be another way to address
wicked problems. Consider environmental
management of agricultural lands. Because
system responses (including social systems re-
sponses) are fraught with uncertainties and
signicant unknowns (e.g., lags, thresholds,
cultural inuences) as well as confounding in-
uences of spatial and temporal uctuations
and variability (e.g., climate changes, land use
changes), no research can predict with cer-
tainty the results of large landscape changes on
the environment or agricultural sector (Shen-
nan 2008). Thus, there is a strong argument that
policies should be viewed as experiments; ba-
sically they provide learning by doingbut
with extensive monitoring of environmental
outcomes that then provides information for
adaptive management (Watzin 2007). As illus-
trated in gure 3, adaptive management in-
volves feedback loops.
In adaptive management when policy is im-
plemented (frequently with experiments built
Research &
Anal ysis
Policy & Rule
Revised Goals
New technology
New information
Monitoring data
Goals Information Technology Existing Data
Adaptive Management
Source: Batie and Rose (2006).
Figure 3. Adaptive management
Batie Wicked Problems and Applied Economics 1185
HighLow Value Conflict
Wicked Problems
Engaged Sustainability Science
Adaptive Management
Tame Problems
Normal Science
Conv. Env. Mgt.
Figure 4. Wicked versus tame problems
into the policy design a priori), the results are
monitored using key indicators as identied
by stakeholders. These results are compared
to the overarching goal(s) of the stakeholder-
identied goals of the policy. If monitoring in-
dicates that the goals are not being met, then
additional research and stakeholder involve-
ment is undertaken, and policy or goal ad-
justments are made. Adaptive management
usually includes a close relationship between
scientic research, managers, and local users
of resources (Ingram and Bradley 2006;
Norton 2005).
Figure 4 illustrates the differences, when
addressing tame and wicked problems, be-
tween normal and postnormal science (e.g.,
engaged sustainability science) as well as
the differences between conventional environ-
mental management and adaptive manage-
ment. Conventional environmental manage-
ment refers to such issues as the cost-effective
placement of riparian buffers and can be con-
trasted with adaptive management issues such
as changes in whole watersheds to improve the
survival of endangered migrating salmon.
Implications for Applied Economics
Should applied economics play a role in ad-
dressing wicked problems? There is little doubt
that most wicked problems include issues of
high consequence to society. The role that
should be played by applied economics, how-
ever, depends on the nature of the subject mat-
ter boundary placed on the discipline. Yet, to
exclude wicked problems risks the relevancy
of applied economics.
The good news for those who view wicked
problems as appropriate work for applied
economics is that the integration of science
into decision-making processes has expanded
the roles for the social sciences. These demands
for integrated, use-driven science are reected
in fundersrequests for proposals (Moll and
Zander 2006). Consider the National Science
Foundation (NSF). At one time NSFs re-
quests for proposals emphasized disciplinary-
expanding, curiosity-driven basic research and
arguably favored the biophysical sciences. In-
creasingly, the requests are for integrated,
use-driven, multidisciplinary scholarship that
includes social sciences. The NSF now lists
social impact as a criterion for selection of
projects along with scientic excellence and
intellectual merit (Pielke 2007); if grant pro-
posals fail to address the connection between
the proposed research and its broader ef-
fects on society, they are returned without
a review (Frodeman and Holbrook 2007).
The Cooperative State Research, Extension,
and Education Service (CSREES) of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, which man-
