Toward Actionable, Coproduced Research on Boreal Birds Focused on Building Respectful Partnerships

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Alana Westwood
Nicole Barker
Sam Grant
Amy Amos
Alaine Camfield
Kaytlin Cooper
Francisco Dénes
Frankie Jean-Gagnon
Lindsay McBlane
Fiona Schmiegelow
Jamie Simpson
Stuart Slattery
Darroch Whitaker
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Recent research on boreal birds has focused on understanding effects of human activity on populations and their habitats. As bird populations continue to decline, research is often intended to inform conservation and management policies and practices. Research produced under the typical “loading dock” model by Western-trained researchers often fails to achieve desired conservation outcomes. There is growing global consensus that science is most actionable when produced in collaboration between scientists, potential end-users of the science, and communities implicated in or affected by the research and its outcomes. A fully collaborative research process, which we call “coproduced research,” involves partners in the design, execution, and communication of research. To coproduce research, it is first important to understand the sociocultural context of a research project. For boreal bird conservation in Canada, this context includes complex linkages between Indigenous communities, governments, and rights-holders, multiple levels of government, nonprofit organizations, companies, and industry consortiums, civic communities, and others. We explain this context, and give particular attention to best practices for coproduction of research between non-Indigenous researchers and Indigenous partners. We also introduce a self-assessment tool for researchers to gauge the strength of their relationships with potential partners.

We highlight the challenges of doing coproduced research, including cross-cultural communication and lengthy timelines to build relationships. We propose a guide for coproduced research in four stages: (1) identify potential partners; (2) build relationships; (3) identify mechanisms to inform policy and management; and (4) execute research and communications plans. We illustrate the stages with examples of “bright spots” to demonstrate successful coproduction partnerships. Although we focus on research to improve knowledge for boreal bird conservation and management, many of the lessons we share for adopting a coproduced research model would apply to terrestrial or marine wildlife, or any natural resource.