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Who knows best? Understanding the use of research-based knowledge in conservation conflicts

Hodgson, Isla D., Redpath, Steve M., Fischer, Anke, Young, Juliette
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.231 pp. 1065-1075
birds of prey, grouse, politics, sport hunting, stakeholders, Scotland
The way in which research-based knowledge is used, interpreted and communicated by different actors can influence the dynamics of conservation conflicts. The conflict that occurs between grouse shooting interests and the conservation of birds of prey in Scotland is notoriously complex, involving multiple actors at multiple levels, and shaped by the values and world views of these actors. This paper explores how research-based knowledge is used in the debate by six key organisations, and looks to understand the drivers that may influence knowledge use and interpretation in this, and other, cases of conservation conflict.Research was used to both legitimise and reinforce certain world views, and to support associated political actions that would cause these to become reality. Actors offered divergent interpretations of the same piece of research, emphasising different findings and outcomes. Research-based knowledge was thus employed by actors to support or counter the ‘status quo’, and challenge other claims that clashed with their own values. Although the intention of such knowledge use is unclear, the selective reconstruction of research by actors could stem from, and reiterate, divergent value systems. This may pose significant challenges to conflict mitigation efforts; whilst some may look to research-based knowledge as the bringer of truth, its interpretation by different actors may exacerbate existing rifts between stakeholders; promoting polarisation of views. Mitigation strategies should be sensitive to this, and aim to improve the inclusiveness and transparency of the knowledge transfer process.