This working group will brainstorm about the social, cultural and political implications of LTER scientific knowledge production, and the potential value of incorporating lines of inquiry that depend on the “co-production” of socio-ecological knowledge at LTER sites in which “the act of producing information [occurs] through the collaboration of scientists and non-scientists, who incorporate values and criteria from both communities” (Cash et al. 2006: 467). This framing, which draws on political ecology and science, technology and society (STS) scholarship, and its potential for improving interpretation of results of LTER research, was discussed at the 2015 LTER Science Council as worthy of further consideration because it seems that some LTER sites are already taking this approach, and many others are doing things that could fit in with this approach with minor reorientation of their research framing.
We take as a starting point the significant ways in which discussions of “co-production of knowledge” influence other realms of ecological and social science and we consider their relevance to LTER site research. Our discussion will draw on Jasanoff’s (2004: 3) view that society and what we know as “nature” are not independent, pre-existing entities, but rather are mutually constituted, or co-produced, such that social, political and cultural values influence scientific research which, in turn, affects society, politics and culture. “Scientific knowledge, in particular,” she writes, “is not a transcendent mirror of reality. It both embeds and is embedded in social practices, identities, norms, conventions, discourses, instruments and institutions.” Socio-ecological research founded on co-production attempts to make these identities and norms explicit and to include a broader array of social groups into the process of making knowledge.
Anticipated outcomes for this working group are both an outline for a cross-site collaborative research proposal as well as an outline for a cross-site research paper that brings existing ecological data and results together through a hybrid political ecology and STS theoretical framework. Through both products of this session we hope to expand the LTER Network’s trans-disciplinary toolkit and socio-ecological relevancy.