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Reconciling scientific approaches for organic farming research: Part I- Reflection on research methods in organic grassland and animal production at the Louis Bolk Institute, The Netherlands

Baars, Ton (2002) Reconciling scientific approaches for organic farming research: Part I- Reflection on research methods in organic grassland and animal production at the Louis Bolk Institute, The Netherlands. Thesis, Louis Bolk Instituut , Department of Livestock production. Louis Bolk Instituut Publications, no. G38. Louis Bolk Instituut.

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Document available online at: http://www.louisbolk.nl/downloads/g38/


This dissertation focuses on the research question: what is peculiar to agricultural research when its purpose is to support the conscious development of organic agriculture?What approaches, designs and methods are used for such research? Since the 1990s the Louis Bolk Institute has become one of the important actors in the field of organic research and development. The author analysed the methodological aspects of seven case studies,each following the same format: background of the project, methods used, a reflection on the methods and, to a limited extent, agronomic results. Each of these sheds light on an aspect of the Louis Bolk Institute’s approach to research. Organic farming is experienced as a new paradigm and its research methods need to do justice to it. Three criteria were formulated for this purpose: the self regulation of farming systems, the involvement of farmers and the respect for the integrity of life. Two conceptual frameworks are used to analyse the research methods: (1) a four-quadrant matrix. Epistemological, ontological and methodological changes in the way of thinking are relevant in discussions about holism versus reductionism and positivism versus constructivism. The second framework is (2) a triangle which can show the relationship between the underlying values, the involvement of the actors and the nature of the scientific process. The scientific position which is defended in this dissertation can ultimately best be described as a ‘radical holistic research strategy’.
Research approaches applied in the case studies are: interdisciplinary search, experiential science and mutual learning, farmer-to-farmer learning, exploring tacit knowledge, bio-ethical evaluation, Goethean science and systemic development. In the four quadrant matrix two new additional research methods are positioned: (1) Goethean science is included as a holistic counterpart to multidisciplinary system ecology; (2) experiential science is included for comparison with mono-disciplinary experimental research. The constructivist character of both Goethean science and experiential science particularly distinguishes these methods from mainstream science. The meta-reflection on the research showed some important new elements of research. There was a systemic orientation in terms of a cohesive set of management measures and actions. This systemic orientation also encompasses holism in terms of Goethean science. In addition there is the experiential science based on intuitive action and pattern recognition.The reflection on the methods made it clear that their acceptance was influenced by the underlying scientific philosophy. The entire research strategy is thus based on two different interpretations of knowledge. Experiential science focuses on the actions of the farmer and is based on the epistemology of action. In addition there is an epistemology of knowledge, where it relates to interdisciplinary research and Goethean science. There are barriers to the acceptance of these scientific methods in the current lack of suitable statistical evaluation methods,and also in the absence of accepted methods for explicitly exploring reality as constructed by people.

EPrint Type:Thesis
Thesis Type:Ph.D. thesis
Keywords:anthroposophy, methodology, research strategy, experiential science, multidisciplinary research, Goethean science
Subjects: Knowledge management > Research methodology and philosophy
Research affiliation: Netherlands > Louis Bolk Institute
Related Links:http://www.louisbolk.nl/e/projects/livestock/index.htm
Deposited By: Steinbuch, Luc
ID Code:2415
Deposited On:04 Mar 2004
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:29
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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