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Most problems related to biodiversity management have an ecological as well as a socio-economic dimension. Consequently, there has been a growing recognition that adequate management recommendations directed at such problems can only be developed if knowledge from ecology, economics and various social science disciplines is taken into account in an integrated manner. To respond to the need for integrated research, a number of approaches have been proposed over the last decade or so with the aim of integrating knowledge from the natural and social sciences. These approaches emerged in different contexts and have integrated different disciplines. As the recognition of the need for integrated research is rather recent the approaches that integrate natural and social sciences are still in a phase of development. In order to further this development, a better understanding of how to tackle specific challenges that arise when knowledge from different disciplines is integrated may be helpful. The aim of this paper is to contribute to this task by analysing and comparing how selected approaches cope with one key challenge of integration: ensuring that state-of-the-art knowledge from both disciplines is used in the integrated approach. We selected the following approaches for comparison: Ecological-economic modelling, political ecology, the resilience approach, multi criteria analysis, and methods of material and energy flow accounting (MEFA) of socio-ecological systems. We selected these approaches because there is already a significant amount of literature that can be referred to and because they represent integration of different disciplines. For our analysis we used an economic approach: we consider the incentive structure of researchers and focus on asymmetric information between researchers from different disciplines about the quality of scientific research of the involved disciplines and the worldviews behind scientific approaches. We find that in order to attract high quality researchers the integrated approaches need to be attractive to researchers from both disciplines (I) in terms of generating funding opportunities, (II) of publication opportunities in highly ranked journals accepted in each specific discipline and (III) in helping to solve problems related to conservation policies that are of interest to all involved researchers. Approaches that do not fulfil these conditions have to struggle with the problem that they attract researchers of low scientific quality which they cannot identify. They need to be aware of this trap. A possible solution may be to put particular emphasis on external reviews by independent researchers.
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