Engaging Local Knowledge in Biodiversity Research: Experiences from Large Inter- and Transdisciplinary Projects

Christoph Görg*, Joachim H. Spangenberg, Vera Tekken,Benjamin Burkhard, Dao Thanh Truong, Monina Escalada, Kong Luen Heong, Gertrudo Arida, Leonardo V. Marquez, Jesus Victor Bustamante, Ho Van Chien, Thimo Klotzbücher, Anika Marxen,Nguyen Hung Manh, Nguyen Van Sinh, Sylvia (Bong) Villareal &Josef Settele

Interdisciplinary Science Reviews,  Volume 39, Issue 4, 2014, Special Issue:   Transdisciplinary Environmental Science: Problem-oriented Projects and Strategic Research Programs


The management of biodiversity represents a research topic that needs to involve not only several (sub-) disciplines from the natural sciences but, in particular, also the social sciences and humanities. Furthermore, over the last couple of years, the need for the integration of other kinds of knowledge (experience based or indigenous knowledge) is increasingly acknowledged. For instance, the incorporation of such knowledge is indispensable for place-based approaches to sustainable land management, which require that the specific ecological and social context is addressed. However, desirable as it may be, such an engagement of the holders of tacit knowledge is not easy to achieve. It demands reconciling well-established scientific procedural standards with the implicit or explicit criteria of relevance that apply in civil society — a process that typically causes severe tensions and comes up against both habitual as well as institutional constraints. The difficulty of managing such tensions is amplified particularly in large integrated projects and represents a major challenge to project management. At the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research — UFZ, several integrated research projects have been conducted over the past years in which experience has been gained with these specific challenges. This paper presents some of the lessons learned from large integrated projects, with an emphasis on project design and management structure. At the centre of the present contribution are experiences gained in the coordination and management of LEGATO (LEGATO stands for Land-use intensity and Ecological EnGineering — Assessment Tools for risks and Opportunities in irrigated rice based production systems, see www.legato-project.net), an ongoing, large-scale, inter- and transdisciplinary research project dealing with the management of irrigated rice landscapes in Southeast Asia. In this project, local expertise on traditional production systems is absolutely crucial but needs to be integrated with natural and social science research to identify future-proof land management systems.


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