Contexts, Conditions and Methods Conducive to Knowledge Co-Production: Three Case Studies Involving Scientific and Community Perspectives in Arctic Wildlife Research
McCarney, Paul C. M.
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Decision-makers require current and robust information to address the effects of social-ecological changes facing ecosystems, wildlife, and humans; however, research defined by single disciplines and knowledge systems is often challenged in fully representing the complexity of such problems. There is a recognized need to include the perspectives of academic and local knowledge holders in research as evidence argues this can produce more robust knowledge and lead to greater public acceptance of policy. Knowledge co-production has been proposed as a research approach that can include academic and non-academic actors in addressing complex problems that transcend disciplinary and epistemological boundaries and have societal and scientific significance. While knowledge co-production has gained attention in environmental research in many regions, its application has not been extensively explored in the Arctic. This research used a case study approach to examine the contexts, conditions, and methods that support knowledge co-production on wildlife issues with Canadian Arctic communities. Three cases were selected to examine knowledge co-production in the context of a past research study, an ongoing study, and to consider the pre-conditions necessary for knowledge co-production to benefit future research. Data collection included semi-structured interviews, workshops, and participant observation with scientists and Inuit community members involved in ringed seal research in Kugaaruk and Iqaluit and fisheries research in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. Results indicate that Arctic wildlife research can benefit from knowledge co-production. There are particular structural and process conditions that help facilitate successful knowledge co-production and establishing these conditions requires deliberate work on the part of researchers and community members involved. Establishing shared goals and problem definitions, creating the space to identify and share positionalities and perspectives on issues, and clarifying roles of academic and community actors all emerged as important conditions in the cases. Further, results suggest that semi-structured interviews and purposefully designed and facilitated thematic workshops provide the flexibility to create the time and space needed for participants to learn about and engage with one anothers values, perspectives, and priorities. This research shows that when effort is made to establish the necessary conditions for knowledge co-production early on in the research process, projects can produce knowledge that is perceived as more credible, salient, and legitimate by all involved.