As part of our Community Adaptation efforts, CIRC team members meet regularly with our Pacific Northwest partners, engaging and collaborating with them to craft tailor-made climate adaptation strategies that empower communities to visualize and plan for the many changes they face in the future.
We do this by combining our team’s climate and social science expertise with the local expertise, information, and concerns of our partners. We call this process coproduction.
The complexity associated with climate impacts makes it difficult for communities to make long-term decisions. At CIRC, we’ve taken on this challenge by employing a social science approach called called the coproduction of knowledge in many of our projects.
What is Coproduction?
Coproduction is a collaboration between experts and stakeholders—people and organizations with a stake in a given issue.
These teams made of stakeholders, scientists, and outreach specialists are called knowledge-to-action networks.
What Does Coproduction Involve?
Coproduction efforts typically involve multiple interactions among scientists, local experts, and stakeholders. Coproduction participants work together to define research objectives, making decisions about data and methodological design, interpreting results, and, ultimately, applying an effort’s findings to the problems and challenges initially identified at the start of each effort.
We expect that any information—be it in the form of a climate assessment, a set of best practices, or a set of tools, including online applications—that results from a coproduction effort will be more effective at addressing the needs and concerns of stakeholder participants than information produced using other scientific approaches.
We can learn from each coproduction effort. And while each effort is unique—based on the history, culture, and environment of the communities involved—every effort contributes to our understanding of the science of coproduction.
Photo: CIRC team members and Spokane community members. May 21st,2018 meeting of the Spokane Community Adaptation Project. (Photo Credit: Ann Mooney, all rights reserved.)
Coproduction At Work
Coproduction has been applied to a variety of problems and challenges. Recent examples include aiding water management projects, managing ecosystem services, reducing disaster risks, managing fisheries, conservation planning, and using climate science to inform decision-making.
Coproduction participants have included scientists, elected officials, administrators, managers, homeowners, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Photo: CIRC researcher Peter Ruggiero talks with Grays Harbor community members at the April 9th, 2018 meeting of the Grays Harbor Coastal Futures project. (Photo Credit: Ann Mooney, all rights reserved.)
CIRC Projects & Coproduction
Big Wood Basin Alternative Futures
The Big Wood River Basin comprises more than 3,000 square miles in the center of the southern half of Idaho. As
with much of the American West, the Big Wood is facing potential water scarcities as warming temperatures lead to less mountain snowpack, altering the region’s hydrology. In 2012, the CIRC NOAA RISA team started working with community members in the Big Wood to help them investigate and respond to changes that the basin is likely to experience as the climate changes. The result was the Big Wood Basin Alternative Futures project. Working together with local farmers, business owners, policy makers, and conservation groups, the CIRC team created an interactive and integrated model of the Big Wood Basin using the Envision computer-modeling platform developed by CIRC researcher John Bolte. The model ran a series of sophisticated simulations informed by local know-how and our team’s research, empowering local residents to glimpse how drivers of change—projected temperature increases, population growth, changes in the local economy and farming practices, and policy responses—could affect the Big Wood’s water resources in the future. By working closely with local stakeholders throughout this project, CIRC collaboratively produced usable information that has proven relevant for local decision-making.
Tillamook County Coastal Futures
Initially funded by NOAA’s Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) program, Tillamook County Coastal Futures joined CIRC’s portfolio in 2011. Using the Envision computer-modeling platform developed by CIRC researcher John Bolte, CIRC worked with homeowners, planners, and government officials in Tillamook County, Oregon organized under Tillamook County knowledge-to-action network. Through our knowledge-to-action network, we developed a series of high-tech thought experiments, empowering community members to visualize how climate change and local planning could affect their natural and human landscapes. During these meetings our NOAA RISA team identified key stakeholder desires, concerns, and outcomes, such as having access to the beach, creating resilient infrastructure, and protecting homes and businesses. With these end points in mind, the CIRC team then worked with community members, developing a series of probable future scenarios that mixed policy choices with future climate and sea level rise projections that extended throughout the 21st century. By combining multiple drivers of change and policy options in differing combinations, residents in Tillamook County were able to glimpse how their choices could help them adapt to their landscape’s coastal hazards now and into the future.
Grays Harbor Coastal Futures
Starting in 2015, CIRC team members began reaching out to coastal communities in Grays Harbor County, Washington, to see if we could help them become more resilient in the face of climate change and other hazards. Our CIRC team is now working with a group of community members with whom we are developing a series of alternative futures scenarios to help them visualize the coastal hazards they may face in the decades ahead. You read that right, futures plural. Climate change modeling isn’t about predicting a single monolithic future. There’s too much uncertainty and human societies are too complicated and unpredictable for that. But while the future is unwritten, climate and social science can tell us a great deal about the likely futures we face. This is why CIRC’s goal in Grays Harbor and elsewhere has been to give communities the ability to visualize the many probable paths that lie ahead of them. In Grays Harbor that means aiding local community members as they envision how drivers of change—from rising sea levels and growing seaside storms to population shifts—will affect their futures. Elements from the project have now been incorporated into a CIRC Climate Tool called Grays Harbor Coastal Futures Explorer.
