Solving Wicked Problems

We are faced with “wicked problems”1 requiring us to find cross-disciplinary answers to solve some of the most pressing issues facing society today.

To solve these wicked problems we need to clearly define problem conditions, develop flexible and open workflows, and build the tools that allow us to take advantage of the knowledge we have been developing across disciplines over the last century for data collection, analysis and assimilation. We must also develop outreach solutions that help ensure equity within academic and public spheres.

About Me

My publication record focuses on relationships between biotic systems and large scale climatic change at time-scales of centuries to millennia, but my research efforts focus on facilitating broader engagement with the tools and methods necessary to build the technical toolkits we require to move forward as a society.

Domain specific knowledge is important in managing research questions or looking for solutions, but increasingly, domain knowledge needs to be supported by experience in building research infrastructure, undertaking outreach, managing complex workflows, and planning projects with multiple interconnected components. My research activities pair deep understanding in the paleogeosciences with project management skills in geoinformatics, as part of the Neotoma Paleoecological Database, and within EarthCube.


Undergraduate researcher Megs Seeley discusses the significance of the western range limit of American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Seeley, M., Goring, S., & Williams, J. W. 2019. Assessing the environmental and dispersal controls on Fagus grandifolia distributions in the Great Lakes region. Journal of Biogeography. [link]

A new publication is out! Neotoma as a resource for teaching and outreach!

Goring SJ, Graham R, Loeffler S, Myrbo A, Oliver JS, Ormond C, & Williams JW. 2018. The Neotoma Paleoecology Database: A Research Outreach Nexus. Elements of Paleontology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [link]

A new post about using the Atom Editor to work in R, as an alternative to RStudio. [link]
My work using GeoGeepDive to recover spatial metadata from legacy publications featured on the EarthCube blog. [link]
Our opinion piece in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment is out!

Goring SJ, Whitney KS, Jacob A. 2018. Accessibility is imperative for inclusion. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 16: 63. [link]

A keystone publication for the Neotoma Paleoecological Database

Williams JW, Grimm EC, Blois JL, Charles DF, Davis EB, Goring SJ, Graham RW, Smith AJ, Anderson M, Arroyo-Cabrales J, Ashworth AC, Betancourt JL, Bills BW, Booth RK, Buckland PI, Curry BB, Giesecke T, Jackson ST, Latorre C, Nichols J, Purdum T, Roth RE, Stryker M, Takahara H. 2018. The Neotoma Paleoecology Database, a multiproxy, international, community-curated data resource. Quaternary Research, 89:156-177. [link]

Land-use conversion in the American Midwest has significanty impacted the climate envelopes of key tree species.

Goring SJ, Williams JW. 2017. Effect of historic land-use and climate change on tree-climate relationships in the northern United States. Ecology Letters. 20:461-470. [link]

Implementing continuous integration with RMarkdown documents to ensure documents with external dependencies are reproducible. [link]
How to use Leaflet and R's Shiny package to interactively explore spatial data. [link]

1: Rittel & Webber 1973. A wicked problem is a complex problem that often has no clear solution, either because there are competing factors, the conditions change, knowledge is incomplete, or because the problem itself is poorly defined.