To conduct high quality interdisciplinary research on the relationships between human societies and the environment that helps improve ecological sustainability and human well-being.

Photo: USER


Field survey with tablets

We carry out field research on the interactions between livelihoods, lifestyles and social institutions with the environment. This body of research tries to be critical and reflective while striving to listen to the needs and claims articulated by socially vulnerable groups.

We do desk research on the content of political discourse and public policies to better understand the formation of preferences and decisions.  This research includes analysis of narratives and studies of communication tactics.

We also compare our findings ‘on-the-ground’ with the analyses of the content of public policies and political debates to reveal shortcomings in the formulation, design and implementation of public policy.

We undertake comparative studies of governance in different sectors or locations building on collaboration with other organizations.  These efforts often contribute to theory development through critical synthesis and re-conceptualization of relationships.


We selected the acronym USER because it reflects our philosophy of trying to do the highest quality research we can while keeping the needs of users, whether decision-makers or action-takers, in focus. The Unit for Social and Environmental Research (USER) is formally hosted by the Chiang Mai University School of Public Policy, Chiang Mai, Thailand.


The Unit for Social and Environmental Research (USER) was created in 2002 by Dr. Louis Lebel and Dr. Phimphakan Lebel. It was originally hosted by the Faculty of Social Sciences at Chiang Mai University. USER formally moved to the Chiang Mai University School of Public Policy in October 2017.