ages the National Research Initiative, now
requests specic proposals directed at per-
ceived societal goals, such as small farm
prosperity, that integrate many disciplines
research, outreach to and inclusion of stake-
holders, and education. The committees of
the National Academy of Sciences National
Research Council now include practitioners,
private businesspersons, nongovernmental or-
ganization representatives as well as scien-
tists.11 Many federal regulations now require
participation of both the general public and
11 While it is not always obvious that those projects which excel
at integration and engagement are always selected (Frodeman and
Holbrook 2007), the trend is clear as to what is wanted. Presumably,
the selection criteria will mature overtime to show even greater
preference to excellent projects that are accountable to societal
1186 Number 5, 2008 Amer. J. Agr. Econ.
Number of
Figure 5. Shifting applied economics research
toward wicked problems
agencies on federal projects; integrated as-
sessments12 are part of many federal pro-
grams (e.g., the U.S. Global Climate Change
Research Program); and there are increasing
congressional demands for greater account-
ability of federal science budgets to benet so-
ciety (Jacobs, Garn, and Lenart 2005; Pielke
and Byerly 1998; Shabman 2000; Stephenson
It is important to note that addressing
wicked problems does not equate with aban-
doning normal science. Instead, it is an ar-
gument to allocate more of the disciplines
resources to wicked problems. Consider gure
5,13 where the number of publications is used
to proxy the disciplines attention to societal
problems. Assume that the curve labeled 2008
represents applied economistscurrent atten-
tion to tame and wicked problems. The shape
of the curve reects the large volume of ap-
plied economics articles that are about testing
of theoretical propositions or disciplinary and
method puzzle solving but which have little or
no policy application as well as articles address-
ing tame problems. Also included are those
articles which address wicked problems but
reduce them to their reductionist components
in a manner that inappropriately substitutes an
analysts decision for stakeholder-negotiated
decisions. In contrast, there is a paucity of
articles which appropriately address wicked
12 Integrated assessment is a formal approach to provide compre-
hensive analysis of existing biophysical and social scientic infor-
mation in the context of policy. Stakeholders (e.g., citizens, industry
representatives, scientists, and policy makers) dene and evaluate
policy options for wicked problems.
13 Thanks are due to Carol Shennan, Professor of Environmental
Studies at University of California, Santa Cruz, who suggested this
problems and their complexities. The argu-
ment for more appropriate attention to wicked
problems is an argument that the profession
should shift the curve upward and to the right
(e.g., to the one labeled 2012).
Many of the same tools and concepts used in
addressing tame problems will be used in ad-
dressing wicked ones. Normal science can be
used to address the what isand what if
components of both wicked and tame prob-
lems. For example, participants in a negotiated
process may want an applied economics anal-
ysis of, say, trade-offs associated with the se-
lection of one policy alternative over another,
so that the participants can decide what trade-
offs are worth making, or they may desire a
cost analysis for the implementation of alterna-
tive policies (Stephenson 2003). However, the
value of such analysis is likely to be enhanced if
it is undertaken after an exploration of values
underlying the dispute are made transparent if
their implications for society are explored and
if suitable goals are identied (Sarewitz 2004).
On the other hand, the necessity for the
cocreation of knowledge to address wicked
problems challenges many of the assumptions
of mainstream neoclassical economics, such
as the argument that preferences and ratio-
nal choice guide market choices, that the mar-
ket is a mechanism for making social choices,
that prices (market and nonmarket) equate
with valuation, and that economic valuations
can be mapped into what is socially preferred
so that analysts can weigh competing alterna-
tives and select the outcome that yields the
highest societal benets (Bromley 1997, 2006,
2008b; Funtowicz and Ravetz 1994; Shabman
and Stephenson 2000; Stephenson 2000, 2003;
Vatn and Bromley 1994).
Wicked problem analysis provides new op-
portunities for alternative methodologies, such
as behavioral economics, Austrian economics,
or original institutional economics. Consider,
for example, the contributions to wicked prob-
lems that can be made from the methodol-
ogy of original institutional economicswith
its emphasis on processes as to how decisions
are made via political negotiation approaches
and how people behave under alternative in-
stitutions. Since addressing wicked problems
involves improving negotiation processes
(Norton 2005; Sarewitz 2004), original institu-
tional economics has much to offer.
Other challenges associated with the cocre-
ation of knowledge can emanate from dif-
fering disciplinesworldviews. For example,
applied economists tend to have a greater faith
Batie Wicked Problems and Applied Economics 1187
in innovation in the face of scarcity so that,
say, environmental scarcity can be successfully
overcome; many ecologists do not share that
optimistic worldview (Norgaard 2002; Sare-
witz 2004). Stakeholders, too, bring worldviews
that can be in conict with each other and with
disciplines. Since there is much uncertainty
about facts,and therefore many competing
alternative futuresare supported by avail-
able knowledge, conicts are inevitable. De-
fusing these conicts will require that applied
economists abandon any prescriptive certitude
and disciplinary hubris they might have and
engage in respectful discourse (Bromley 2006;
Johnson 2007; Klamer 2007).
What Is Needed?
The types of skills that are needed to un-
dertake such postnormal science activities
are neither well taught in applied economics
graduate programs, nor do they appear to
be rewarded well in our research institutions.
