Co-Produced Research

The research community and the political system in Greenland are particularly concerned with the involvement of Indigenous and local knowledge in research and the development of communities in Greenland. There is a large push for research that directly benefits and involves society, and it is important for researchers to engage in issues that are of importance to Greenland society. U.S. researchers, particularly natural and physical scientists, often arrive in Greenland with project ideas that were developed without direct engagement with communities or potential colleagues in Greenland.

True co-production of knowledge means working together from the very beginning, formulating research questions together and collaboratively determining how to proceed to answer them. A priority is identifying overlapping interests and concerns, and strengthening the involvement of fishers, hunters, and other stakeholders interested in the documentation and management of natural resources (e.g., see PISUNA in Examples of Co-Produced Research).

The preliminary work for co-production requires creating opportunities for people to develop relationships that will lead to collaboration. Researchers must build formal and informal networks and connect with local researchers and community members. The most important element of this is time. Participants suggested that it takes at least a year to year-and-a-half to build capacity, find research contacts, and develop trust and relationships that are essential for collaborations. Ideally this happens during proposal development. Participants also suggested that time and funding for developing collaborations should be built into proposals, despite the short funding cycles (3-5 years) of U.S. research projects.

Photo: Lars Demant-Poort
Photo: Erica Wallstrom
Photo: Denis Defibaugh

Multiple groups have a role in building capacity for co-production of research:

  1. The research community in Greenland is relatively small and could be nurtured by developing a research pipeline to inspire and train young people from Greenland to become independent researchers in Greenland. This is one goal of the Joint Science Education Project. Growing this community is important because Greenland researchers have huge demands on their time for international collaborations and community outreach.
  2. Educators (teachers, professors) in Greenland and the U.S. must be trained to teach and embrace models of co-production of knowledge and to provide opportunities for students to meet and listen to Greenland communities before they begin their work. An open question is if and how to involve Greenland and U.S. teachers in the co-production of knowledge beyond training students. U.S. researchers, who are often professors who mentor students, should embrace co-production and emphasize its importance to research in Greenland.
  3. The general public in Greenland may lack an understanding of what research is and what benefits it can bring them. Thus, they may not be in a good position to formulate questions in collaboration with researchers. This is an important area where Greenland researchers can build public understanding and support for long-term collaborations with U.S. and international scientists. There is also no obvious mechanism for gathering information from the public, especially given the presence of language barriers. One proposed solution is inviting people from Greenland to attend scientific meetings, where they can learn about research and give input about community interests and needs. One example is the Ilulissat Climate Days meeting that took place 2-5 June 2015 and involved both scientists and stakeholders in discussions on cryosphere changes and their effects on the Greenland environment and society. For these events to be successful, funding must be available to support the participation of Greenland community members. Even if the meeting takes place in Greenland, travel costs can be prohibitive.