The International Handbook of Social Impact Assessment
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The International Handbook of Social Impact Assessment

Conceptual and Methodological Advances

Edited by Henk A. Becker and Frank Vanclay

This important Handbook presents an indispensable overview of the range of new methods and of the conceptual advances in Social Impact Assessment (SIA). Recent increased attention to social considerations has led to substantial development in the techniques useful to, and the thinking in, SIA. A distinguished group of contributors provides an up-to-date and comprehensive account of the cutting-edge in SIA development.
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Chapter 9: Theory Formation and Application in Social Impact Assessment

Henk Becker


Henk Becker Introduction While substantial progress has been made in discipline-oriented research in most disciplines in recent years, few of these advances have been integrated in social impact assessment (SIA) practice. The reason for this mismatch is not difficult to guess. Most members of the SIA community have been trained at university in the applied sciences and in technology rather than the social sciences. In their professional careers, they have further qualified in the application and utilization of scientific knowledge and in methods related primarily to practical problems. Typically, SIA practitioners have had neither the time nor the inclination to study subjects like epistemology, methodology or theory formation. They have carried on in their daily work without much knowledge regarding matters they might consider esoteric or academic. For a long time, this neglect has been of no consequence. However, SIA is changing. More and more, it has to reflect upon its scientific foundations. In this chapter, we want to facilitate this process of change. This requires a number of preliminary remarks. First, we will elaborate upon the application of theory in SIA. Second, we will link the application of theory to models of the project cycle. In SIA, but also in environmental impact assessment (EIA) and other forms of assessment, the formation and application of theory is, in the first place, important, if we are dealing with theories which present summaries of knowledge that are already available. As an example, we mention the book Di...

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