The Complexity of the Information Space Generated by EUFORIE

The need of adopting a suite of non-equivalent and non-reducible analytical approaches is a consequence of the complexity of the analysis of the sustainability of social ecological systems. To give an analogy useful to explain the problem, in medicine when dealing with the study of a complex concept such as “human health” it is impossible to adopt a single analytical framework that provides all the required information in a coherent quantitative representation. For this reason, medicine relies on a suite of different approaches – e.g. blood tests, X-rays, NMR, psychological – to generate the diversity of required information.

Following the solution adopted in medicine for dealing with the study of human health, EUFORIE propose to use a suite of approaches (already tested in in the two previous projects DECOIN and SMILE) to study the sustainability of social-ecological systems in a set of different case studies, having the concept of efficiency as the leitmotif. As result of this choice, we should not expect that the different applications of different approached will generate the same types of results or provide the same indications. An analysis based on X-rays cannot see soft tissues, and it is well known that in medicine a given treatment aimed at fixing a given problem can generate a different problem when considering a different physiological process observed at a different scale.

For this reason also in EUFORIE the narratives determined by the pre-analytical choices (the framing of the analysis) associated with the selected methods can results into contrasting advices reflecting the adoption of different assumptions. However, this fact should not be considered as a weakness of the project. On the contrary, the existence of contradictions at the level of basic narratives simply reflects the need of adopting a diversity of perceptions reflecting the existence of non-equivalent dimensions and scales of analysis. Not paying taxes is good for household income and bad for the budget of the government, protecting ecological processes do have an opportunity cost for the economy, etc. Rather than pretend that these trade-offs do not exist, it is important that scientists learn how to integrate different definitions of pros and cons referring to different choices of dimensions and scales of analysis.