Necessary skills not only include the ability
to respect and understand many perspectives
and viewpoints but also skills in communica-
tion and translational science to translate ex-
isting scienticndings into a form suitable for
practical applications (Batie and Rose 2006).
There needs to be more study of and famil-
iarity with the methods of effective engage-
ment which would include the development of
management and leadership skills that are able
to incorporate and integrate the knowledge,
skills, resources, and perspectives from many
actors (Ingram and Bradley 2006). There needs
to be a willingness and ability to understand
the social and historical contexts surrounding
policy formulation as well as how decisions are
actually made (Batie 2005; Jacobs, Garn, and
Lenart 2005).
There also needs to be more research
directed toward both understanding and fa-
cilitating collective decision making; actual
preferences and preference formation; and
identication of which held values are subject
to change and which are core values which
are not easily altered (Sabatier 1988). This re-
search would need to involve other disciplines
including psychology, decision science, and so-
More fundamentally, however, there is a
need to understand that the role of the applied
economist changes with the shift from tame
to wicked problems. In applied economics,
this change involves moving from a pure
analyst to that of the honest broker14 whose
job is not to narrow the range of policy choices
to the optimal one but rather to expand the
range of choice (Pielke 2007). To do the honest
broker role well, applied economists need to
better understand the values and assumptions
embedded in their particular methodological
approach. They need to practice transparency
in deliberative processes while maintaining sci-
entic credibility.
All of these needed skills suggest that alter-
native methodologies and the history of eco-
nomic thought should be taught in our grad-
uate training and included in professionals
continuing self-education. In a recent review
of conversations with economic graduate stu-
dents throughout the nation, Klamer (2007)
lamented: Particularly worrisome is the per-
ception of this cohort of graduate students
concerning the science of economics....In
contrast to their counterparts in the eighties,
they do not question the scientic approach
that they are learning and they do not won-
der about alternatives. Modeling continues to
be the way they go(p. 230). He continues:
This cohort appears to be mindless, or at least
resourceless, when it comes to reections on
the nature of their science. They have no lit-
erature to fall back on. Even the text of Mil-
ton Friedman appears to have dropped from
their reading lists. (Needless to say, economic
methodology has no place in the curriculum.)
Apparently they are taught to do what they
are doing without giving much thought as to
the how soand why questions’” (p. 231).
As postnormal science evolves, Klamers re-
marks about why economics as a discipline is
at risk are worth consideration as well by ap-
plied economists. To paraphrase Klamer, how
will applied economists fare in the company of
other scholars who are so much more aware
of developments in the new thinking about
Barriers to Remodeling
The barriers to such a remodeling of the ap-
plied economics discipline appear to be large.
14 In an earlier work, Batie (2005) refers to this role as a science
advocate (i.e., honest broker) who understands that to be effective
there needs to be a commitment to learning about the art and
craft of policy analysis: Policy relevancy requires that the science
advocate understand the policy in question, the issues of concern,
and the institutions and stakeholders involved in the decision(s).
This requirement suggests a considerable amount of effort by the
analyst in understanding the history of the issues surrounding the
policy, the motivation of the actors involved, and the policy process
itself(p. 128).
1188 Number 5, 2008 Amer. J. Agr. Econ.
Our research institutions are not designed to
reward engaged, integrated, multidisciplinary
science activities well, although that may be
slowly changing. However, many of the poorly
aligned incentives or the research institutions
are derivatives of the disciplines own view-
point that there is no reason to change;15
wicked problems can either be effectively
addressed using the same methods and ap-
proaches as tame problems; or they are not
an appropriate subject for the eld. Other ap-
plied economists appear to be so constrained
by their focus on end states such as optimiza-
tion that they cannot constructively contribute
to negotiated decision-making processes es-
sential to effectively addressing wicked prob-
lems. Further, following the status relationship
set forth within the linear model, many in
the discipline continue to devalue engagement
scholarship. Still, others may adopt a rational
analytical method for policy analysis, even
when doubting the utility or validity of the ap-
proach, because they perceive that it meets the
disciplinary and institutional standards for ob-
jective science (Brunner 1991), whereas post-
normal science draws on such a variety of
methods and methodologies that are perceived
to be more difcult to defend as well as to un-
dertake. Therefore, not only do research insti-
tutionsincentives need to be realigned, so do
the disciplines.