The RISA coproduction model demonstrated new ways to develop usable information for complex problems, including climate change (Stevenson et al. 2016; Lach 2017).
Coproduction processes built capacities necessary for communities to continue coproducing knowledge and incorporating climate change in discussions after the end of CIRC’s participation (Lach 2017).
Developed and implemented agent-based integrated models to help communities understand the range of ecological, social, and infrastructure impacts under varied future climate scenarios and policy options (Lach 2017).
Created climate decision support tools responsive to and usable by stakeholders (Lach 2017).
- Inouye, Allison M., Denise H. Lach, John Stevenson, John P. Bolte, and Jennifer Koch. “Participatory Modeling to Assess Climate Impacts on Water Resources in the Big Wood Basin, Idaho.” In Environmental Modeling with Stakeholders, edited by Steven Gray, Michael Paolisso, Rebecca Jordan, and Stefan Gray, 289-306. AG, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2017. Print ISBN: 978-3-319-25051-9. Online ISBN: 978-3-319-25053-3. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319- 25053-3_14.
Lach, Denise. “An Experiment in Post-Normal Science: Building a Knowledge-to-Action-Network in Idaho.” In New Strategies for Wicked Problems: Science and Solutions in the 21st Century, edited by Edward P. Weber, Denise Lach, and Brent Steel, Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2017. Print ISBN: 9780870718939. http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/new-strategies-for-wicked-problems.
Stevenson, John, Michael Crimmins, Jessica Whitehead, Julie Brugger, and Clyde Fraisse. “Connecting climate information with practical uses: Extension and the NOAA RISA program.” In Climate in Context: Science and Society Partnering for Adaptation, edited by Adam S. Parris, Gregg M. Garfin, Kirstin Dow, Ryan Meyer, and Sarah L. Close, 75-98. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2016. Print ISBN: 9781118474792. E-book ISBN: 9781118474785. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118474785.
Weber, Edward P., Denise Lach, and Brent S. Steel, editors. New Strategies for Wicked Problems: Science and Solutions in the 21st Century. Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2017. ISBN: 9780870718939. http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/new-strategies-for-wicked-problems.
CIRC Researcher Peter Ruggiero Talks Coastal Hazards & the Envision Tillamook Coastal Futures project
Janan Evans-Wilent Talks about the Grays Harbor Coastal Futures project
Philosophy of Science & Coproduction
In 1991, philosophers of science Silcio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz proposed a concept called post-normal science. The normal science Funtowicz and Ravetz hoped to contrast was what we generally picture when we think of science: the scientific method and the peer-review process slowly pushing our understanding forward.
Normal science, Funtowicz and Ravetz argued, works well in most situations. For instance, normal science accounts for a large amount of what CIRC researchers do when we employ computer simulations, track climate impacts, and write peer-reviewed papers. However, Funtowicz and Ravetz argued, normal science only goes so far.
The philosophers posited that normal science’s strength—its specialization, its tendency to home in on specific problems and hone its own methods—is also its weakness. The downside to specialization is that it can become insular, making it difficult for practitioners of a given discipline to think outside their discipline’s own theoretical and philosophical boundaries, to learn what others know, and to understand that those outside the discipline don’t know what they know.
Normal science, in other words, is subject to that greatest of cognitive biases, the curse of knowledge.
The refined focus of normal science is actually a blessing in most instances, and its accomplishments speak for themselves. However, Funtowicz and Ravetz argue, when a given problem contains both high stakes and high complexities that exceed a discipline’s range of understanding, researchers need to reach out to the larger community to find their answers.
At CIRC, we believe that climate change is just such a problem.
Climate change’s stakes are high. Here in the Pacific Northwest, climate change impacts are expected to affect everyone from farmers to fishers. What’s more, finding ways to adapt to climate change is indeed a complex process. As we’ve learned time and again, adapting to climate change means much more than just understanding what the computer projections tell us. It means discovering how those projections will affect people and ecosystems, and that means going out, listening to, and working with folks with knowledge different from our own. This is what we’ve done in our Community Adaptation efforts.
CIRC's Community Adaptation teams are made up of researchers and stakeholders. This organization is based on an idea from David W. Cash. Cash was the first to propose these knowledge-to-action networks, or KTANs, as a way to lift the curse of knowledge. Working through KTANs, researchers and stakeholders produce what’s called actionable science, science that can be applied, put to work, and deliberately refined and improved toward a specific end. For us, that end, of course, is to tackle the wicked problem that is climate change.
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