Ethics and Research Methodologies for the Study of Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge

  • Christian Gamborg
  • Reg Parsons
  • Rajindra K. Puri
  • Peter Sandøe
Part of the World Forests book series (WFSE, volume 12)


This chapter examines some of the main research methodologies for studying traditional forest-related knowledge (TFRK). Initially, we address ethical issues, asking, for example, what constitutes proper handling of research results. The relationship between TFRK and modern science is then discussed from a methodological perspective, after which an account of some of the main methods used for studying such knowledge—including participant observation, interviews, cultural domain analysis, questionnaires, and workshops—is provided. Ethnographic approaches are recommended for documenting both verbal and tacit knowledge embedded in skills and practices, while the tools of cultural domain analysis allow for both quantitative and qualitative analysis of individual variation in knowledge. Finally, recurring elements of best practice are presented. If ethical and methodological questions are not addressed in a consistent and systematic manner from the outset of the research, the rights of TFRK owners may well be infringed, meaning that benefits will not accrue to the owners and that access to resources (such as genetic resources) may be suddenly curtailed. Thus, all parties must address the challenges raised by the maintenance, use, and protection of traditional forest-related knowledge when there is interaction between the holders and users of such knowledge.


Access and benefit-sharing Best practices Intellectual property rights Participatory research Research methods Science ethics Traditional knowledge 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Gamborg
    • 1
  • Reg Parsons
    • 2
  • Rajindra K. Puri
    • 3
  • Peter Sandøe
    • 4
  1. 1.Danish Centre for Forest, Landscape and PlanningUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Canadian Forest Service, Atlantic Forestry CentreNatural Resources CanadaFrederictonCanada
  3. 3.School of Anthropology and ConservationUniversity of Kent at CanterburyCanterburyUK
  4. 4.Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk AssessmentUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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