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Arctic land and seascapes, and the indigenous peoples who depend upon their resources, are subject to growing stress from global climate change. Furthermore, expanding industrial development and large-scale shipping are generating new risks. In the face of these accelerating physical, biological and social transformations, there is a need to monitor change, assess impacts and mobilize responses so as to adequately inform adaptation policies and practice. At present, however, monitoring mechanisms are of limited scope. Scientific data focus on bio-physical factors and broad spatial scales, but lack the societal components and human dimension that Arctic communities require to guide adaptation. Individuals and communities are already responding to change, but these efforts remain poorly documented and understood.

This international experts workshop will contribute to strengthening the Sustaining Arctic Observing Network (SAON), organized under the auspices of the Arctic Council, by reinforcing community-based and social science components, as a complement to the existing bio-physical monitoring capacities. The aim is to bring together a select group of natural and social scientists, and indigenous peoples, from across the circumpolar region to enhance collaborative indigenous-scientific work on global change impacts, monitoring and adaptation, and thus advance thinking on the emerging paradigm of knowledge co-production. This new paradigm is attracting a great deal of interest in the framework of international debates not only relating to climate change, but also biodiversity conservation and sustainable use (e.g. the recently established Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES); Future Earth; and follow-up to Rio+20).


  • Explore and define the knowledge co-production paradigm, its potential and its limits, its opportunities and its risks, in the framework of Arctic Observing Systems.
  • Propose methodologies and share experiences on community-based observatories and databases
  • Develop a publication to share these reflections and trigger further debate, based on well-documented Arctic case studies that have emerged from the International Polar Year (IPY) in the context of accelerating global change, including climate change, with a focus on community-based observing systems.

Some definitions and initial questions for our discussions
As a starting point for our discussions at the meeting itself, we propose definitions of some key terms:

  • by interdisciplinarity … we refer to a process (beyond multi- or pluri-disciplinarity where two or more disciplines work side-by-side without integration) whereby two or more scientific disciplines interact together to find new methods and new answers to shared questions. It often begins with a time-consuming phase that involves the co-construction of a shared research object that comes to be meaningful for both (or more) disciplines.
  • by transdisciplinarity … we refer to a process that extends beyond collaboration amongst scientific disciplines to encompass joint work that connects science with other societal partners. This may include various collaborative arrangements such as ‘citizen science’ or State-community co-management. These joint efforts may vary considerably in the extent to which they move towards truly equitable partnerships.
  • by knowledge co-construction for the purposes of our meeting, we refer to the complementary and joint work bringing together indigenous knowledge holders and scientists. It is not simply the coming together of scientific disciplines, i.e. interdisciplinarity, nor a bridging between science and other knowledge systems i.e. transdisciplinarity. It goes a step further.

What do we each understand by the expression “knowledge co-production”? Is it just a new buzzword for old things? Or is it a new and emerging paradigm? If the latter, then how does it change methods, outputs, and power relations in your own research or in cases that you know? What kind of new results have been obtained or may be expected to emerge? What are the limits/dangers you already see emerging?

What are the methodological/epistemological/political etc. milestones that have led to the emergence of ‘knowledge co-production’ and its contemporary prominence? (historical analysis of essential building blocks or key moments/insights, which will likely be different for each participant or discipline)

Can we develop a typology for ‘knowledge co-production’ (according to domain or the nature of partnership arrangements?) Or identify different levels or stages of its achievement?

Can we identify the constitutive elements that favor the emergence of what we consider ‘true’ ‘co-production of knowledge’?

Or analyze the different roles that people may play in fostering partnerships that lay the foundation for ‘co-production’ arrangements?