Talk:WikiJournal of Science/Perspectives on the social license of the forest products industry from rural Michigan, United States

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Authors: Zoe Ketola[a], William Lytle[b][i], Chelsea Schelly[a], Mark Rudnicki[a], Matthew Kelly[a]

Zoe Ketola; William Lytle; Chelsea Schelly; Mark Rudnicki; Matthew Kelly (6 September 2022). "Perspectives on the social license of the forest products industry from rural Michigan, United States". WikiJournal of Science. Wikidata Q104049454. ISSN 2470-6345. 


Plagiarism check

Artículo bueno.svg Pass.: Assessment with TurnItIn detected 0% potential plagiarism (with the exception of some trivial matches to some reference titles). Article was submitted as docx file, so check performed with the desktop program, but will be repeated with the WMF copyvios tool to confirm when text uploaded on-wiki. T.Shafee(Evo﹠Evo)talk 22:55, 17 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Peer review 1

Review by anonymous peer reviewer , Highly cited in environmental sociology and social impact assessment, including in this paper
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These assessment comments were submitted on , and refer to this previous version of the article

I thought that this was a well-written paper that adequately addressed the topic. The authors clearly understood what they were discussing, and even though the field of social licence now has hundreds of papers, the authors were able to identify the key points. There were no grammatical errors or typos that I detected. My one concern relates to the tables. Essentially I think they should be deleted, or at least expressed in raw numbers rather than as percentages. In statistics/research methods, it is generally recommended not to percentage when the n is less than 20, because one case has too big an influence on the number. My advice is to write the story without the tables, or at least present the tables only with counts (not percentages) and perhaps have them in an appendix.


Removed summary tables. Added complete data tables to Appendix A. Removed explicit table references in paper text, added references to appendix.

Review by anonymous peer reviewer ,
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These assessment comments were submitted on , and refer to this previous version of the article

I had a quick look at the revised paper. It seemed quite reasonable and probably okay to publish now. The only thing I noticed was that the references in the text to Dare 2014 should be to Dare et al. 2014



Peer review 2

Review by anonymous peer reviewer ,
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These assessment comments were submitted on , and refer to this previous version of the article

Comments on “It’s all about people skills: Perspectives on the social license of the forest products industry from rural North America”

This paper sought to examine the social license to operate (SLO) between the forest products industry and a local community in the context of rural Midwestern United States. Interviews were conducted to solicit perspectives from industry informants and representatives of local stakeholders. The findings of the study suggest that SLO is influenced by the local community’s historical interactions with the industry, relationships among the principal players, and locally contextual perspectives on how resources are managed. An important contribution of the study is that SLO has spatial variations, and place-based context has a large role to play in that local industry enjoys certain advantages over non-local industry actors. The authors concluded that SLO is spatially contingent, based on socio-spatial and historical contexts, and the spatial and historical contextualization serve as the basis for framing the acceptability of operating practices from the viewpoints of the local community.

I wish to offer some comments, first in general terms on the strength and weakness of the paper, followed by several suggestions for the authors to consider in improving the paper. First of all, SLO is an important topic which warrants researchers’ continued efforts. The authors did a fine job in providing an overview of recent literature related to SLO. Forestry is rural by nature, and the majority of the forest operations occur in geographical domains where rural residents benefit from these operations through direct and indirect employment opportunities and economic spin-off. However, they are also affected by any adverse effect of timber harvesting and manufacturing activities. Therefore, local community members have a stake in how forests are managed and how forest products are manufactured. The Midwestern USA is an area where forestry has a long history and continues to play a large role in supporting regional and local livelihoods and economic development. This area has been under-studied and, therefore, offers rich experience for examining SLO issues. Empirical studies of SLO are difficult to conduct, because many SLO aspects are hard to quantify. It is appropriate to employ interviews to solicit perspectives of the parties involved in an SLO between the forest industry and the local community.

The manuscript has a number of shortcomings. I wish to point out several major issues before commenting on some specific areas where improvement can be made. First, the paper was not well motivated. The authors posed three research questions in the second paragraph on page 7. However, these questions are not rigorously articulated. Because the paper lacks motivation earlier on, it seems the questions came from nowhere. The lack of proper motivation and ambiguity of research questions weakened the basis for rigorous analysis. It would be helpful to re-arrange the paper so that the research questions are better articulated.

