Science Commons

Science Commons

Introduction

The ARC Science Commons is grounded in commitment to democratize and decolonize knowledge production – and access to it. We envision an infrastructure that will allow social movement groups to connect with ARC, make requests for research, and match specific requests with ARC members with relevant expertise, resources, and capacity to commit. The Science Commons will be guided by the principles of collaborative research, accountability, ethical conduct, and reciprocity in data collection/sharing outlined in our Principles & Protocols.

We are currently seeking feedback from farm justice, food justice/sovereignty, and agroecology organizations to help us co-design the Science Commons and how it will work.

Background

The “Science Shop” concept was first developed at universities in Europe in the 1980s. As researcher Karen Andrade describes it: “Science shops are organizations that coordinate and execute community-engaged research by bringing together university-based scientists, students, and community-based organizations to facilitate research that responds to the needs and interests of diverse stakeholders.”

Adapting the Science Shop idea to the less commercial Science Commons, ARC members are seeking to model what commoning means: sharing resources in a non-proprietary fashion, guided by principles of self-organization and mutual sharing in spite of dominant economic pressures to free-ride, shirk, or otherwise act opportunistically (Ostrom 1990). The Science Commons will treat our knowledge production as resources which are shared, and over which no one has private property rights. It will also underline the active process of making knowledge together. In contrast to a static resource, we consider our science as an active site of commoning in partnership with movements.

Why is such a commons needed? Frequently, frontline organizations are excluded from ready access to technical expertise, research databases, and scholarly analysis germane to their needs. Industry actors, by contrast, can often summon scientists’ support at their beck and call. Similarly, while policymakers can and do convene scientific review boards, grassroots and frontline communities often face much steeper obstacles to accessing expert advice, technical support, analysis, and data that suits their needs. Hence, the Science Commons would serve such groups as a resource, while affirming those communities as makers of knowledge in their own right.

How it Could Work 

Frontline and community organizations may make a “project request” with the Science Commons. This could happen in several ways, online or in person, and we are currently getting movement input on different pathways and processes. Request-makers will work with Science Commons members to carefully define the research goals, agree on the methods and report-back models, discuss fundraising/resourcing needs, and provide interim feedback, among other goals. These agreements will be highly case-dependent and will also depend on the scale of a given project, the time period involved, and the resource needs and capacities of ARC and our movement partners.

If you are encountering this page and you have suggestions for us, we welcome your feedback! Please contact us at: agroecologyresearchaction [at] gmail.com.