Toderi, Marco and Powell, Neil and Seddaiu, Giovanna and Roggero, Pier Paolo and Gibbon, David (2007) Combining social learning with agro-ecological research practice for more effective management of nitrate pollution. Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 10 (6), p. 551-563. ISSN 1462-9011. Article.
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The path of research followed by a team of agro-ecologists who sought to address a complex environment issue by means of a social learning approach is described. Agro-ecological data from monitoring nitrates in surface and ground water and agricultural practices at micro-catchment scale provided the material for the process. The failure of scientists to deploy scientific data effectively in order to influence agro-environment policy implementation was attributed to an ineffective linear transfer of knowledge approach. Thereafter, on account of co-learning instances with new research team members with a background in participatory action research, new assumptions were made and the agro-ecologists began to view nitrates no longer as a technical problem but rather as an issue emerging from interactions between ecological and human factors. A new process was designed: ecological data were introduced as “socio-technical objects”, integrated into “dialogical tools” and used to de-construct the issue during participatory sessions and to identify strategies for concerted actions. These activities fostered stakeholder engagement and led to an array of interlinked emergent practices. The underlying model developed for placing scientific agro-ecology data into society can be effective in building relations with stakeholders for the purposes of knowledge management and for helping to elucidate competing claims around complex agro-environment issues.
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