Transformative
Science with
Society

Transformative Science in Action in Alaska: Sustainable Harvest Practices

In Alaska, we are working with Alaskan scientists as they work with local Inuit and Athabaskan communities to do truly community-driven science blended with Alaska Native knowledge on moose, salmon and berry harvesting. The team started the work by asking communities what they wanted to learn and who wanted to do research together on their chosen research topics.  Communities chose to work on wild berry and moose harvesting, creating indigenous place names and stories maps, more sustainable energy production systems and local food systems.  The research is led by a community coordinator working closely with a undergraduate or graduate student from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

This type of work has many challenges. University professors rarely get credit for working with local communities and thus have a hard time taking this research approach. Communities often do not know what research really is, and they find it relatively low on their priority lists.  However, this project shows that research can empower communities to have more of a say in how state and federal programs create regulations that affect their lives.  For example, research by the team showed that the timing of moose hunting season needs to be shifted forward by 2-3 weeks.  Representatives of the Alaska Dept of Game and Fish may now change the regulation on hunting seasons in response to this finding.

Many of these approaches are so new that we are only just starting to evaluate and improve them.    The Alaskan team asked the CCC’s Director to evaluate their research approach because of our long-term work in this area in Colorado, Mongolia and Kenya.  We will finish the evaluation in early 2020.

The Long View: Science, Society, and Action

ABSTRACT

Transdisciplinary approaches are an increasingly popular response to wicked problems (ex. biodiversity loss, climate change, and eutrophication) and provide knowledge and tools that can lead to action, from local on-the-ground action to national policy. This is reflected in global research platforms, such as Future Earth, as well as funding entities, such as the International Social Science Council, where transdisciplinary engagement is imperative.  While transdisciplinary approaches are new to many researchers and stakeholders, prior efforts have long worked to connect knowledge to action though collaborative research, participatory action research, and traditional/indigenous knowledge. Other contemporary and parallel approaches include citizen science, co-production, and knowledge for action. There is an apparent disconnect among these many parallel but distinct approaches, and the researchers who practice them, due in part to different disciplinary roots, and different problem arenas, places and time periods in which these approaches emerged. In this paper, we consider the connections, complementarities and contradictions among these distinct but related approaches to developing knowledge for action through researcher-stakeholder partnerships. We ask several core questions of these literatures, including: 1) what are their expressed goals and demonstrated outcomes?, 2) how do they engage with and integrate power dynamics? , 3) how does scale of application influence the preceding questions 4) how might different efforts inform one another? and 5) how might synergies emerge among them? This review will allow researchers pursuing a transdisciplinary approach to better understand historic antecedents and parallel contemporary approaches to achieve more informed, integrative and effective approaches to connect knowledge with action.

  1. Corrine Noel Knapp, Robin S. Reid, Maria Fernandez-Gimenez, Julia Klein & Kathleen Galvin. The Long View: Science, Society, and Action. Presented at the Communities, Conservation and Livelihoods Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 28-30 May 2018.