Until realignment happens, postnormal sci-
ence scholarship and engagement of wicked
problems will probably remain the task of a
small set of applied economists who are willing
to take on these wicked problems regardless of
their colleaguesor institutions approval. But
what are the consequences? One may well be
that those prospective graduate students who
see a value in applied economics addressing
societys wicked problems may eschew applied
economics for schools of public policy and de-
cision science which provide education appro-
priate to their concerns. And this outcome is
only one of the many ways that applied eco-
nomics will suffer if it is labeled as irrelevant
due to neglect of wicked problems or because
wicked problems were treated as if they were
15 This attitude that there is no reason to change may have been
reinforced with the last several decadesdominance of free mar-
ketpolitics. The recent economic crisis may end that dominance
as more regulation is imposed on markets.
There are many who believe that there is a
renegotiation underway of the contract of so-
ciety with science (Clark 2006; Frodeman and
Holbrook 2007; Moll and Zander 2006; Shab-
man 2000; Sarewitz 2004; Stokes 1997); but
there is little evidence that applied economics
is fully cognizant of this renegotiation. This
renegotiation provides opportunities and risks
to the discipline.
Increasingly, the linear conceptin which
more science leads to less uncertainty which
leads to improved decisionsis viewed as
awed with respect to wicked problems. Thus,
for applied economics, as well as other sci-
ences, what is needed are new ways of thinking
about the conduct of science; validating sci-
entic contributions; developing institutions
to facilitate engaged sciencestakeholder pro-
cesses (Sarewitz 2004); and embedding ways
of thinking and methods into graduate edu-
cation. The challenges are great, but so is the
potential payoff. The important questions for
applied economists to address are:
1. How does applied economics nd its role
in addressing wicked problems?
2. How does applied economics institution-
alize processes (including graduate educa-
tion) that are relevant to successfully ful-
lling those roles?
3. How does applied economics survive and
thrive if more resources are allocated to
address wicked problems?
The alternative question also remains:
How does applied economics survive,
thrive, and maintain relevancy if it neglects
wicked problems?
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... Hence, decentralizing these functions to NGOs has alleviated bureaucracy, allowing for long-term planning, and facilitating transboundary cooperation (Raustiala, 1997). This shift is of particular relevance for wicked environmental problems, where a lack of complete knowledge and a multitiered, complex, dynamically evolving system make finding optimal solutions challenging or impossible (Batie, 2008). ...
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Non-profit environmental organizations (NGOs) rely heavily on external donors to fulfill their mandates. However, forecasting donations for long-term planning is an elusive task at best. The non-compulsory nature of donation requires NGOs to understand how donors’ attention and funding allocations change over time as conservation scenarios change and incorporate these insights into their budgeting plans. We hypothesize that an NGO can hinder its capacity to reach its conservation goals by neglecting its donor-NGO-natural system (DNNS), which is reactive to the socio-ecological context. To test our hypothesis, we compared the ecological outcomes derived from a budgeting strategy assuming donors have a fixed willingness to pay throughout the program (open-loop) against the reality that donor preferences change over time (closed-loop) based on the evolving ecological context, partly driven by the program’s actions. Our analysis was performed using two different willingness to pay (WTP) behavioural models, one representing donors informed about the success of the program supported (GPI), and another without such information (GPI), evidencing how the underlying assumptions about the target donors can radically change the organization’s fundraising strategy. Next, we used our closed-loop approach to estimate NGO’s optimal yearly donation requests to achieve a conservation target. Finally, we tested the consequences of presuming an incorrect WTP behavioural model while estimating optimal yearly donation requests by applying the optimization results from the previous step into a model parameterized with a different behavioural model. Our model was created by coupling a discrete choice experiment (DCE) and a systems dynamics model, developing a coupled social-ecological model of the eastern Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), a charismatic long-distant migrant butterfly that has dwindled in numbers across North America mainly due to the increases in GMO agriculture. Our results showed a significant difference in donations received and ecological outcome forecasted by an open-loop model and the actual numbers obtained by the more real-life, closed-loop model, highlighting the importance of accounting for human behaviour during the planning phase of a long-term conservation strategy. Next, when we used our closed-loop to estimate optimal donation requests, the conservation objectives and funds raised were consistently and efficiently achieved, regardless of the underlying behavioural WTP model. We also designed novel visual tools from the behaviour WTP model exploration to bridge the gap between science insights obtained from DCEs and decision-making. However, when we used closed-loop optimal donation requests obtained from one WTP behaviour model into a simulation parameterized with different WTP behavioural models, considerable ecological and financial targets deviations arose. These deviations highlight the importance of acknowledging the dynamic nature of donor’s behaviour and the need to thoroughly characterize such behaviour. Finally, we introduce a novel forecasting tool that conservation managers will have at their disposal to improve the accuracy of their budget forecasting and, ultimately, increase the program’s success rate.
