The One Ocean Hub Published “How to enable transformative science during the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development” Policy Brief

By Senia Febrica

The One Ocean Hub published the first policy brief of a series intended to contribute to the UN Decade of ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The first brief is titled “How to enable transformative science during the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development – Transforming ourselves before we transform how we make decisions on the ocean.” It was published on Earth Day, 22nd April 2021.

The aim of the policy brief is to share our early experience in, and learning from, co-design and testing of the potential of a model for transformative change and the directions we are heading towards. This brief highlights three specific lessons learned from the Hub’s experience: mutual understanding of benefits for different partners; the creation of knowledge ecosystems; and the need to design research to address the science-policy interface at multiple scales.

Co-developing Fair Partnerships through mutual understanding of benefits and ongoing learning

The Hub’ co-development of fair partnerships is rooted in the funder requirements and our own practices. The GCRF specifically required a process for how the Hub is ensuring equitable partnerships among researchers and research partners. According to UKRI, partnerships with researchers or others in resource-poor settings should be transparent, based on mutual respect and deliver mutual benefits. Further, the Overseas Development Assistance mandate of our work requires that our research objectives and design need to respond to specific sustainable development challenges that have been identified in country.

As part of the Hub’s own practices, we co-developed with co-researchers and project partners a Code of Practice to set out specific approaches to fair partnerships. The Code of Practice, took inspiration and foundational principles from the San Code of Ethics and Global Code of Conduct. All researchers learnt from one another about what went wrong in previous international research collaborations through open discussions and anonymous submissions of inputs as part of inception workshops and online/in-person social learning processes entitled: “Living Aulas”. They all then distilled lessons learnt and preferred approaches into a Code of Practice that was co-developed and revised over 5 months.

Creation of Knowledge Ecosystems

We were able to set up the Hub as a transformative inter- and trans-disciplinary research prototype by focusing on complexity and the inter-connections that support ocean health. The creation of knowledge ecosystems is also enabled by both our funder and the Hub’s own approaches. The GCRF is unique in funding challenge-led interdisciplinary research that strengthens research capacity and fosters innovation and knowledge exchange. The GCRF guidelines, guided researchers in tackling barriers to inter-disciplinarity at the grant-design stage, notably requiring “more-than-sum-of-the-parts” approaches and outcomes.

Moving beyond the GCRF requirements the Hub has taken a transdisciplinary approach. This has focused on developing human-centred solutions and bringing together ocean experts from law, arts, social and marine natural sciences, and non-academic experts and stakeholders in the co-production of knowledge (Wahome, Hills, and Morgera, 2020). The Hub’s novelty lies in using the law and arts-based ethnographic approaches to drive, focus and iteratively develop custom trans-disciplinary research with research partners.

Working at multiple scales of the Ocean Science-Policy Interface

The connection between ocean science and policy has received particular attention by both our funder and our own practice. GCRF has placed requirements for the Hub to conduct monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL), which, enable us to capture not only the intended outcomes of the research programme, but also the emergent opportunities and unexpected learning that is taking place at research and policy domains.

Our collective understanding of the current ocean science-policy disconnects at different scales has informed the creation of the Hub’s network of 39 diverse project partners from international to local levels, that have co-defined the policy challenges to which the Hub research will respond. Among these, the Hub and its international partners have identified opportunities for the research to be shared or have policy influence across scales. For instance, the Hub has co-organised with the Food and Agricultural Organization a workshop on sustainable fisheries in South Africa, Ghana, and Namibia from the 12th-15th April 2021. This workshop contributed to improve the understanding among government officials, small-scale fisheries actors, and researchers of the relevance of having appropriate SSF legislation to protect human rights of small-scale fishers at local and national levels. This workshops also enabled different stakeholders to influence the development of the FAO’s Policy and Legal Diagnostic Tool for Small-Scale Fisheries.

The contributors

We would like to express our most profound gratitude to the following Hub members that have contributed their time and knowledge in the production of the policy brief, bringing together insights from different countries and regions, and from different academic disciplines and approaches (in alphabetical order):

Dr Bernadette Snow, the University of Strathclyde

Dr Bolanle Erinosho, the University of Cape Coast

Dr Claire Lajaunie, INSERM

Dr Dylan McGarry, Rhodes University

Professor Elisa Morgera, the University of Strathclyde

Dr Holly Niner, the University of Plymouth

Professor Jeremy Hills, the University of the South Pacific

Professor Kerry Howell, the University of Plymouth

Dr Kerry Sink, the South African National Biodiversity Institute

Ms Laura Merilainen, the University of Strathclyde

Professor Mandy Lombard, Nelson Mandela University

Dr Michel Wahome, the University of Strathclyde

Dr Pierre Mazzega, CNRS

Professor Rachel Wynberg, the University of Cape Town

Dr Senia Febrica, the University of Strathclyde

Dr Sian Rees, the University of Plymouth

Dr Stuart Jeffrey, Glasgow School of Art

Ms Taryn Pereira, Rhodes University

Professor Warwick Sauer, Rhodes University