Power, knowledge and the transformative potential of marine community science

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Community science has gained momentum as a participatory knowledge production approach that can transform governance into more transparent, socially relevant, and democratic endeavours. In the marine context, where the rationalisation of economic knowledge and the marginalisation of local communities are growing concerns, community science is advanced as a potential solution to environmental governance challenges. By increasing monitoring efforts and empowering members of the public to take political action to protect the oceans, community science has helped to transform marine management to address issues, such as, sea-level rise, overfishing, and ocean acidification. However, many community science projects do not realise their transformative potential and, instead, contribute toward reinforcing the status quo of governance, meaning that management challenges remain unsolved. To understand how the full potential of community science can be achieved, research must reframe what transformation is and assess why projects often fail to instigate change. Within community science research, there is an under-appreciation of how transformational change must involve actions that challenge prevailing power relations. We seek to address this gap by initiating a discussion on the political and power dimensions of community science. Drawing on the broader field of co-production, we argue that community science has been depoliticised to reinforce, as opposed to alleviate, unequal arrangements of power that inhibit societal transformation. To combat this, we suggest that community science must develop a more explicit comprehension of power and how it relates to the use and production of knowledge. Informed by the Foucauldian concept of power/knowledge, we argue for a politicised paradigm of community science that recognises how transformation requires pluralism, the contestation of knowledge, and learning amongst all community science actors. This review concludes by considering how transformative community science could introduce new ways of knowing to marine governance and facilitate more active community participation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106036
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Early online date11 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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