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Learning from collaborative research on sustainably managing fresh water: implications for ethical research–practice engagement

Margaret L Ayre, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne
Philip J Wallis, Victorian Catchment Management Council, Victoria, Australia
Katherine A Daniell, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09822-230106

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Abstract

Since the mid-2000s, there has been increasing recognition of the promise of collaborative research and management for addressing complex issues in sustainably managing fresh water. A large variety of collaborative freshwater research and management processes is now evident around the world. However, how collective knowledge development, coproduction, or cocreation is carried out in an ethical manner is less well known. From the literature and our experiences as applied, transdisciplinary researchers and natural resource management practitioners, we seek to describe and explore these aspects of empirical cases of collaborative freshwater research and management. Drawing on cases from Indigenous community-based natural resource management in northern Australia, flood and drought risk management in Bulgaria, water management and climate change adaptation in the Pacific, and regional catchment and estuary management in Victoria and New South Wales in Australia, we identify lessons to support improved collaborative sustainable freshwater management research and practice. Cocreation represents an emerging approach to participation and collaboration in freshwater management research–practice and can be seen to constitute four interlinked and iterative phases: coinitiation, codesign, coimplementation, and coevaluation. For freshwater researchers and managers and their collaborators, paying attention to these phases and the ethical dilemmas that arise within each phase will support the cocreation of more effective and ethical research–practice through: sensitizing collaborators to the need for reflexivity in research–practice, proposing action research codesign as a method for managing emergent questions and outcomes, and supporting more equitable outcomes for collaborators through an emphasis on coevaluation and collaborative articulation of the links between research outputs and practice outcomes.

Key words

cocreation; collaboration; ethical research practice; freshwater management

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087