SHIFT: Environment, Territory and Society
SHIFT: Environment, Territory and Society
The mission of the Research Group on Environment, Territory and Society (SHIFT RG) is to develop inter-and-transdisciplinary research based on critical and reflective analysis, to generate transformative knowledge of the social, territorial and governance dynamics underlying socio-ecological challenges; and of the pathways of transition to more resilient, fair and sustainable societies.
SHIFT RG has a double objective. On the one hand, to develop inter-and-transdisciplinary research on the social, territorial and governance dynamics underlying socio-ecological challenges, with a critical and reflective perspective on these processes. On the other hand, to develop transformative knowledge of the transition pathways towards fairer, more resilient and sustainable societies. The group is composed of members with diverse disciplinary backgrounds, namely, in sociology, geography, anthropology, demography, urban planning, landscape architecture, audiovisual communication and cinema. It also frequently includes guest researchers from external universities, in addition to actively participating in ULisboa's knowledge transfer platforms such as colleges (Food, Agriculture and Forestry, Colégio F3). The open science and public participation tool of SHIFT RG - OBSERVA (Observatory of Environment, Territory and Society) targets different audiences.
The four main lines of research are:
- ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE ACTION, ENERGY and RISK, with a focus on social representations, socio-ecological and political implications of environmental dynamics, as well as on processes of mitigation and adaptation to climate change at local and regional scales. Involvement of stakeholders and communities is promoted in order to foster processes of social learning and self-organization in matters such as climate and coastal vulnerability, water and waste management, sea and biodiversity, public health and lifestyles, as well as the use of natural resources and socio-environmental equity. It also addresses the social and cultural aspects of energy: uses, acceptance of technologies, energy poverty, transformative energy practices.
- FOOD TRANSITIONS, focusing on food security, sustainable consumption and production, urban food planning and agro-food practices. The researchers address innovative perspectives on: food insecurity and poverty centred on access and consumption; design and implementation of sustainable food strategies in urban areas and their interconnections with surrounding food basins and rural areas; historical processes of agro-food practices and their impacts on resources and ecosystems. Our research is interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, bringing together a diversity of perspectives from the social and human sciences, health and life sciences, and from pluralistic theoretical and methodological approaches. Several elements of SHIFT RG are part of ICSFoodhub (hub website).
- URBAN TRANSITIONS, ‘Urban’: we study the diverse set of socio-economic and socio-ecological processes, practices and problems linked to the relentless expansion and reconfigurations of human (and non-human) geographies; ‘Transitions’: we explore the present of urbanisation with a normative tension aimed at thinking, envisioning and shaping more just, inclusive and sustainable futures. Our research is intrinsically interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, striving to ensure an open, diverse and interconnected view of problems and solutions (hub website).
- PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT WITH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: the social sciences are in a privileged position to bridge the gap between academic research and society at large. Understanding what the public needs and expects from research and technological development, and how researchers and engineers can better serve these needs and expectations, is crucial. As distrust in science and technology grows, with clear impacts on efforts to address life-threatening challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, or public health risks, exploring ways of fruitfully engaging citizens with science and technology is vital. Inclusion of all social groups in deliberative processes of a techno-scientific nature is paramount. Sub-topics: Social studies of science and technology; Environmental risks and scientific controversies; Zoonotic and foodborne diseases; Scientific culture, science communication and engagement; Interdisciplinarity in sustainability science.
Emerging themes in SHIFT RG have addressed the various causes and consequences of forced displacement of populations in a broad and interdisciplinary temporal perspective — from those resulting from violent/armed conflicts leading to flows of refugees and the creation of camps for this purpose, to the impact of policies and mega-development projects (mineral and fossil fuel exploration, transforming platforms, intensive agriculture, etc.), evicting communities from their lands. This front has gained preponderance within the group, in the context of Southern Africa and CPLP countries.
At SHIFT RG, dialogues are promoted with the emerging field of multispecies studies and environmental humanities, cultivating detailed attention to human and non-human lives, organic and inorganic matter (e.g. microorganisms, animals, plants, oceans, forests, objects, celestial bodies). HAS - Human-Animal Studies Hub is one of the spaces where these debates have gained prominence.
Methodological approaches, collaborations, training and dissemination
SHIFT RG makes use of both qualitative and quantitative methods where, combined with the rigor and systematization of robust data collection and analysis, it also invests in the exploration of inventive and creative methods (e.g. audiovisual and digital methods; the body as a collection tool of sensory and kinesthetic data). This search for a “multimodal” approach (video, photography, soundscapes, installation, performance, video games — or combinations of these) constitutes, simultaneously, a research tool and a dissemination format for the group.
Research in the SHIFT RG is often done in collaboration with researchers from other scientific areas outside the social sciences and in international partnerships. Projects funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology and the European Commission, as well as several other public and private entities, both for profit and non-profit, are being developed.
The SHIFT RG is involved in several ICS advanced training courses, with emphasis on the Doctoral Program in Climate Change and Sustainable Development Policies, the Doctoral Program in Sociology: Knowledge for Open and Inclusive Societies, the Doctoral Program in Development Studies, and the Doctoral Programme in Sustainability, as well as Summer and Winter Schools. The GI has an important dissemination tool, OBSERVA Observatory of Environment, Territory and Society, which promotes training actions and seminars on policies and publish policy and research briefs and a blog, as well as a range of other knowledge dissemination activities to stakeholders and non-academic stakeholders (central and local government, schools, NGOs, companies, etc.).