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The iAtlantic Diverse Knowledge Systems Working Group was set up as a focal point for iAtlantic to further promote the use of knowledge in the project from diverse sources beyond the classic scientific community e.g. industry, NGO, citizen science and indigenous populations and local communities. This adds value to cross-validate data, fill gaps and enhance the dialogue with wider stakeholders within, and beyond the lifetime of the project.
Throughout history, and across cultures, humans have made empirical observations to understand, interpret and predict their surrounding environment (Iaccarino, 2003). In addition, in recent history, human activities in and around the sea have expanded and diversified into a thriving blue economy, which depends on timely ocean observations for operations at sea, and also opens new opportunities for data collection beyond the sustained ocean observation programmes conducted by the public sector for marine research and legislative monitoring. These diverse knowledge systems (DKS) can provide valuable insights and understanding that are not captured by more classical approaches to environmental data collection. Indeed, as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recognises, DKS can enrich our understanding of a selected problem or issue of concern.
In iAtlantic, we consider DKS to include a wide spectrum of sectors and communities, including practitioners in ocean industries (e.g., tourism, governmental, industry and civil society) that collect, record or share knowledge in different ways. Where possible, we also include relevant local communities, indigenous peoples and local (traditional) knowledge. Ultimately, the incorporation of DKS data and information into the iAtlantic project, together with existing and new data collected by the scientific community, will enrich the available information (e.g., spatial and temporal resolution and parameters) and will complement our scientific data with a wider spectrum of information (e.g. narratives). This may allow iAtlantic to expand the information, and provide an opportunity for cross-validation, that will together increase our ability to assess the health of deep and open-ocean Atlantic ecosystems. It will also reinforce and strengthen the co-design approach to sustainable ecosystem management by engaging a wider diversity of stakeholders from the onset of the project in terms of supplying data and information.
Bridging diverse knowledge systems with more classic scientific knowledge systems is vital to achieve the objectives of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). The UN Ocean Decade embraces a participative and transformative process that relies on scientists, policymakers, managers, and users alike, to work together to ensure that ocean science delivers greater benefits both for marine ecosystems and for society. The Ocean Decade has four Scientific Objectives that interlink, and the iAtlantic DKS working group (WG) has particular synergies with Objective 2 – Expand, innovate, and integrate ocean knowledge systems globally. Similarly, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) calls on the ocean observing community to recognise diverse forms of knowledge and to establish meaningful partnerships with communities, organisations and states.
Beyond contributing to the Ocean Decade and wider policy objectives, there is significant scientific merit in diversifying our knowledge base in iAtlantic. The knowledge and practices of local communities, for example, can provide valuable insights into conservation and sustainable use best practice (Vierros et al. 2020). Moreover, tapping into lived-experience observational knowledge from people who spend much of their lives in or near the ocean can prove a cost-efficient and effective method for obtaining distribution, abundance and population trend data (Pilcher et al. 2017). Thus, while the motivation of iAtlantic is to rigorously assess the health of deep and open ocean Atlantic ecosystems in time and space, the motivation of our DKS working group is to ensure that iAtlantic positively contributes to the Ocean Decade and other global policy objectives, by ensuring that the project is a participative effort across many domains of society.
The broad aim is to pull through any aspects of the iAtlantic consortium’s work that seeks to expand, innovate, and integrate ocean knowledge systems. Although not originally designed for this purpose, the iAtlantic consortium is already undertaking large efforts to engage with different types of knowledge. For example, iAtlantic partners are already compiling information including previously privately held data and datasets from the energy, fisheries, and marine tourism sectors, as well as from local people in Bermuda and Iceland. The project also seeks knowledge to understand industry and societal needs, including knowledge held by coastal and local communities whose livelihoods may strongly rely on the marine resources that transcend from the shelf to the open ocean. iAtlantic is also gathering input and feedback for integration into conservation planning scenarios for the deep and open Atlantic Ocean.
Engaging further with diverse knowledge systems can help iAtlantic better understand the relevance of its work to other EU projects and actors, including those that are viewed as key to securing a more sustainable blue economy. For example, our sister H2020 project, AquaVitae, is looking for sustainable solutions to aquaculture and are interested in iAtlantic ocean forecasts in order to aid decision-making about expanding offshore aquaculture into deeper waters in an era of rapidly changing climate. Thus, our working group strives to highlight how the project works across such diverse knowledge systems but equally how iAtlantic can enhance its relevance to more users through a better understanding of their needs.
This iAtlantic working group adopts a wide scope of knowledge systems from across our Work Packages (WP). For example, iAtlantic partners are already using collaborations with offshore industry as vehicles to compile basin and regional scale maps of seafloor bathymetry and habitats (WP2), to understand the spatial scale of their current and future operations (WP5, WP6), to understand temporal trends and potential drivers in ocean ecosystems (WP3), and as platforms of opportunity to collect new biological samples for biodiversity and genetic analyses (WP1, WP2). The consortium already directly engages with the offshore oil and gas industry, different sectors of the fishing industry, the whale-watching sector and the deep-sea mining industry. As some of these industries also operate closer to shore, there are opportunities for iAtlantic to expand, innovate and integrate knowledge from local communities, for example, by integrating local and industry knowledge on how ocean conditions, fisheries and the occurrence of whales have changed over time and whether this corresponds to trends from classic scientific surveys (WP3).
The working group will serve as a focal point for all WPs to identify (common) opportunities, connect and enhance the iAtlantic work plan with additional datasets and information from DKS. It will serve as to facilitate the identification of cross-WP opportunities to use DKS and strengthen collaborations with wider stakeholders. It will also build on the existing and developing industry dialogue and wider stakeholder contacts and interactions already in place for iAtlantic, including the iAtlantic Advisory Board and Science Council. The working group will not cover social science issues in any great depth, as this is beyond the scope of the current iAtlantic work plan.
To meet our aims and objectives, we will work with WP leaders to track any ongoing collaborations and research that uses DKS. This will allow the WG to track progress throughout the lifetime of the project and to identify opportunities to strengthen collaborations between different domains of society. Using this information, the working group will develop case studies in which the consortium can demonstrate it has expanded, innovated, or integrated DKS into iAtlantic. For data visualisation, diverse knowledge could be represented on the iAtlantic GeoNode as point-data with attached narratives or images and could be then linked to the GEOSS portal.
If you would like more information about the iAtlantic DKS working group, please get in touch with Kate Larkin (kate.larkin[at]seascapebelgium.eu) or Lea-Anne Henry (L.Henry[at]ed.ac.uk).
Iaccarino, M., 2003. Science and culture. Western science could learn a thing or two from the way science is done in other cultures. EMBO reports, 4(3), pp.220–223. IPBES: UNEP. 2008. UNEP/IPBES/1/2. P.3.
Pilcher, Nicolas J et al., 2017. A low-cost solution for documenting distribution and abundance of endangered marine fauna and impacts from fisheries. PloS one, 12(12), p.e0190021.
Vierros, Marjo K et al., 2020. Considering Indigenous Peoples and local communities in governance of the global ocean commons. Marine policy, 119, p.104039.