By Joern Fischer
In a recent paper in Ecology & Society, McGowan et al. introduce the idea of a “research journey”. An academic’s research journey takes place along two axes: from expert knowledge to knowledge that is co-produced with stakeholders; and from unpacking details to getting the “big picture”. The following figures stylises this:
I wondered what my own research journey looked like, and so I tried to analyse it. I started with birds and paddock trees — a pretty specific issue, solely relying on expert knowledge (number 1 below). I then moved to reptiles in farming and forestry landscapes — still, largely drawing on expert knowledge, but trying to come up with general patterns about what drives biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes (2). From there, I moved to paddock trees in a broader sense; in a transdisciplinary project that involved stakeholders, social scientists and ecologists. The scope of this was much broader, ranging from specific to general, and the type of knowledge generation was much more diverse (3). From there, I went to a project on sustainable development in Transylvania, which went both very deep and very broad, and involved locals (but to a lesser extent than my previous work in Australia on paddock trees; 4). Finally, I’m now starting to work on the intersection of food security and biodiversity. The goal here is extremely general, and it is largely based on scientific knowledge. But still, I’m hoping we can also involve stakeholders in our case study in Ethiopia, and be of some local use (5).
Three patterns are apparent for my own journey: a trend from specific to general; a trend from expert-driven to stakeholders, but slightly back to expert-driven; and (most strikingly) an increasingly comprehensive scope (i.e. a bigger bubble, see below). I found this an interesting exercise! What does your research journey look like?