The politics of “usable” knowledge: examining the development of climate services in Tanzania
The field of climate services has arisen rapidly out of a desire to enable climate science to meet the information needs of society to respond to climate variability and change. In order for knowledge to be “usable” for decision-making, in the field of climate adaptation and beyond, it must meet the criteria of credibility, salience, and legitimacy (Cash et al., PNAS 100:8086–8091, 2003). Deliberate “co-production” of knowledge between “producers” and “users” has the potential to increase usability for decision-making and policy in some contexts. While co-production is increasingly advanced as an instrumental approach to facilitate the production of usable climate services, such efforts have paid scant attention to the role of power relations. In this article, we bring together literature on normative approaches to co-production—which treats co-production as an instrumental means to an end—with analytical interpretations of co-production within the field of Science and Technology Studies to examine efforts to develop usable climate services in Tanzania. We show that without reflexive processes that are explicitly attentive to power dynamics, normative co-production within climate services development can serve to reinforce, rather than overcome, power imbalances among actors.
KeywordsUsable knowledge Climate services Co-production Boundary work Tanzania
The authors thank three anonymous reviewers and the guest editor, Sophie Webber, for their insightful comments, which greatly improved the article. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation SES—Division of Science, Technology, and Society (Grant No. 1354542), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Climate Change Resilient Development Small Grants Program (Grant No. CCRDACD0001), and the University of Colorado Boulder Innovative Seed Grant Program. The authors thank Dr. Mara Goldman, Dr. Eric Lovell, Dr. Elifuraha Laltaika, Mr. Alais Morindat, and Mr. Shayo Alakara for their support of the project. The authors are also grateful to residents in the villages of Arkaria and Kiserian, the Tanzanian Meteorological Agency, and the many other individuals and organizations in Tanzania who participated in this research.
Compliance with ethical standards
Data collection undertaken with human subjects was reviewed and approved the University of Colorado Boulder Internal Review Board (IRB) under Protocol No. 14-0017 and the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology under research permits No. 2013-105-NA-2013-7, No. 2014-63-ER-2013-17, and No. 2015-94-ER-2013-17.
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