Towards ‘creative participatory science’: exploring future scenarios through specialist drought science and community storytelling

Liguori, Antonia; McEwen, Lindsey; Blake, James ORCID:; Wilson, Michael. 2021 Towards ‘creative participatory science’: exploring future scenarios through specialist drought science and community storytelling. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 8, 589856. 17, pp.

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There is a growing interest in different forms of participatory modeling that bring science and lay knowledge into the same space. This recognizes that, traditionally, the environmental science community has mostly seen stakeholder engagement as a ‘follow on’ activity to be undertaken once the key scientific research has been completed. By excluding communities from the scientific process, or at best approaching communities in one-way communication, scientists are missing out on the wealth of local community knowledge about the very facets of the environment which they seek to understand. The challenge, however, is in identifying, developing and adopting appropriate platforms for communication and co-creation to allow scientists and local communities to have effective dialogue, efficiently gather, interpret and evaluate lay knowledge, and develop relevant, scientifically robust, but widely comprehensible, results. DRY (Drought Risk and You) was a 4-year project, funded under the RCUK Drought and Water Scarcity Program, with the aim of developing an evidence-based resource to support better decision-making in United Kingdom drought risk management. In DRY, scientific data and multiple narrative approaches have been brought together to facilitate decision-making processes and improve community resilience. Creative experiments were designed by the DRY interdisciplinary team to engage local communities in using specialist science as a stimulus for storytelling at catchment level, but also to give scientists the insight required to develop meaningful scenarios of local change to explore potential drought impacts in a particular river catchment. One challenge of working with storytelling is that it is very often retrospective and linked to past experiences and memories. It can be seen as a backward-looking activity, learning principally from what has happened before. The participatory approaches applied in DRY demonstrated that storytelling can be also used to imagine, interrogate and plan for a future that communities might collectively wish to subscribe or adapt to. In particular, by co-designing and facilitating storyboarding workshops, the DRY team, together with local stakeholders, have been exploring the ‘scenario-ing’ of possible futures as a way of creating a story and visualizing a picture for the future of the community. By allowing the scientists, community and local stakeholders to develop model drought scenarios iteratively together using storytelling, these scenarios should not only be scientifically accurate, but should also reflect local interests and aspirations, as well as local drought mitigation practices. This process integrates valuable knowledge exchange and the building of mutual capital to support local risk decision-making - scaling up from the level of the individual to the collective.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2296-665X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: drought, hydrological modeling, storyboarding, scenarios, participation, open science, creative experiments, community
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Date made live: 23 Feb 2021 14:13 +0 (UTC)

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