Cooperative Research and Knowledge Flow in the Marine Commons: Lessons from the Northeast United States

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"The lack of communication and knowledge exchange between fishers and scientists, as well as managers, has often been at the root of fisheries management conflicts. Integration of fishers’ knowledge into scientific-based fisheries management is difficult due to distrust between fishers and scientists and institutional constraints that limit management to only the best scientific information available. A recent response to the Northeast U.S. fisheries crisis has been to include fishers in scientific research. Cooperative research, where fishers and scientists collaborate to produce knowledge for fisheries management, aims to improve the knowledge base of fisheries management and integrate fishers and their knowledge into the science policy process, which together is expected to generate broader acceptance of scientific-based management. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in the Northeast U.S., this paper discusses the value of cooperative research as a tool for managing the commons. Specifically, it focuses on the flow of knowledge and expertise between fishers and scientists. The flow of knowledge from fishers to science often involves a process of translation, where fishers’ knowledge is transformed (proven, verified, etc.) into scientific knowledge. Knowledge and expertise also flow from scientists to fishers, where fishers gain understandings of the scientific research process. With this new expertise, fishers develop a greater capacity to participate in science and management discussions. The paper suggests that two-way knowledge flow between fishers and scientists can improve commons management through increased communication, trust and capacity building, which ideally can improve mutual understanding necessary for collective action. Finally, boundary spanners are identified as being critical to successful knowledge exchange in cooperative research."



collective action, science, collaboration, cooperation--research, fisheries