PECS #10: Meta-analyses and case studies in the social-environmental sciences with Michael Cox and Sergio Villamayor-Tomas

In the last 10 years, qualitative meta-analyses (QMA) have gained momentum in the environmental social sciences. These are motivated by the abundance of single case studies in the field, which by themselves don’t produce generalizable knowledge. This situation under-leverages the knowledge of individual researchers for collective learning, and hinders knowledge accumulation . QMA can fill this gap by coding important features of case studies to facilitate analytical comparisons between them. Conditions and resources to carry meta-analyses have notably improved in recent years due to increasing internet availability, open access publications, and big data management techniques. This presentation will cover the basic protocols for implementing a QMA, using examples from research on community-based natural resource management and socio-ecological systems. It will also discuss the connection between QMA and newly proposed protocols for conducting and reporting the case studies themselves.

Michael Cox is a professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College. He is an environmental social scientist who studies community-based natural resource management as well as path dependence and technological transitions. He has conducted empirical fieldwork-based analyses of irrigation systems in the Southwest United States, Peru and Kenya. His current empirical work is focused on community-based fisheries and rice farming systems in the Dominican Republic, as well as collaborative watershed management in South Africa. For the past several years he has led a synthetic project on social-ecological governance, the details of which can be found at

Sergio Villamayor-Tomas is currently Ramon y Cajal Research Fellow at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB), at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He is also affiliated with the Ostrom´s Workshop (Indiana University) and the Berlin Workshop in Institutional Analysis of Socio-Ecological Systems (WINS).  His research areas are climate change adaptation, community-based natural resource management, and polycentric governance. Specific topics include adaptation to droughts and other disturbances in the irrigation sector, bottom-up management solutions to the water-energy-food nexus, transboundary river management, and the interaction of social movements and commons management. He has carried fieldwork research in Spain, Colombia, Mexico, and Germany with grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian Social Science Research Council (SSHRC), the Latin-American Association of Environmental Economists (LACEEP), the BiodivERsA/FACCE-JPI network and the Government of Balearic Islands, among others.