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Public Participation in River Research and Management: Scale, Levels of Participation and the Contexts of Knowledge Co-production

MAYNARD, CARLY,MARIE (2013) Public Participation in River Research and Management: Scale, Levels of Participation and the Contexts of Knowledge Co-production. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The call to utilise participation in river research and management has grown steadily over the last few decades and features in many policy guidelines (most notably the Water Framework Directive). However, with little detailed guidance on the appropriate levels of participation, and on the appropriate participants, river management organisations are left to determine these for themselves, within given temporal and financial restrictions. Consequently, participation often comes second to meeting the environmental goals of the organisation. It is argued here that participation need not necessarily be viewed as an ‘add-on’, but that when used effectively, it can be beneficial both to the environment and the communities involved. Furthermore, within any aspect of river research (academic or managerial), participation of those who live daily with the river can enhance process understandings and lead to context specific research. This study, therefore, aimed to identify and evaluate innovative approaches to river research and management which place a focus on the integration of a diverse range of knowledges, in an effort to move beyond the traditional scientific approaches, focusing on the acclaimed benefits of high-level participation and knowledge co-production, in a range of situations.
The two-step approach, involving a review of organisational practice and a local case study, was both interdisciplinary and participatory. The methodological approach allowed the Organisational Review step to provide context for the wider project, while the case study focused on the development of research objectives with the community who would be affected by their outcomes. The integration and deliberation of both scientific and experiential knowledge led to a process of knowledge co-production among the participants.
The results of the participatory investigation into the impacts of weir restoration (on the River Derwent in County Durham/Northumberland) suggested that changing the profile of the weir would cause some localised, small scale changes to hydraulic aspects such as flow level upstream of the weir, but that flow rate and sediment transport would be relatively unaffected. The Organisational Review concluded that factors such as scale, resources, motivations and attitudes strongly influenced the uptake and success of participatory processes.
Analysis of the participatory approach led to the conclusion that selection of a single participatory approach may be unsuitable in practical situations due to the changing nature of projects, and that a reflexive approach is likely to increase the success of participation. Universal application of high-level participation is recommended only with caution and the context of each individual project should be carefully considered before opting for the approach. Existing environmental controversies can be utilised to facilitate co-production of knowledge through a high-level participatory approach. While caution and contextual consideration are advised, high-level participation can offer a number of benefits, including the co-production of a context-specific knowledge, relevant research questions, and social learning for all involved. The results showed that experiential knowledge can be highly valuable in researching and managing rivers at a range of scales.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Participation; River Management; Knowledge Co-production: Hydraulic Modelling
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Nov 2013 14:23

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