Building a Global Scientific Community through Meaningful Exchange and Communication

Hannah Glover1, Andrea S Ogston1, Charles Nittrouer1, Ian M Miller2 and Debra Stokes3, (1)University of Washington, School of Oceanography, Seattle, WA, United States, (2)Washington Sea Grant/Peninsula College, Port Angeles, WA, United States, (3)Southern Cross Univerisity, Lismore, NSW, Australia
Densely populated, economically and ecologically valuable coastlines are threatened by sea-level rise and human modification. Many of these coastal areas are located in remote, poor, and/or culturally fraught regions, which can limit scientific discovery and informed adaptation. Engagement in these regions is clearly beneficial from a scientific perspective, yet, arguably the greatest benefit of engagement comes from building long-term relationships with local scientists, educators, and citizens. Experiences in Myanmar, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and on tribal land in Washington State, USA, highlight the importance of focusing on relationship development when conducting field research around the globe. In all cases, taking time to participate in or develop educational short-courses, seminars and conferences led to better science through increased communication, understanding, and trust. Mutually respectful communication led to fewer logistical hurdles and better scientific results. For example, in both Myanmar and Washington, instrument deployment and maintenance were made possible by relationships with local scientists and communities. In New Zealand, discussions with Maaori scientists led to greater understanding of coastal ecological context. However, effective knowledge exchange required listening to and respecting colleagues’ needs and interests, from avoiding culturally sensitive areas and wearing appropriate clothing to enabling overseas exchange visits. Finally, engaging local students at varying educational levels (K-12, community college, graduate) in field work was an especially effective way to bridge cultural or economic barriers and to increase interest in the scientific process. Commitment to international engagement is critical for building a global, scientifically literate community that can respond to the many challenges that climate change, and other human impacts, will bring.