Joint knowledge production for improved climate services: Insights from the Swedish forestry sector

Submitted by Maria Assaf | published 18th Jun 2019 | last updated 29th Oct 2019
Swedish forest image

"Swedish forest definition" by anastosKol is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

Introduction

This paper addresses the mismatches between scientific research and stakeholder knowledge needs by examining a collaborative approach from the Swedish forestry sector. The research identifiers enablers and barriers to successful science‐stakeholder collaboration and put forward recommendations for more stakeholder‐driven, participatory coproduction processes. The analysis offers insights that could help achieve more informed decision‐making and policy development and ultimately climate action under the Paris Agreement.

This paper was published online on 25 January 2019 in the Special Issue: Environmental governance in an increasingly complex world: reflections on transdisciplinary collaborations for knowledge co‐production and learning, in Environmental Poicy and Governance.

Methods and Tools

The project applied a PAR approach (Kindon, 2009) which involved researchers from different disciplines and representatives of different stakeholders engaged in adaptation within Swedish forestry.

The climate services employed a variety of formats and science‐stakeholder interactions. They provided global and regional forecasts and projections for climate‐related variables such as precipitation and temperature.

Empirical data was collected through 22 semi-structured interviews which were undertaken by a social scientist who had not been involved in the process. Their purpose was to capture respondents' experiences of the PAR process and their views and recommendations for future participatory processes in this field.

Barriers

  • Some researchers pointed to challenges in understanding stakeholders' needs and in reaching common ground, values, and understanding between scientific disciplines.
  • A number of respondents said uneven levels of forestry knowledge among the involved scientists sometimes made communication difficult.
  • Our analysis also points to communication challenges between scientific disciplines and disparate views of the value of different types of project deliverables. 
  • There appeared to be a difference in terms of levels of commitment and time availability between researchers and stakeholders. Most scientists felt they had lacked the time to engage to a satisfactory degree, whereas most stakeholders felt they had had adequate time.
  • Most stakeholders reported a lack of support from their respective organizations for active engagement in the science‐stakeholder process, despite having been given approval to participate from the outset. They also said they had struggled to anchor their experiences within their own organization. They had shared their insights with their directors and other colleagues but felt incapable of putting their newly acquired knowledge into practice in their own work environment.

Enabling Factors

  • Most respondents spoke highly of the two forest excursions, which provided opportunities for diverse actors to interact outside of the regular work environment (in most cases). 
  • Researchers highlighted the benefits of experiencing the real forest landscape where practical adaptation measures are implemented. This real‐world setting and the nature of the informal interactions helped them to learn about the practical needs and challenges that face forest owners, which are somewhat remote from the world of the climate science community.
  • Building trust and partnerships.
  • Activities such as field trips, retreats, and social events that typically offer such spaces for informal networking, as well as knowledge exchange and coproduction, therefore appear promising for supporting participatory climate services for adaptation decision‐making and action. 

Outcomes and Impacts

  • Ensure representation from all relevant actor groups and that participants have backup from their organizations. 
  • Use a carefully designed and facilitated process that is conducive to trust building, mutual collaboration, joint problem definition, and scoping of the study. 
  • Strengthen stakeholders' sense of ownership and recognize diversity of knowledge.
  • Recognize the key role of the facilitating and/or boundary organization. 
  • Allow all participants equal say and promote openness.
  • Acknowledge and embrace intra‐academic differences and diversity between the perspectives of researchers and stakeholders, as well diversity in individual participants' perspectives.
  • Ensure the practical relevance of the process and its outcomes by encouraging coarrangement and cocreation activities to build ownership, interest, and commitment.

Lessons Learnt

  • Ensure representation from all relevant actor groups while also keeping the size manageable and that representatives have organizational backup throughout the process.
  • Prioritize highly skilled facilitation. Establish a carefully designed and facilitated process to allow time, space, and flexibility for joint problem definition and scoping of study; allow group dynamics to mature and trust to be built in a safe, collaborative environment.
  • Make sure to strengthen stakeholders' sense of ownership so that they feel valued and comfortable steering the process. Recognize the value of diversity of knowledge and perspectives.
  • Recognize the critical role of the facilitating and/or boundary organization, especially in establishing and maintaining a conducive work environment. Allow all participants equal say and promote openness.
  • The facilitator must be equally attentive to intra‐academic differences and differences between researchers and stakeholders.
  • Funders must recognize that stakeholder‐driven processes are adaptive by nature and cannot be required to deliver a report on X by time Y.
  • Arrange activities at stakeholders' “home turf” and let them coarrange to build ownership, promote active engagement, and increase the practical relevance of the process and its outcomes.

Further resources