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Modes of Engagement in Arctic Science: Rights Holders, Stakeholders, and the Citizen Science Debate

Fri, September 1, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Sheraton Boston, Floor: 3, Beacon H


Over the past decade, there has been a significant shift in the dynamics of scientific knowledge production between visiting scientists and Indigenous Arctic residents. While previously scientists developed research agendas with little thought to community engagement, Arctic residents increasingly expect scientific knowledge to address their interests and priorities and to be part of knowledge production practices. Institutional reforms such as land claim agreements and the establishment of co-management boards, which have unsettled conventional scientific notions of expertise to make space for Indigenous knowledge as co-equal to science, are among the broader political changes facilitating these shifts.

In this paper, we consider various modes of engagement in Arctic science, reflecting on contested terminologies to describe civic engagement in knowledge production. Citizen science, for example, has been critiqued for assuming that science is inherently a public good, and that citizens can afford to volunteer their time to support a scientist-driven agenda (Johnson et al. 2015). Such approaches often view citizens as “stakeholders” in the production of knowledge. In contrast, Arctic Indigenous residents insist on engaging in knowledge production as rights holders. Alternative terms include community-based and community-led science and monitoring.

Drawing on STS approaches to studying the construction of expertise, we reflect on the evolution of community involvement in Arctic science. We draw on examples from our work with a variety of Arctic Indigenous community groups and researchers to develop infrastructures for the stewardship of Indigenous knowledge and community-based observing and monitoring.