Community-based research: science conducted as if people really matter
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Peter D. Wilson, 2002. "Community-based research: science conducted as if people really matter", A clash of Paradigms: Community and research-based conservation, Daniel Lunney, Chris Dickman, Shelley Burgin
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The presentations given in this symposium have sought to examine the apparent clash between two worldviews or paradigms. In this paper, I begin by defining community-based research and examine the nature of two paradigms of science that seem to lay beneath the surface of any discussion of community-based research. I then consider what roles the professional scientist and members of the wider community have in research activity under these paradigms. This is followed by an exposition of the key features of successful community-based conservation work, including community-based research activities. Some scientists argue that community-based research does not work, that it is not worthwhile and that science should be left to the scientific elite. They cite poor data quality, particularly that part due to observer bias, and a general lack of rigour in the work. I argue here that there are some counter examples that show that community-based research can work and seek to identify those key factors that appear to be necessary for success. Some of these are technical and some relate to people management. Community-based research is not a “must do” for the professional scientist and it is not a panacea for conservation ailments. It is another useful tool for gathering data and used wisely can yield scientific, social and political rewards not possible by any other means.