BLC recently participated in an experience that was so much more than a workshop.

FoAM is a network of transdisciplinary labs at the intersection of art, science, nature and everyday life. Their most recent UK AccessLab paired policy sector participants (BLC was one of five) with academic researchers. The aim of the Labs is to reduce knowledge inequity.

We shared our ‘trustworthy’ sources, looked at examples of exaggerated information (and its close friend, misinformation) and woke up to the fact that we, as citizens, only have a access to a tiny percentage of the thousands of academic papers published every year due to paywalls and protocols.

We paired up to focus jointly on topics that we had brought to the table. BLC’s topics were: 1) pollutants in the River Dart, and 2) creating a baseline for bioregional resilience. In two hours we began to chip away at these topics from different angles. It was a thrill to see the researchers in action with their professional ‘nose’ for sweeping aside the glorious hoaxes, digging through articles and reports to unearth the empirical, authored research studies.

We left with the reassurance that the ‘soft’ information that we are gathering in our work simply needs preparation and disciplined bookends to make it robust. We also left with some homework… getting to the bottom of questions like these:

  • How are pollutants like neonicotinoides, diclofenac and endocrine disruptors detected? Is there any possibility to measure these using low cost sensors (e.g. open hardware suitable for citizen science)?
  • Are there any successful examples of citizen science technology for monitoring water quality?
  • What human behaviours are most problematic for water quality and are there any low hanging solutions?
  • How much do fish stocks (or catches) fluctuate naturally year-to-year in any given location, and why?
  • What impacts on the environment does upland grazing have?
  • How accurately can we predict the very localised impacts of climate change (e.g. at the scale of a UK county or town even)
  • What evidence is there for the best ways to encourage behavioural change with respect to climate change?

Then, for those cold, dark winter nights, there’s thematic analysis as a method for identifying, analysing, and reporting patterns (themes) within data.

BLC is now looking to build on our introduction to FoAM and particularly FoAM/Kernow’s AccessLab experience (on 9th November 2018) at Ocean Studios in Plymouth to collaborate in some way that will reveal itself… and to get to know the researchers we are fortunate to have right on our doorstep. Could that be you…?




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