How can tasks and goals among partners in a collaboration be effectively negotiated, especially when one party is dependent on the deliverables of another party? How does knowledge asymmetry affect such negotiations? What is knowledge asymmetry anyway and how can it be dealt with?
What is knowledge asymmetry?
My PhD research involves historians who are dependent on computational experts to develop an algorithm or user interface for historical research. They therefore needed to be aware of what the computational experts were doing.
How can we improve knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers to facilitate evidence informed decision-making? Of course there is no one size fits all approach, but here I outline four strategies that could be adapted and implemented across different contexts: (i) knowledge co-production, (ii) embedding, (iii) knowledge brokers, and (iv) boundary organisations. These are illustrated in the figure below.
It’s often said that knowledge to tackle big problems in the world – food, water, climate, energy, biodiversity, disease and war – has to be ‘co-produced’. Tackling these problems is not just about solving ‘grand challenges’ with big solutions, it’s also about grappling with the underlying causal social and political drivers. But what does co-production actually mean, and how can it help to create knowledge that leads to real transformation?
Here’s how we at the Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre approach this challenge of co-production.
The co-production or co-creation of research is not new – action based research traditions can lay claim to a long history, but are those of us involved in co-production doing enough to understand what it means?
In their work on public involvement, Antoine Boivin and colleagues (2014) note there is such widespread support for the rhetoric of co-production that we may dismiss (I would add not even acknowledge) the tensions that arise when professionals and lay people work together. Co-production in health research is similar. We need to work harder to say what we mean, mean what we say, and learn as we go.
One toolkit provides concepts and methods relevant to the full range of transdisciplinary research, while the others cover four key aspects: (i) collaboration, (ii) synthesis of knowledge from relevant disciplines and stakeholders, (iii) thinking systemically, and (iv) making change happen.
By Flurina Schneider, Lara M. Lundsgaard-Hansen, Thoumthone Vongvisouk, and Julie G. Zähringer
How can science truly support sustainability transformations?
In our research projects we often find that the very process of co-producing knowledge with stakeholders has transformative impacts. This requires careful design and implementation. Knowledge co-production in transdisciplinary and other research leads to social learning and can make a difference in the lives of those involved.
Should a doctoral student specialise in transdisciplinary sustainable development research? What are the opportunities and challenges associated with undertaking a program that requires research integration and implementation?
At the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna in Austria, teams of PhD-students and academic supervisors collaborated with representatives from regions, cities, public authorities, businesses or civil society to solve pressing and often wicked sustainability problems. We learnt the following ten lessons.
What are the practical implications of mobilising knowledge in complex systems? How can the rules, regulations, incentives and long-entrenched power structures of a system be changed so that knowledge mobilisation is maximized?
We propose six interdependent actions, briefly described below, undertaken at two levels, by those who: (1) are managing specific knowledge mobilization initiatives (initiative managers), and (2) are in a position to make the environment more receptive to change (key influencers). These people may not necessarily be involved in specific initiatives.
¿Cómo pueden los gobiernos, las comunidades y el sector privado efectivamente trabajar juntos para lograr un cambio social hacia el desarrollo sostenible?
En este blog describo los procesos claves que permitieron a Uruguay lograr uno de los regímenes más avanzados de protección del suelo de tierras de cultivo de secano en el mundo. Una explicación del proceso es la creación de una cultura pragmática de la complejidad, una cultura inclusiva, deliberativa que reconoce la naturaleza compleja del problema y abraza el potencial de lo posible.
When we talk about co-creation, co-production, and co-design as exciting and productive alternative ways of approaching collaboration, it often doesn’t take too long for the conversation to turn to the challenges. Barriers, roadblocks, and disincentives appear and are lamented, or perhaps we celebrate that they have been overcome in a research-practice equivalent of the triumph of good over evil.
For every project the triumph may look a bit different – from the support an innovative funding agency, to a policy-maker or practitioner who understood the value of research, to the dedication, energy and sheer persistence of people who enjoy working together – the solutions are many and multi-faceted. These achievements should indeed be celebrated, and the lessons from them should be harvested.
Relationships are the underpinnings of the co-production process. The quality of knowledge gained and the solutions produced are a function of the quality of relationships among the participants.
In a recent paper, Lorrae van Kerkhoff and Louis Lebel (2015) also made strong claims about the relevance, salience, and potential impacts of relationships in the co-production of science and governance needed for sustainable improvements responding to global environmental change.
One important clarification raised by van Kerkhoff and Lebel (2015) is that relationships exist not only among individuals, but also among institutions. These relationships among individuals and institutions exist in historical contexts that are interpreted differently by diverse members. Individual and institutional interpretations affect action and meaning-making in co-production settings.
The term ‘translational ecology’ was coined by eminent natural scientist William Schlesinger in a 2010 editorial in Science magazine. He wrote, “Just as physicians use ‘translational medicine’ to connect the patient to new basic research, ‘translational ecology’ should connect end-users of environmental science to the field research carried out by scientists who study the basis of environmental problems.”
Further, Schlesinger posited that without such communication, ecological discoveries “will remain quietly archived while the biosphere degrades.” The editorial chafed some ecologists whose work is motivated by increasing our understanding of natural systems. Others, however, were inspired by this call to action and sought ways to (re)orient their careers from inquiry toward impact.
Our group, which includes natural and social scientists, educators, and practitioners from both academic and non-academic institutions, expanded Schlesinger’s vision of “two-way communication between stakeholders and scientists.”