Co-production of knowledge in soils governance

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Katrin Prager
Annie McKee


The co-production of knowledge between different actor groups has the potential to generate ‘more socially robust knowledge’ and better decisions, therefore improving governance processes. This paper explores knowledge co-production between different types of actors involved in soils governance in Scotland: policy makers, agency staff, scientists, local authorities, land managers and other stakeholders. In a setting characterised by network governance, we investigate knowledge co-production in three arenas that aimed to implement the Scottish Soil Framework and progress several activities such as a Soil Monitoring Action Plan and the Scotland’s Soils website. Adopting an action research, case study approach, we collected data through document analysis, observation, personal communication with policy actors involved, and semi-structured interviews with soil data users (local authorities, farmers, estate managers). The findings show different levels of interaction in the different arenas, ranging from major interaction and two-way communication to no interaction. The interaction levels indicate the extent to which knowledge exchange has taken place. Analysis highlights the divergence in problem framing between the actor groups, their diverse soil data needs and, therefore, a variation in perceptions of solutions. The combination of co-production in the different arenas enhanced policy actors’ knowledge and allowed them to reconsider policy implementation efforts. However, the delineation of knowledge types remains challenging since the same actor can hold different types of knowledge. We conclude that the concept of knowledge co-production is useful as a frame for developing polycentric, interactive and multi-party processes in soils governance, as well as to identify where interaction requires facilitation and/or improvement, but the concept does not provide a consistent theory.

Article Details

Author Biographies

Katrin Prager, James Hutton Institute

Senior social scientist with the Social Economic and Geographical Group

Annie McKee, James Hutton Institute

Social scientist


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