‘Changing the rules of the game’ on collaborative climate change research

‘Changing the rules of the game’ on collaborative climate change research

Posted: 17 Nov 2015 03:14 PM PST

A new framework seeks to clarify roles, responsibilities of local stakeholders on climate change research. The goal of the project is to help define how research involving collaboration and co-production on the part of local stakeholders — from farmers, fisherman and hunters to those simply living in areas especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change — is being done and where. To do effective climate change research, scientists need to collaborate with local participants. And a new U of T study argues that those participants should be rewarded for the valuable input they provide. “If we value their knowledge and want them to engage in climate change research to the extent that’s required, we need to compensate stakeholders more than we have,” says Nicole Klenk, an assistant professor in U of T Scarborough’s Department of Physical and Environmental Science. “We need to have policies in place that protect stakeholders, either in terms of intellectual property rights or in terms of how the collaboration is set up to begin with.”… In addition to creating a database of research networks, the team also listed the various functions they perform, from distributing knowledge about climate change to users, to co-producing knowledge with stakeholders themselves. The database is interactive and open to comment, while NGOs and other groups will be able to enter their data online making it a robust tool for collaborative climate change research going forward, notes Klenk. The purpose of the database is to document and compare climate change research networks across the globe, but also illustrate that many networks rely extensively on collaboration, often without there being firm policies in place to define stakeholder rights, roles and responsibilities. “It’s about changing the rules of the game,” says Klenk, who is an expert on the politics of knowledge co-production as well as climate change adaptation and environmental governance. “If academics are stepping outside the ivory tower and engaging stakeholders in doing research collaboratively, the rules that govern institutional science should be changed to reflect this role.”

…. To effectively scale up local knowledge coproduction, we need to foster a variety of knowledge-sharing and social-learning platforms, such as the interactive database of research networks to which we invite readers to contribute (rael.berkeley.edu/project/stakeholders-in-science). At the global scale, there is urgent need for the institutionalization of mechanisms of local knowledge mobilization, perhaps within the IPCC, to prevent continued fragmentation of coproduction initiatives. Whereas many networks we examine seek to do this, without a more systematic global means of knowledge integration and dialogue, their efforts will remain local or regional….Finally, transdisciplinary models of research collaboration have important policy implications, including the need for granting agencies to develop transdisciplinary research governance criteria (7) and for universities to revisit their proprietary policies and to develop rights of shared ownership of the knowledge coproduced….

Whether through financial compensation, new modes of recognition, or new governance arrangements, global change science can strengthen its social robustness and relevance when ethical and political dilemmas at the core of knowledge coproduction are openly acknowledged, honestly assessed, and meaningfully addressed. If climate change demands all hands on deck, then it’s time to raise the stakes


N. L. Klenk, K. Meehan, S. L. Pinel, F. Mendez, P. T. Lima, D. M. Kammen. Stakeholders in climate science: Beyond lip service?
Science, 2015; 350 (6262): 743 DOI: 10.1126/science.aab1495

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