Second, it is well known that SLO is multi-dimensional. While the authors correctly identified a number of key variables, based on a good overview of literature, the importance of these variables in the local context was not well laid out. Under the category ‘Influence of organizational legitimacy’, three elements were identified, i.e., relationship, ethics, responsibilities. Under the category ‘Influence of operational legitimacy’, the elements identified were specialization, sustainability, and resource management. While these elements are indeed closely tied to SLO, the interview questions that the authors formulated and the responses that they gathered from the participants did not seem to provide adequate information for arriving at strong evidence in support of the extent of SLO.

Third, the analytical framework was deficient, due to a fairly small data set and the way in which data was collected. On page 7, the authors jumped to “The interview protocol…”, without walking the steps of explaining the thought process leading to the selection of an appropriate interview protocol. I understand the need to preserve confidentiality. However, it would be helpful to provide some more details on the interviewees, and why these people became the participants in the study. Specifically, since the authors selected community leaders in government, NGOs and local media as community participants, these people were certainly well informed. Would there be any bias that you did not include perspectives of the average community member in the area? The authors ended up having 14 industry interviews and 6 community interviews. Is there any issue of imbalance in the two distinct groups, insofar as the perspectives on the interview questions?

Lastly, the Results section is rather confusing. Firstly, the questions that the authors posed in the interviews were not clearly presented. It may be preferable to list the questions using a table. Secondly, I appreciate the four sub-sections, i.e., (i) Industry Histories and Community Identities, (ii) Relationships and Trust, (iii) Engagement through Community Identities, and (iv) Social License in Community Context. These are highly important aspects of an SLO. It would be helpful if the authors could clearly link these four areas with the interview questions. Thirdly, the current tables are not terribly informative and efficient. For example, the low number of interviewees for community stakeholders did not warrant the use of a separate table, as in the case of Table 2 and Table 4, respectively. To avoid the perceptions of over-reporting from a relatively small data set, the authors could either deepen the analysis or adjust their findings and conclusions. It’s possible that the interviews contained a considerable amount of details for the authors to tap into. If that is the case, making a deeper dive into the interview notes would be beneficial.

Below are some comments on specific spots where improvement can be made. To begin with, the title of the paper is imprecise. In spite of the importance of people skills in building and sustaining effective relationships, people skills per se are not single decisive determinant in an SLO. While I understand that the statement came from one of the interviewees, it does not seem to be the main conclusion of the study. Therefore, the authors may want to consider changing the title. Further, as the case study county is located in the US Midwest, it is more precise to say Midwestern US rather than North America.

In the abstract, it seems odd for the authors to state “…between a rural community in the northern Midwestern US community.” Need to delete the second ‘community’.

Also in the abstract, the authors claim that they seek to examine existing SLO, in particular, the processes of achieving and articulating SLO. This is a loose claim, because the paper analyzed what an SLO is about, rather than examining the processes of achieving the articulating SLO. This sentence needs to be reworded.

Again in the abstract, perspectives on valuable work. Did the authors mean ‘perspectives on what constitutes valuable work’?

At the end of the Introduction section, the authors may want to add a couple of sentences to better motivate the paper. As it stands right now, it seems somewhat abrupt.

Section 2, end, again, the authors need to add a couple of sentences to explain why this study was worthwhile.

Section 3, language problem, I understand that authors meant, the case study rural county comprises 1000 square miles, not the northern US. The language needs to be clearer.

Page 7, lines 9 – 12, “The term forest products industry refers to public and private landowners, foresters, loggers, truckers, saw mills, primary processors, manufacturers, artisan woodworkers and specialty wood procurement taking place within the geographical boundaries of the county.” I am not sure why the authors included so many players in the forest products industry. If this definition is adopted, the interviews should match the scope. I suggest that the authors tighten up the paragraph.

Some editorial comments are as follows:

Introduction section, line 9, punctuation problem.

Paragraph 2, line 3, pg. 14, earlier in the paper, the authors used p. to refer to the page number, which is appropriate. This issue appeared repeatedly in the paper.

Page 6, line 2, fix pg?

Page 10, last line, there seems to be an issue with the citation style. Why keep first names in the reference?

I hope the above comments are helpful for the authors to consider.


Added sentences in earlier body paragraphs to link research questions and background.

