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Last update: May 2021

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Research areas & themes

The scientific project of the unit is articulated around 3 research axes and 4 fields of application.

Research area 1:  Global change, interdependency and inequality

The advent of global change necessitates new responses from social science to grasp the reconfiguration of power relations at stake, including paying attention to how materiality, and non-humans, can intervene in any re-structuring brought about. This is the aim of research area 1 "Global change, interdependency and inequality" which develops and highlights, from an interdependency and justice perspective, new ways of thinking about changing interrelationships between social groups and other living and non-living components.

This research areas is organised around 3  lines of inquiry:

  • Developing an ‘interdependency approach’ to analyse the governance of global change;
  • Deepening analysis of environmental inequalities through grasping the way in which these inequalities are created within multiple relationships between social groups;
  • Finding synergies between the interdependency approach and environmental inequalities to fully grasp changing power relations provoked by global change phenomena (biodiversity, climate change, environmental health, quality of life), and analyse governing and policy solutions adopted by a range of individual and collective actors to address its consequences (e.g., integrated/ecosystem approaches, participatory governance, Nature-based Solutions)

Research area 2:  Practices and production areas in transition

Research area 2 examines the extent to which changes in practices brought about by ecological transition are transformative in nature.  Addressing this question, we focus on the management and valorisation of natural resources at both a sectoral and territorial scale, applying multi-disciplinary approaches. Working at the ‘meso’ scale allows us to analyse critical links between individual practices (micro) and market and public institutional logics of action (macro). 

This research area is organised around two lines of inquiry:

  • "Transitions of economic models: from diversity to opposing trajectories?" This first line of inquiry qualifies and evaluates the transformation of productive models associated with short food circuits, forest bioeconomy, Nature-based Solutions, and sustainability of agricultural practices. Particular attention is paid to the coexistence and confrontation of different possible models at the scale of sectors and territories.
  • "Risks as factors of change in practices? » This second line of inquiry questions whether and how exposure to risks (natural, biological, chemical) can foster changes in practices, focusing on forest owners, coastal dwellers and agricultural workers. Particular attention is paid to the heterogeneity of individual perceptions, the unequal capacities of adaptation, as well as to those institutional and territorial processes that either prevent or facilitate the transformation of exposure to risks into a public problem to be governed

Research area 3: Performance and quality of services under global change

Research area 3 develops an integrated and integrative approach to investigate the performance and quality of collective services, to better grasp their adaptation to global change. The challenge is to analyze the operation and recomposition of those collective services provided by a set of infrastructures, whether physical or not (water networks, equipment, land, roads, etc.), or ‘environmental’ (water resources, corridors, green and blue webs, etc.). As a privileged place for collaboration between the ETTIS’ two teams (EADT and GPIE), this research area contributes to the development of multidisciplinary approaches, notably between Engineering and Social sciences.

This research area is organised around 2 lines of inquiry:

  • "Multi-objective evaluation of infrastructure performance and adaptability": This line of inquiry integrates opportunities offered by new technologies to improve the adaptability and resilience of water networks. These advances imply the identification, understanding and quantification of the changes induced at the scale of the critical infrastructure, the management service and the service provided to users. The research also aims at understanding the reciprocal interactions between the variety of factors intervening between the supply and demand of collective services and the external effects produced on the systems to establish different scenarios of infrastructure transformation. 
  • "Evaluation of the quality of and demand for services and analysis of governance processes": This second line of inquiry analyzes socio-economic mechanisms that regulate social demand for collective actions and services, linking issues of natural resource protection and economic development. It also aims to develop research on transformations in the governance of infrastructure-related issues in a context of global change. The challenge is to integrate a spatial dimension and temporal perspective into these evaluation approaches questioning the notion of trajectories in the context of adaptation to climate change.

Application area :« Agriculture and agro-ecological transition »

Agriculture is currently facing contradictory challenges. It must respond to its function of producing food in a competitive economic context coupled with a strong social demand for respect of health, the environment and quality of life – and all this in a political climate of resurgent cultural and territorial conflicts. In particular, the societal and political agenda of agroecological transition renews agriculture’s classical partnerships. In addition to work on the evaluation of the sustainability of agroecological transitions and their performance, we focus on identifying new configurations of actors brought about in this transition and integrating them into our understandings.

Application area : « Forestry territories: multifunctionality and bioeconomy »

In the field of "Forestry and Wood", global change is reflected in the evolution of expectations regarding not only the productive capacities of the wood sector (bioeconomy) but also the resilience capacities of forest areas (risk and adaptation to climate change, biodiversity). In this field of application, it is now necessary to consider more broadly the conditions of recomposition of economic, social and political relations between the actors concerned by the management, use, harvesting, transformation and consumption of resources (goods and services).

Application area : « Coastal, river and estuarine territories »

Coastal, river and estuarine territories are at the heart of tensions between their strong attractiveness to tourists and residents and their great environmental vulnerability under the effect of anthropic pressures and global change (climate change, erosion of biodiversity, demographic attractiveness, maritime economic flows...). Coasts are incurring significant socio-economic development and are increasingly regulated the local to the European level. To grasp the full range of issues at stake, in constant evolution, requires the creation of strong partnerships with a continuum of stakeholders: local residents and their groups, productive stakeholders, environmental associations, local authorities, the State and Europe.

Application area : « Infrastructures »

Public authorities and water network managers are challenged by the issue of long-term management of infrastructures - which constitute a heritage for society - under the combined pressure of ageing systems and changes in service demand and constraints (legal, urban, sanitary, budgetary...). The central challenge of asset management of water networks is to guarantee a satisfactory level of performance (including risk and cost control) by renewing a fraction of the pipes and optimizing system operation. The context of global changes invites science to revisit the conditions of sustainability and long-term performance of infrastructures by widening the scope of study of asset management to new actors (citizens-users, associations...).