Community-Based Research: An Opportunity for Collaboration and Social Change
MetadataShow full item record
Natural resource managers are facing increasing challenges as environmental degradation accelerates and the need to integrate a broad spectrum of community experiences into management decisions is increasingly recognised. To help meet these novel challenges, this study explores how professional researchers and communities can combine their skills and learn to work in partnerships to achieve shared management goals. Community-based research involves people as citizen scientists, whereby citizens actively participate in research on local issues. The inclusive nature of community-based research has the ability to produce auxiliary benefits uncommon in conventional research. These include the development of social capital and social learning as the practice of citizen science empowers communities with new skills, knowledge and social networks, thus building capacity within communities to take an effective role in natural resource management. Community-based research also has the potential to enrich the range of management options available by increasing the breadth of accessible knowledge. However, despite much rhetoric about democratising science, little is known about the practice, value and problems of involving citizens as collaborators in natural resource management research projects. This thesis presents the findings from a comparative survey of the attitudes to community-based research held by 'citizen' scientists, on the one hand, and 'expert' scientists and natural resource managers, on the other. It also draws upon a multi-site case study, set in a diverse urban-rural catchment, where an integrated research program was established for different natural resource management agencies to work with each other and community groups to develop research protocols so that community groups could participate in assessing the health of catchment areas. This involved scientists, natural resource managers and community education/extension officers working with established community groups to develop and trial modified scientific methods for the environmental monitoring of catchment and estuarine areas. This inter-agency/community project was continued as a case study site into the second and third years of research and was augmented in the second and third years by focusing on two of the initial community groups as second and third case study sites in their own right. Synthesis of both survey and case study analysis reveals that, despite resource and attitudinal barriers, community-based research can ensure access to local knowledge and increased relevance of research. In addition, many participants most valued the increased feeling of connection towards their local environment and community. I argue that citizen/expert collaboration is key to successful community-based research and best achieved in an atmosphere of mutual respect where all participants are seen as co-researchers. However, participatory intentions are unlikely to be acted upon without sufficient opportunity. Thus, the process of research must be re-defined from that associated with positivist science to include a greater range of participants and activities in an adaptive manner. This more inclusive and reflective approach seems most likely to ensure the quality and utility of research data, the knowledge sharing and social learning, and the enjoyable atmosphere that underpin successful citizen/expert interactions. Certainly, the ability to draw upon and create social capital is vital. The integration of these findings enabled the development of guidelines for effective collaboration between citizens and experts when addressing catchment management issues and undertaking participatory research.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Australian School of Environmental Studies
Item Access Status
natural resource management