Added paragraph discussion organizational legitimacy and how the divisions related to the rural and isolated county and its history. Additionally, discussed local vs. nonlocal actors and their respective successes.

"Added a limitations paragraph talking about bias, discrepancy in industry vs individual interviews.

Added clarifying information on how interview process was developed. Additionally, changed ""community members"" to ""stakeholders"" throughout the paper to be more explicit, as community writ large does not necessarily influence forest management. Lastly, these are qualitative findings, and standards of quanitative imbalance should not be used to analyze this data.

Added interview questions to appendix .

Added column to table to categorize how each question contributed to the interview questions.

Tables were removed from text as mentioned in revision 1.

Revised title to be "perscpective on the social license of the forest products industry from the rural midwestern united states".

First sentence split into two and rephrased to "This study examines the existing social license that exists between a rural community and the forest products industry in a rural community located in the northern Midwestern United States. This is accomplished through a series of interviews with industry and community stakeholders, aimed at understanding how they understand this social license and its impacts." Sentence rephrased to "perspectives on what work is of value"

Added "This paper offers refinement of the concept of social license while also considering how natural resource based industries can successfully meet evolving management challenges when their social license may be vulnerable to disturbances. Having an adequate social license is an undeniable asset for industry, while an indqequate social license is a liability. Stakeholders have the ability to damage or halt industry operations, often with just cause in the face of natural resource extraction and exploitation. Our evaluation of social licenses intends to shed light on the conditions that precipitate such conflicts."

Added "This study examined the social license of the forest products industry based on the perspective of both industry members and community stakeholders in a rural community located in the northern Midwestern United States. We hope that our findings will allow some refinement of the social license concept such that it can be better applied to future and existing projects."

"Broke sentence into two, second sentence explicitly says ""this county has...""

Omitted coastline stat, population stat, seemed irrelevant to topic".

Changed to "Participants in the forest products industry include public and private landowners, developers, government officials, environmental activists, conservationists, the media, and more, within the geographic boundaries of the county. Individuals representing each of these groups were interviewed as part of this study."

"It is unclear what puncuation problem they are referencing in line 9.

All pg. occurences changed to p.

Citation corrected.

Peer review 3

reviewer-annotated pdf file.
reviewer-annotated pdf

Review by Ian Thomson Wikidata-logo.svg , Shinglespit Consultants Inc.

These assessment comments were submitted on , and refer to this previous version of the article

An interesting and potentially significant contribution but needs extensive reworking before publication


We disagree that "for present purposes" indicates that the strawman argument. However, we have added their previous wording like suggested, but also kept their definition like was originally written. "Gunningham et al. (2004) point out that corporations talk about the need to comply with their social license by operating within societal expectations and avoid activities (or influential elements within them) that would be considered unacceptable, defining it in present terms as “the demands on and expectations for a business enterprise that emerge from neighborhoods, environmental groups, community members, and other elements of the surrounding civil society” (p. 308)."

Rewrote P1, added Moffat et al reference.

Rephrased P2 and added references. T literature more supports that adequate communication is necessary for social license."

Rephrased and added sentence and sources. "Social license is often regarded as being synonymous with community approval, in part due to its deep historical roots in mining and forestry (Syn, 2014; Boutilier & Thomson, 2011; Parsons et al., 2014). The term is often credited to a Canadian mining executive in 1997, although a forestry executive in the United States is thought to have referred to the concept in a speech in mid-1996 (Thomson & Boutilier, 2011; Edwards et al., 2016).)

Rephrased sentence to cite our earlier definition.

Added, tenses fixed.

Requested reference is already provided in previous example. Combined sentences so that reference relevance is hopefully more clear.

Added reference to location at end of introduction.

New reference for forestland data, removed sentence about where exports go and manufacturing prevalence due to irrelevance.

Census Reference was in reference list.

It is unecessary to explicitly refer to the county by name or implication. Small sample size may allow identification of participants if location identified. Explicit references to location removed. This includes rephrasing sentences that refer to county characteristics but that don't relate to the paper topic.

Updated p.8 lines 1-3.

Used 42.4% percentage, added to sentence that fourteen interviews represented 42.4% of identified corporate profiles.

Addressed p.9 lines 1-3.

Removed total population due to irrelevance to findings. Added additional line about requiring additional research to characterize similarities between industry members and stakeholders.

Removed Tables 1-4 from narratiive, added full data tables to appendix.

