Document Type


Publication Date


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Ecology and Society






Resilience Alliance

First Page


Last Page



The appropriate scales for science, management, and decision making cannot be unambiguously derived from physical characteristics of water resources. Scales are a joint product of social and biophysical processes. The politics-of-scale metaphor has been helpful in drawing attention to the ways in which scale choices are constrained overtly by politics, and more subtly by choices of technologies, institutional designs, and measurements. In doing so, however, the scale metaphor has been stretched to cover a lot of different spatial relationships. In this paper, we argue that there are benefits to understanding—and actions to distinguish—issues of scale from those of place and position. We illustrate our arguments with examples from the governance of water resources in the Mekong region, where key scientific information is often limited to a few sources. Acknowledging how actors’ interests fit along various spatial, temporal, jurisdictional, and other social scales helps make the case for innovative and more inclusive means for bringing multi-level interests to a common forum. Deliberation can provide a check on the extent of shared understanding and key uncertainties.


Originally published by Resilience Alliance. Publisher's PDF and HTML fulltext available through Ecology and Society.

Included in

Communication Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.