Waring to lead international research group at the Konrad Lorenz Institute

Dr. Tim Waring will lead an international working group to develop evolutionary theory for describing social-ecological system change at the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Austria. The working group will convene global experts over two years to develop new and useful theory to understand how human and natural system interact. Dr. Waring will be leading the research group in tandem with Maja Schlüter, Associate professor at the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University in Sweden. Dr. Schlüter’s studies factors that drive change in social-ecological systems globally.

The Konrad Lorenz Institute focuses on developing theory that matters in the life and sustainability sciences. Learn more about the Institute here.

Dr. Waring holds a joint appointment in the School of Economics and the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at the University of Maine. Learn more about his research and teaching here: timwaring.info.

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Our study was replicated!

I’m happy to learn that our 2016 study on the connection of prosocial attitudes and environmental concern among students has been replicated among students at larger, more urban university in Utah. Our methods were used, and improved on, and our findings hold! More prosocial students express more care for the environment!

Replication study:

Haimanti Bhattacharya (2019). Do pro-social students care more for the environment?. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. Vol. 20(4), 761-783. Published, 07/2019. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-11-2018-0223

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Applying the Science of Cooperation

PhD student Taylor Lange and I were recently asked to put together some thoughts on how the growing science of cooperation could be of help to cooperatives for the Cooperative Business Journal. Having looked into it, we are convinced that cooperation science, which draws on behavioral research, can be used to help cooperative businesses and organizations flourish. Here is the article, which highlights a few key points about how paying attention to cooperation dynamics can be useful for *any* organization.

  • Cooperation is often learned in context as a social norm.
  • People often cooperate only if others are cooperating.
  • So cooperation can be ephemeral, if not supported.
  • Cooperation can be supported through reciprocal cooperation, and rules designed to bolster cooperation, rather than extract compliance.
  • It also helps to ensure that acts of cooperation are observable to peers.
  • And to nourish cooperative reputations by establishing social and reputational benefits for cooperative behavior.

How can cooperation science be applied? Our research lab studies cooperation in context and uses cooperation science to design solutions for organizations (like cooperatives), and entire social-ecological systems (like fisheries). We start by measuring cooperation, using behavioral science methods. Each context is different, but the facts of human cooperation don’t change, so we developed a cooperation science toolkit, for use in environmental sustainability, which is becoming useful for organizations generally.

Cooperation research is especially useful for cooperatives. Our research suggests that cooperatives may exhibit greater cooperation than comparable businesses (see research paper), although more work needs to be done to find out if that finding is general. We also have found evidence that the “co-operative principles” have emerged and spread because they work to bolster cooperation, and in the last 170 years have helped coops that employ them (see that research). Of course, cooperatives often manage many of the factors that influence cooperation, either intentionally or accidentally. But using a quantitative scientific approach promises to give cooperatives a power boost.



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Dr. Waring gives seminar at the Lorenz Institute in Austria

On Tuesday April 4, 2019, Dr. Tim Waring will deliver a seminar at the Lorenz Institute for the Advanced Study of Complex Natural Systems in Vienna, Austria. The seminar, entitled “The Evolution of Social-Ecological Systems” is provides a deep-time, evolutionary perspective on the anthropogenic sustainability crisis, and derives lessons from human evolution to help us solve that crisis.

Seminar Link: https://www.kli.ac.at/content/events/all_events/view/510


Human activity now threatens core components of the biosphere on which we depend, and urgent action is needed to resolve sustainability crises from fisheries collapse and species loss to carbon emissions and pollution. While academic sustainability research has focused on specific solutions, very little general knowledge has emerged, and two key scientific questions at the core of the sustainability crisis have not been adequately addressed: How did humans come to dominate the earth in such a short period of time? And how do human solve sustainability challenges? Dr. Waring proposes that both of these questions can be answered concretely when we consider the role of culture and cooperation in human evolution. Dr. Waring outlines how these two factors have caused the global sustainability crisis, and how they can be harnessed to solve environmental dilemmas and create positive change. Dr. Waring provides case examples of the role of cooperation in determining social and environmental outcomes, and supplies a toolkit for application in any scenario.


Dr. Waring studies how cooperation determines social and environmental outcomes at any scale. He has developed an evolutionary theory to explain the role of cooperation in environmental dilemmas, and tests it with simulation studies and behavioral experiments. Dr. Waring has led two national working groups to refine this theory and apply it to case studies around the world. He was also awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER grant to study how cooperation also determines organizational outcomes, with application to the local food economy.

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Cooperation Science Workshop

On September 20th, we hosted a Cooperation Science Workshop at the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at the University of Maine. The workshop provides a short introduction to the scientific research on human cooperation, and then gives participants experience applying cooperation science to solve sustainability challenges. Cooperation science applies to social dilemmas at any scale, and can be used in natural resource contexts, pollution, and conservation, as well as organizational change generally. See the slides here:

Learn more, and download the Cooperation Science Toolkit at: timwaring.info/cooperation-science/


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