Social factors influence the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge, and actors make decisions for complex reasons. Thus, scientific projects cannot be pursued as if they are apolitical or value-free activities. By drawing on ethnographic observations, we can capture nuances in the outcomes and identify the mechanisms that produce outcomes. This means both uncovering how specific barriers impede the effective dissemination and uptake of forecast-based knowledge and highlighting the existing best practices that could reduce these barriers.
Decisions surrounding water management, agriculture, energy, and science are constrained by inequalities tied to gender, class, political affiliation, and other social fissures. This is no less true of the communities in the BNB. While the ABA is the leading formal regulatory body for water allocation and management in the BNB, the Kebele (the lowest administrative unit of government) is the interface point for the majority of rural Ethiopians. Though Kebeles are legally empowered to shape certain aspects of local development policy, they often face barriers such as lack of capacity, trust and political influence. Our approach puts the wide range of motivations and pressures that shape decision-making at the center of the analysis. Towards that end, we will critically examine the social organization of water, agriculture, hydropower and science.
Through the ethnographic work conducted by the social science team (both U.S. and Ethiopian ethnographers), the social scientific component of the project will identify the barriers present in transmitting scientific information by providing a detailed understanding of decision-making contexts, interactions between forecast producers and users, and ways that potential users respond to scientific uncertainty. Understanding these political-institutional dynamics can guide future scientific programs to superior creation and uptake of forecast information.