CRÊPE: Cooperative Research on Environmental Problems in Europe

A project coordinated by the Open University, UK

In ‘co-operative research’, researchers and non-researchers produce knowledge together. Going beyond interdisciplinary academic teams, co-operative research involves civil society in producing knowledge, thus facilitating broader forms of expertise. Also going beyond consultation, co-operative research engages with stakeholders in order to explore the diverse purposes, alternative orientations and wider implications of research. Such wider involvement has often been called ‘participatory research’.

Cooperation between academic researchers and civil society organisations (CSOs) has a long history, yet there are few practical examples or reflections on such experiences. What opportunities can be realised, in terms of better or more appropriate knowledge creation? What obstacles must be overcome? What lessons can be learned for future efforts at co-operative research?

The CRÊPE project seeks to provide answers to these questions. The project will empower and resource CSOs to participate in co-operative research on various agri-environmental issues. These studies include: research priorities, innovation narratives, agro-fuel production, participation in agbiotech issues, water scarcity and local agri-food networks.

Through the case studies, the CRÊPE project will pursue the following aims:
1. Capacities: To strengthen CSOs’ capacity to participate in research, while engaging with diverse perspectives and expertise – thus facilitating co-operation between researchers and non-researchers, as well as between academics and CSOs.

2. Co-operative research methods: To design and test the methods used for co-operative research, as a basis to inform future efforts.

3. Agri-environmental issues: To analyse diverse accounts of ‘the environment’ in relation to agricultural methods, technologies, innovations and alternatives.

4. Priority-setting: To relate research more closely to societal needs, as a means to inform policy debate and research priorities for Europe as a ‘Knowledge-Based Society’.

5. Solutions: To suggest alternative solutions related to different understandings of societal problems, agri-environmental issues and sustainable development.

As an overall strategy, the research explores policy assumptions which underlie societal conflict over agri-environmental issues. The project investigates implications of current innovation trajectories, alternatives, and links with EU research priorities. It draws many links at once: between academic and CSO partners; between relatively more and less expert CSOs; and between specific research topics and broader policy agendas. Most of the studies involve wider European networks of CSOs. For each study, the lead partner will organise research activities with other participants, hold a workshop, produce reports and arrange their distribution to wider audiences.

The project website is run by the Transnational Institute

Funder: European Commission, Framework Programme 7, Science in Society programme.
Timescale: from May 2008 for 2 years

Coordination team: Dr Les Levidow (Development Policy and Practice), Dr Sue Oreszczyn (Development Policy and Practice) and Professor Steve Hinchliffe (Univ. of Exeter)

Contact: MCT-Crepe AT open.ac.uk, tel. +44-1908- 655708/653496