... As we argue throughout this study, sustainability has the characteristics of a wicked problem. It is almost impossible to understand its causes and effects completely, is often elusive due to inherent systemic complexity, its problems and solutions change over time, and it does not display right-or-wrong, but better-or-worse scenarios (see Batie [26] for a discussion). Hence, SBM is a continuous search for, not a solid, well-defined goal. ...
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This research aims to understand how sustainable business model innovation (SBMI) can learn from business model innovation. For this, first, we conducted a bibliometric analysis to evaluate the relationships between business model innovation and SBMI literature. After this, we performed a systematic literature review to create a comprehensive framework for managing SBMI. The bibliometric analysis showed that the SBMI stream grew quickly and significantly in recent years, evolving into a separated new research stream, which does not leverage recent business model innovation advancements. Through the performed analyses, we were able to discuss critical gaps in the SBMI literature and shed light on possible pathways to solve these gaps through lessons learned from business model innovation. We depicted five critical gaps for managing SBMI; (1) the need to understand the sustainable business model as a wicked problem, in which SBMI leads to “better than before” solutions calling for systematic SBMI, (2) the poor definition of distinctive dimensions of dynamic capabilities for SBMI, (3) the lack of studies exploring the role of open innovation for improving the SBMI process, (4) the lack of tools supporting SBMI implementation and (5) the need to explore game-changing, competitive advantages of SBMI. The findings of this study contribute to guiding future research on SBMI, which can be a basis for further efforts towards sustainable development.
... (Lazarus, 2008(Lazarus, , p. 1159 Wicked problems, which are sometimes called social messes or untamed problems, are dynamically complex, ill-structured, public problems. (Batie, 2008(Batie, , p. 1176 They are symptomatic of deeper problems, unique opportunities that cannot be easily reversed, unable to offer a clear set of alternative solutions. (Frame, 2008, p. 3) Wicked problems often crop up when organizations have to face constant change or unprecedented challenges. ...
Les organisations internationales alertent États et société civile sur un dérèglement des écosystèmes terrestres depuis plusieurs décennies. Face à ce constat, même des entreprises ordinaires et de taille modeste incarnent et expérimentent des solutions nouvelles et non-conventionnelles au regard des enjeux sociétaux de notre temps. Comment ces solutions se concrétisent-elles sur les plans stratégique et organisationnel ?Pour répondre à cette interrogation, ce travail doctoral s’appuie sur une immersion longue au sein d'un groupement d'entreprises impliqué dans la transformation du secteur de la distribution alimentaire et non-alimentaire. L’entreprise développe des systèmes d’agencement de distribution écologique et sans emballages, favorisant la « vente en vrac ». S’inscrivant dans une démarche compréhensive, cette étude de cas cherche à comprendre comment une entreprise ordinaire intègre de grands défis sociétaux dans sa stratégie et son organisation.Cette thèse mobilise la littérature récente sur la gestion des grand défis et discute plus particulièrement la pertinence du modèle théorique d’action robuste pour penser les stratégies s’attaquant aux enjeux de société (Etzion et al., 2017 ; Ferraro et al., 2015). Pour compléter cette approche théorique, nous adjoignons à notre réflexion des travaux récents sur le rôle de l’imaginaire et de l’utopie réelle dans l’action collective (Wright et al., 2017 ; Gümüsay & Reinecke, 2021), défendant l’idée que ces deux composantes jouent un rôle décisif dans la gestion des problèmes sociétaux.Trois résultats majeurs émergent de cette thèse. Premièrement, nous caractérisons la spécificité du concept de grand défi par rapport à des notions conceptuellement proches (meta-problem, wicked problem, mess) et développons en détail comment la contribution à des défis sociétaux se cristallise à plusieurs niveaux d’analyse, individuel, organisationnel et sectoriel. Deuxièmement, nous observons que la contribution à un grand défi de société se structure à partir d‘imaginaires alternatifs de l’organisation et du management influençant significativement le design de l’organisation, sa stratégie et son développement. Troisièmement, nous revisitons le modèle théorique d’action robuste pour expliquer le processus stratégique par lequel des entreprises ordinaires visent à contribuer à des enjeux sociétaux. Pour apporter leurs contributions, les entreprises se constituent en utopie réelle via un processus articulant des expérimentations menées localement et des imaginaires alternatifs multiples. Ce processus repose notamment sur une superposition entre un espace d’enjeux locaux et un espace d’enjeux globaux. Cette mise en résonance entre local et global nécessite alors une organisation fonctionnant à travers trois items principaux : une architecture organisationnelle référente plus ou moins centralisée, la multivocité de discours facilitant la pénétration d’imaginaires multiples au sein de l’organisation, et des expérimentations locales nombreuses mêlant des activités diverses à caractère économique, social, environnemental, éducatif, philanthropique, et attestant la capacité de l’organisation à s’attaquer à des enjeux sociétaux.
