Index > 2 Development of a strategy, implementation and execution program to remediate radioactively contaminated sites >

2.11.2 Knowledge forms and knowledge sharing

Successful site remediation and stewardship, especially when with a multi-stakeholder base, needs to address a variety of challenges about knowledge sharing, i.e., its exchange and ‘translation’, allowing understanding between people in different occupations with different kinds of knowledge, and in their leisure as well as professional situations. In the science/environmental policy/sustainability fields there are many barriers to effective communication and sharing of knowledge. For example, within the scientific field, ‘formal’ scientists and technical experts do not always recognise and reciprocate the informal scientific knowledge, creativity and innovation existing at the grass-roots level of society.

Members of a community living in a given area may often have a rich informal knowledge of what has taken place in the past, of the functioning of ecosystems, of sources of risk and of hazards. Sometimes this knowledge is associated with traditional communities in an area. There is also informal knowledge in industrial contexts. Just as farmers may have good insights into local hydrology, workers in factories and mines may have intimate understandings of the workings of machines and of the properties of wastes and residuals. Awareness of what has really happened to wastes, and why, can be of great value for the design of remediation programmes and for the monitoring of contaminated sites.

For a variety of reasons, including proximity, the ‘non-experts’ can sometimes ‘read’ or ‘observe’ the world in ways that are not available to formal experts coming from outside. Dialogue and stakeholder consultation can, in principle, ally formal and informal expertise. Stakeholder deliberation may then, in a variety of ways, contribute to the identification of concepts and criteria for a socially satisfying solution. However, this type of pragmatic science based on observation and confronting local and day to day problems may not always be articulated or acknowledged. Policy makers and resource managers may sometimes evolve filters and structural barriers that prevent them from recognising the potential that exists for blending formal and informal science. One reason that informal knowledge may not be used is that the systems for training experts, as well as some bureaucratic tendencies, favour standardised solutions – and so they treat as inconvenient the specificities of sites and ecological (as well as social) heterogeneity. Incentives for investing in knowledge and technologies with a strong site specificity, and hence with limited potential for generalisation, may be very low.

Mobilising knowledge for sustainable development and stewardship requires attention to the forms of knowledge sharing, including their institutional, technical, economic, linguistic and cultural pre-conditions. Social trust and partnerships are constructed through dialogue and cooperation – among scientists and technical experts with policy makers, implementers and stakeholders – including experts with site specific (local) knowledge that complements methodological and coordination expertise. Knowledge as a resource must be accessible to the actors and pertinent to the context of their action.

Following these arguments, it is important to adopt a pluralistic approach to building the knowledge base. Science (understood as the activity of technical experts) should be considered as an important part of the relevant knowledge base that needs to be developed and mobilised in order to provide evidence in a decision or policy process. However, the ideal of rigorous scientific quality assurance should be complemented by a commitment to open public dialogue. Citizens and stakeholders should have a fundamental role in a knowledge partnership process. The strength and relevance of scientific evidence is amenable to assessment by citizens, who contribute to the framing of the issues and to judgements about the acceptability of proposed solutions. In this perspective, all parties should come to the dialogue ready to learn. Through this co-production of knowledge, the extended peer community should create a (deliberative) democracy of expertise.