Shared Language

The words we choose to use—and how we choose to use them—matter. Below is a list of shared terms, words, concepts, and definitions that we reference often. This list is updated regularly by SEARCH team members as our understandings grow and deepen.

Co-production of knowledge

“A process that brings together diverse groups to iteratively create new knowledge and practices.”

Jagannathan et al. 2020
Conceptual frameworks

A “system of concepts, assumptions, expectations, beliefs, and theories that supports and informs…research” — and provides a qualitative description of the way knowledge is related and organized across disciplines.

Maxwell 2005, p. 39; Jabareen 2009

“Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.” We follow a common Indigenous perspective that humans are part of ecological systems and that social and natural systems cannot be logically separated; hence, it is useful to consider socio-ecological systems.

Oxford English Dictionary; Winter et al. 2018
Indigenous Knowledge

“A systematic way of thinking applied to phenomena across biological, physical, cultural and spiritual systems. It includes insights based on evidence acquired through direct and long-term experiences and extensive and multigenerational observations, lessons and skills. It has developed over millennia and is still developing in a living process, including knowledge acquired today and in the future, and it is passed on from generation to generation.” (See Inuit Circumpolar Council – “Indigenous Knowledge“)

Inuit Circumpolar Council

Because this project comprises experts from diverse backgrounds, we use “prediction” in its common sense: “say or estimate that (a specified thing) will happen in the future or will be the consequence of something.” We specify when using the term in the narrower sense of model predictions.

Oxford English Dictionary

Capacity of ecological or social systems to reorganize while undergoing change and still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks.

Berkes and Jolly 2002, Walker et al. 2004

“The pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.” (See: Science Council – Our definition of science.)

Science Council

“A highly complex notion that includes vital economic, social, cultural and spiritual dimensions. The harvesting of renewable resources provides Inuit with food, nutrition, clothing, fuel, harvesting equipment and income. Subsistence means much more than mere survival or minimum living standards…It enriches and sustains Inuit communities in a manner that promotes cohesiveness, pride and sharing. It also provides an essential link to, and communication with, the natural world of which Inuit are an integral part.”

ICC 1992
Subsistence economy

An economy that relies on natural resources that is not based on money, in which buying and selling are absent or rudimentary though barter may occur; it is directed at maintaining existence rather than creating a surplus for investment and growth. Wealth in a subsistence economy is determined by an individual or family’s ability to provide for themselves.


Development or other activities which meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Basiago 1995

“The combining of often diverse conceptions into a coherent whole.” Combining observations and concepts from the diverse disciplines of science and the diverse knowledge traditions among Arctic Indigenous Peoples is necessary for informing policy based on a coherent understanding of the Arctic as a whole.