... When correctly designed, applied economics can provide insight into the consequence of individuals' perceptions and knowledge of biophysical complexities as well as the perceived tradeoffs associated with policy applications on individuals' economic behavior (Batie 2008). This can be especially beneficial when viewed through the lens of behavioral economics, using analyses that investigate the underlying behavioral, social, and political factors driving conflict among stakeholders. ...
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Recent research in the social psychology literature suggests that personally held beliefs may play a pivotal role in individuals’ acceptance of environmental policy. Using the contingent valuation method framework, we investigate the role of cultural worldview on individuals’ support for, and valuation of, an environmental policy that differs by its underlying cause. Results suggest that willingness to pay point estimates for management action (1) can be influenced by cultural worldviews; and (2) are dependent on the cause of environmental degradation. We also extend the examination of potential endogeneity in ex-post perceived survey consequentiality and willingness to pay measures. We find some evidence that cultural worldviews influence consequentiality and that the framing of the environmental policy scenario can also influence whether an endogenous relationship exists between the randomly assigned payment instrument and the consequentiality measure.
... The uncertainty of the future results in many disagreements among stakeholders as to what the problem is and how to solve it (Kreuter et al. 2004;Batie 2008;Rittel and Webber 1973). These conflicts are often the result of opposing agendas and motives of, for example, for-profit and non-profit corporations ). ...
... Building partnerships with multiple stakeholders seems to be critical in the context of wicked (or super-wicked) problems as they tend to generate ideological conflicts and at the same time require collective action, engaging a large diversity of stakeholders, which can be considered "not to be a curse, but the cure" [34]. Knowledge uncertainty in the context of wicked problems, as well as potential value conflicts and trade-offs between multiple stakeholders, can generate a lack of consensus around the societal goals of the MSP and the relevant knowledge and information to achieve these goals [35]. Collaborative arrangements in MSPs enable collective action as a way to "harness wicked problems" [5]. ...
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Improving sustainability knowledge is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This article highlights the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) in fostering sustainable development knowledge in higher education institutions. The purpose of this study is to investigate the importance of collaboration and stakeholder engagement for the adoption and impact of an MSP. The method is based on the case-study of Sulitest: an international MSP developing open online tools to raise and map sustainability literacy. Sulitest engages different stakeholders to co-develop and disseminate online tools according to the stakeholder context. Sulitest is also a data-provider for academic research investigating the advancement of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). This study uses a sample of 61,376 students in 33 countries having taken the Sustainability Literacy Test between September 2016 and December 2018 to estimate the advancement of students’ knowledge and understanding of the 17 SDGs and their systemic nature. Factorial analysis allows to map the dimensions of sustainability literacy related to the level of engagement and collaboration in this MSP. The results show that active collaboration, stakeholder engagement, and membership in international networks act as important factors of adoption of this initiative. The analysis also highlights the role of exposure to education in order to enhance sustainability literacy and to develop a systemic perspective of sustainability.
Campus crisis management remains an understudied topic in the context of COVID‐affected higher education. In this paper, we contrasted the ability to tame the wicked problems brought by the pandemic of COVID‐19 in private and public universities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Colombia, India, Kazakhstan, Uganda, and Ukraine. The cross‐country analysis and diversity of institutional types allowed us to consider a wide range of challenges faced by academic leaders and their institutions during the global pandemic. By drawing on institutional policy reviews and interviews with university administrators, we have examined tensions between the human and institutional agencies on these crisis‐stricken campuses given differing institutional coupling, sizes, resources, and missions. The focus on agential co‐dependencies and institutional coupling lays the ground for conceptualizing campus crisis management as a culturally specific construct in the context of higher education affected by the global pandemic.
