Mapping the network of climate services in Alaska

Nathan Kettle, a research associate working jointly with the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center and Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, is developing and evaluating processes to connect science and decision-making. One of his projects is a social network analysis of climate research, applications, and services in Alaska. Social network analysis is a research method used to study social structures by looking at nodes (individual actors, people, or things within the network) and the ties (relationships or interactions) that connect them. Network maps (FIGURE X) are used to visualize the connections across the network.

Kettle notes there are growing numbers of individuals and organizations working on climate-related research, decision making, and services in Alaska, but there are obstacles to fostering interaction and providing usable data and information. “The challenges to communicating in Alaska are unique and acute,” Kettle observes. “When it comes to climate research here, individual stakeholders are separated by large geographic distances, and there are significant time and resource constraints.”

These concerns gave rise to this project, which aims to understand the role of social networks in supporting climate adaptation. The project maps the structure and function of communication and information exchange among federal, state, tribal, industry, and non-profit entities engaged in climate science, services, decision making, and adaptation in Alaska, in order to understand how these actors interact across a range of sectors.

To conduct the social network analysis, Kettle interviewed 126 individuals involved in climate-related research, services, and decision making across Alaska and asked them about the types of climate-related activities they were involved in and whom they networked with.

Kettle feels that, “this work will identify and map the very complex network of climate research, applications, services, and adaptation in Alaska. We’ll identify how our network structure relates to our climate adaptation, enabling us to better evaluate all of our program activities.”

Kettle is aiming to finish the project in January 2016. Project results will be posted on the ACCAP and AK CASC website and presented as part of the ongoing ACCAP climate webinar series.