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 Understanding Environmental Knowledge Controversies

Participatory Research

How does participatory research work in practice?

"Reaching beyond disciplines merges with reaching beyond academia" - Strathern

Recent years have seen a proliferation of approaches to make science more participative. In our project, we are seeking the involvement of Competency Groups to generate new framings of controversies, of research questions and of the suitable role of science in contributing to, and perhaps sometimes resolving, controversies.

There are distinctions between our Competency Group approach and other forms of participatory research. Competency Groups have a wider remit than that of a discussion forum (we are interested in material practices and technologies as well). The Competency Groups will be involved in the whole process of the project, not just in the scoping of the project or in discussing the findings. In addition, we are seeking to blur the distinction between researchers and stakeholders - our researchers are social and natural scientists, meaning that everyone will have "lay knowledge" in some respect.

We are using the issue of flooding as our "controversy", and we are looking to generate different perspectives; different framings of why flooding is a problem, different views on the role of science in addressing these problems, and different and new ways of doing science together. The methodology that we use in this project can equally be applied to other "controversies" such as diffuse pollution, sustainable development and climate change.