Institutional Analysis in Climate Change Adaptation Research: A Systematic Literature Review

Alexander Bisaro, Matteo Roggero, Sergio Villamayor-Tomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 Appropriate institutions are essential for climate change adaptation. Yet diverse approaches to institutional analysis are available, encompassing different ontological and epistemological assumptions, and thus yielding insights on very different aspects of institutions in adaptation. Therefore, efforts to expand knowledge in this domain can be usefully informed by an assessment of approaches to institutional analysis in the adaptation literature, which is to date lacking. We address this gap by conducting a systematic review of the adaptation literature addressing institutions. Our review characterises approaches to institutional analysis by identifying methodological choices and the philosophy of science underpinning them. We then analyze the distribution of approaches to institutional analysis across different adaptation situations, contextualizing our results within methodological debates in adaptation research regarding the appropriateness of positivist, interpretative, or post-normal approaches. We find that institutional analysis of adaptation is now engaging with ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions, beyond descriptive questions that characterise the adaptation ‘barriers’ literature, that diverse philosophies of science drive methodological choice, and that post-normal approaches, e.g. co-design approaches, hardly address institutions. We conclude that support for interpretative approaches, and for institutional analysis in post-normal approaches is needed. The latter is important for adaptation planning processes in developing countries under the UNFCCC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-43
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • Adaptation
  • Governance
  • Institutions
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Post-Normal Science


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