There is growing recognition of the importance of involving stakeholders in solution-oriented multidisciplinary environmental research projects. Management of nutrients to address water pollution is a wicked problem requiring multidisciplinary research and participation of stakeholders. Here, we frame participatory research as shared discovery, a deliberative, focused engagement process that serves as a directional guide for how research unfolds during the entire span of a project. We explore its application within a 5-yr, multidisciplinary research project seeking innovative solutions to nutrient management challenges in four agriculturally influenced small watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay basin. This process involved deliberate development of a stakeholder engagement strategy and structure, which included a specific research team dedicated to implementing shared discovery throughout. Recognizing that stakeholders involved in nutrient and watershed management engage at multiple scales, we developed a biscalar approach to engage stakeholders at both a regional or state policy level and within the local study watersheds. Early collaboration allowed stakeholders to be participatory in developing research questions and shaping research design, which made research results more applicable to the identified problems. The biscalar framework for engagement was a novel approach that allowed researchers to incorporate both broader policy concepts into research and local concerns and concepts specific to the small study watersheds, allowing solutions to be tailored to local needs. Although infusing research with stakeholder engagement and input from the outset is a time-consuming process, it bolsters research design and products and leads to greater application of research to solve nutrient pollution—a wicked problem indeed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Water Science and Technology
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law