Dialogue with, and dissemination of results to, stakeholders is often done during the final stages of research projects. We instead believe that by having a continuous dialogue with stakeholders, that starts at the planning stage and continues after the project has ended, we can make better and more relevant research.

PlantFish was designed together with various stakeholders, ranging from researchers and management agencies to fishing right owners in the archipelago, to make sure that the questions we pose are not only scientifically interesting, but that they are relevant for society today and in the future.

Before conducting our 2014 field survey, we personally contacted all persons with fishing rights in the areas to be sampled, go get their approval for the test fishing. In many cases, this dialogue continued when we sampled in each bay and met in person with both fishing rights owners, and members of the general public.

Report to fishing rights owners

Given the great interest in the field survey, we also put together a small report to the 32 fishing rights owners. This described some of the basic results from the survey; for example, which fish and plant species were found where and in what numbers, and what that data can tell us about the environment. The report, which was spread in December as an early Christmas present, was well received and resulted in a new set of reflections, questions and proposals for new research. And so the dialogue continues…

The costs and benefits of dialogue

Engaging in stakeholder dialogue is interesting and required by many funders, but it also takes time from the actual research process. In our case, interactions with stakeholders has highlighted a few things that (even though not new to those already working with stakeholder involvement) are worth highlighting:

  1. people are really interested in research, especially when it deals with issues they value,
  2. stakeholder involvement helps the whole research process, from identifying questions to interpreting results,
  3. by interacting with and listening to stakeholders, the exchange of ideas – both from and to researchers – starts long before scientific papers are published, and
  4. even though interactions with stakeholders come at a cost (time), they bring many benefits to your research and society in general.

Over and out/The Project Leader