"We consider SLO a common and intuitive enough phrase that, while it may not be explicitly used, industry actors are likely familiar with it and allude to its concepts.

Rewrote paragraph to reference those observations more directly, and explicitely stated that SLO terminology was not used by participants."

Replaced many with multiple.

Added references [to p.22, paragraph 1, line 3, after industry]

Added [Kagan & Thorton to Gunningham to p.23, paragraph 1, line 3, 7]

"Expanded on local v nonlocal. "" This shared experience shapes the process of acquiring social license, and our data analysis highlights the importance of local histories and relationships in shaping social license. Nonlocal actors are likely to experience a much lesser degree of social license than local actors based on our findings. This can be at least partially explained by considering the importance of shared values, local history, and long standing relationships within the community. Local actors are more likely to have similar values to stakeholders, have established some history in the area, and have had the time to establish meaningful relationships within the community. A nonlocal outsider will likely always be considered an outsider in a rural, close knit community.""

Added paragraph about Baines paper "Baines and Edwards (2018) shared similar findings in New Zealand’s aquaculture sector regarding the importance of relationships and communication between industry and local stakeholders. They find that social license depends on relationships and building trust. Smaller, local companies tend towards relationships that are relational as opposed to transactional, possibly due to their on-going community presences and communication abilities, which are better for fostering these relationships and trust building. This is consistent with our findings regarding the importance of long-standing relationships, as well as the need for better communication between the local industry and stakeholders cited by interviewees."

Replaced sentence with "industry in this community has experienced a long history shaped by their natural resource use and the public's opinion of it."

Added, "This gives direct benefit to local actors, who are more likely to hold these shared values and to have developed these personal relationships than an actor external to the community."

Rewrote findings to imply potential insights and future opportunities for research as opposed to strong, concrete findings.

Review by Ian Thomson ,

These assessment comments were submitted on , and refer to this previous version of the article

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to review the revised manuscript.

My comments for you and the authors are as follows.

This is a much-improved manuscript and, in my opinion, almost ready for publication.

The following need attention:

There are a few annoying typos that should be corrected based on a close, critical reading of the text;

Page 4, lines 7 and 8: Reference to very early use of the term Social License in the forest products sector should quote More, H., 1996, The Social License to Operate. PIMA Magazine, October, p22-23. A copy of the publication is attached as apparently, you have been unable to locate it yourselves. A minor rewrite here should make things usefully clear.

Page 6, lines 7 and 8: The citation, Boutilier, 2011, should read Boutilier & Thomson, 2011 – Please make this change.

Page 29, lines 11 to 19: A single sentence! Much too long with multiple interconnected themes. This requires a re-write to either break up into simple linked sentences or use bullet points to assemble the themes between concise opening and closing statements.

I attach a PDF of the short article by Henson Moore, which should be forwarded to the authors alongside my comments.

I trust this is helpful.

Best wishes

Editor's note

The attached PDF article was written by W. Henson Moore, titled "The social license to operate" and published in October 1996 in Paper Industry Manufacturing Association (PIMA) Magazine volume 78 issue 10, pp. 22-23. OhanaUnitedTalk page 16:05, 26 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Removed sentence mentioning mining industry credit, replaced with "References to the concept of social license go back to 1996, when W. Henson Moore refers to mills as needing a “social license to operate” from the public (Moore, 1996)." Added Moore citation.

Corrected a reference.

Split into 4 sentences, rephrased slightly. "The current research project suggests that local stakeholders recognize the pressures facing industry actors. It also indicates interest from both industry and local groups in managing natural resource uses for the long term. The findings suggest ways that natural resource based industries can leverage informal relationships, shared ethics commitments, and shared localized sense of responsibility to shape their organizational tendencies. This also informs the extent to which specialization, sustainability, and resource management impact operational possibilities, and relates themes in both groups that suggest more commonality than division among participant perspectives. "

Appendix B?

Hi Kaexer, the text mentions that "Interview questions for community participants can be found in Appendix B" but I'm not seeing an Appendix B in the article anywhere. Does this need to be updated? Pinging OhanaUnited as well. Thanks! —Collin (Bobamnertiopsis)t c 18:41, 6 September 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Bobamnertiopsis and User:Kaexer Good catch. It should be table 2. I've fixed it. OhanaUnitedTalk page 18:45, 6 September 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]