How We Harvest Essential Knowledge

When SEARCH came together in September 2021 with funding from the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs, we relied on our shared values to guide us into a new way of working together. We needed everyone’s observations and knowledge to be equitably included regardless of whether they were communicated in writing or orally. Mere meeting notes would not be sufficient; we needed to build progressively on many conversations involving 36 team members, nine co-leadersnine Advisory Committee members, over 80 participants across our integration and reading groups, and more. We had to get creative to adequately memorialize these exchanges on Zoom, on the phone, over text, and by email. Consistent with our shared value of open communication and collaboration, we confirmed that everyone was comfortable speaking and having their ideas, suggestions, and observations written down by a dedicated conversation harvester. A note-taker makes a brief record meant to jog memories, but a conversation harvester fully gathers what grew after being sown. Fortunately, co-PI Copenhaver is a thorough (bordering on compulsive) harvester of words and thoughts. She records, in searchable documents, what was said by whom and when in every SEARCH conversation. She includes links to additional and supporting materials, stories, and resources shared by team members, all of whom can access and edit the records. Copenhaver and others subsequently glean every in-context mention of berries or salmon or walrus or coastal erosion to feed syntheses. To date, SEARCH  has amassed over 500 pages of typed conversations (we caution against challenging Copenhaver in thumb wrestling). These typed conversations serve as the foundation of our co-production process, informing all presentations, communications, syntheses, and outreach. We first fully appreciated the power of these  harvests when 41 of us co-produced “Consequences of rapid environmental Arctic change for people,” an essay in the 2022 Arctic Report Card.

Harvesting fruit, knowledge: Co-PI Copenhaver with blueberries collected in basket handwoven by SEARCH advisor Dr. Craig E. Dorman.