Natural resource management and policy is ideally informed by the best available science. Natural resource researchers ideally participate in broader impacts activities to extend the reach of their best available research. However, there are many cultural, institutional, and practical barriers to participating in broader impact activities and to incorporating science into natural resource use decisions. Researcher-stakeholder engagement is one proposed solution to overcome such barriers and to achieve both broader impact and science-based policy goals. This research explores the research-stakeholder engagement process as a means to achieve those ends. The objective of this study was to document the perceptions of participants in a transdisciplinary researcher-stakeholder engagement process in order to identify its impacts as well as barriers and pathways to its successes. Literature has documented many researcher-stakeholder engagement process case studies where researchers offer lessons learned and speculate on their impacts, but few offer data on the engagement process structure, the stakeholder perspective of the engagement process, or the impacts of collaboration between academic research teams and scientific stakeholders. This work addresses these gaps by taking a closer look at how one team of researchers engaged with its stakeholders and voicing the perceptions of stakeholders in addition to researchers. An exploratory sequential mixed methods approach was used for an in-depth case study of the researcher-stakeholder engagement experience in Willamette Water 2100 (WW2100), a five-year transdisciplinary research project investigating the biophysical and socioeconomic drivers of future water scarcity. Attendance records characterize the individuals participating in each engagement event. Twenty-six semi-structured interviews with key participants were collected, transcribed and analyzed to identify recurring themes. An online survey of all researchers and stakeholders engaged with the project (n=137; response rate = 49%) was then conducted to document their perceptions their motivations to, expectations for, participation in, and outcomes of WW2100. The results presented here were intended to be representative of motivations, expectations, challenges, successes, and outcomes salient to all WW2100 participants. Researchers and stakeholders were motivated to participate for social, knowledge, and utility reasons and held different expectations for the roles they would play, the researcher-stakeholder engagement process itself, and the resulting research results. Four types of challenges were identified: lack of a shared vision, differing professional languages, research complexities, and project management. Participants identified successful outcomes including: overcoming challenges, facilitating learning, greater understanding, conversation among diverse perspectives, and improving and extending research results. Researcher-stakeholder engagement in natural resource research can create more relevant science and achieve scientific broader impact goals. This research offers novel evidence of researcher-stakeholder engagement impacts and proposes more specific criteria for broader impact activity evaluation.
Available at Oregon State University Scholars Archive: http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/handle/1957/57655