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With the increase of social complexity and uncertainty, wicked problems have become the hot and difficult issues in the frontier research of public policy. The concept of wicked problems was proposed in the 1960s. Since then, it has gradually spread to many disciplines, such as environment, urban planning, public policy, etc. A comprehensive understanding of the research progress of the transdisciplinary method is an important way to understand wicked problems. This paper uses Citespace5.5, based on bibliometrics and visual analysis techniques, to analyze 800 academic publications related to wicked problems and visually display the transdisciplinarity knowledge map and information panorama of wicked problems. Through a multi-level descriptive analysis of key literature, research origin, research hotspots and trend of the research on wicked problems, this paper finds out the law of knowledge growth and internal evolution logic of the research on wicked problems, and concludes that the transdisciplinarity research of wicked problems is forming, which shows the rule from knowledge diffusion (single discipline) to knowledge coherence (transdisciplinarity). The discipline of public policy has the potential to change the knowledge constraints of a single discipline and may offer transdisciplinarity approaches to wicked problems.
Hazardous chemicals are one of the greatest environmental challenges facing our planet, testing governments in the face of economic and social development. Chemical risks are often complex systemic risks, which require particular governance processes, stakeholder participation mechanisms, and communication procedures to manage. In this article we explore how such processes, mechanisms, and procedures could offer more effective pathways for international chemical risk assessment and management. Combining document analysis with 69 key informant interviews and four focus groups with experts from across government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and industry in Canada, the USA and Europe (n = 24), the results highlight the importance of increasing stakeholder participation and risk communication in existing chemical risk assessment and management frameworks. Similarities and differences between the three jurisdictions are discussed with a view to inform future risk governance strategies. The contemporary insights are of relevance to decision-makers seeking to improve the effectiveness of chemical risk governance in practice.
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Wicked problems exceed traditional sectoral and jurisdictional boundaries and involve multiple actors as stakeholders, victims, and culprits. Wicked problems inherently feature uncertainty and knowledge gaps. Science plays a crucial role in generating evidence for solving these problems and contributing to societal transformation. However, researchers may perceive and study problems detached from practitioners' perceptions of the world. We use the example of smallholder pesticide management in Uganda and the three types of knowledge approach, a framework borrowed from transdisciplinary research, to disentangle knowledge gaps. To identify these gaps, we integrated and co-produce knowledge in a two-day participatory workshop applying design thinking. Our results show, that a transition towards safe pesticide management depends on changes in the system, such as a revision and implementation of exiting regulation or professionalization of agro-dealers. Furthermore, this transition is only possible if interventions address target groups beyond the individual farmers (e.g. agro-dealers or district government officials). Compared to existing academic knowledge, co-produced knowledge provides a broader systemic perspective and yields more fine grained insights about potential new pathways. This investigation confirms, that practitioners' knowledge is more fine-grained and detailed, thus exemplifying how knowledge integration is essential to avoid a gap between what researchers investigate and what practitioners need.
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Does society make decisions based on science? Do scientists determine how useful their work is to society? For many, the answer to both questions is a resounding "no". This article describes efforts to connect sustainability science with decisionmaking in the U.S. Southwest, demonstrating that with some hard work, the two communities can find a great deal of common ground.
Climate change and food security represent an intersection where agricultural, health and environmental research come together. If one employs a broad concept of food security (Chen and Kates, 1994,1995 this volume) that goes beyond the conventional notion of an increase in overall food supply to include the food security of households and their individual members, then food security includes the income and resources required to provide or to purchase a household’s food and the health required to absorb or use the food provided.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has stressed the need to explore the possibility of creating a connection between scientific research work and their effects on society. Researchers and their tax-supported underwriters require to analyze the implications of decision making on supporting scientific research work. Education and public outreach (EPO) professionals should be hired to facilitate education activities for scientists, who are trained in science, not in education. This approach would allows scientists to conduct their research work on their own while the EPO professionals take care of education. NSF also stresses to include an EPO professional and a researcher on science as individual reviewers of proposals and as members of review panels to encourage use of effects of scientific research on society. Interaction among researchers from different field will encourage scientists and engineers to more concerned with the broader effects of their research on society.