Engaging Stakeholders & Publics in Safeguarding Tree Health: Co-produced Knowledge Alongside Conflicting Policy Agendas?

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Confirmation that Chalara fraxinea (ash dieback) had been introduced into the UK in 2012 triggered an unprecedented level of media coverage and public debate about the threat to trees, woodland and rural landscapes from a new generation of invasive tree pests and pathogens. The government response has been an object lesson in stakeholder and public engagement, with extensive consultation on the best way to manage the risks from this and other likely disease threats and a determined effort to involve publics in disease monitoring and surveillance through ‘citizen science’ initiatives of various sorts. This apparent commitment to bringing stakeholders and publics into a more co-produced and participatory policy response, however, sits uneasily alongside what some critics see as a reluctance to challenge some of the underlying drivers of tree disease risk, notably the global live plant trade that is a major vector for disease transmission.

This session aims to look critically at these defining (and possibly contradictory) features of the recent tree health debate, both in the UK and more widely throughout the EU and internationally. We seek a range of conceptual, methodological and empirical papers that offer critical insights into tree health stakeholdership, including studies and reflections on co-produced and participatory modes of tree health governance. Papers might, for example, case study the policy response to recent plant and tree disease outbreaks, assess the emerging stakeholder landscape for tree health in the UK and elsewhere, and explore the extent of stakeholder engagement and the use of citizen science as surveillance and monitoring tools. We also invite papers, however, which address some of the broader issues of biosecurity governance and risk management that are raised by this issue, for instance the conflict between free movement of plants and plant products under the terms of the EU’s Single Market and the ability of member states to restrict this trade in order to maintain effective biosecurity.

Papers might address, but are not limited to, issues such as:

  • How should we conceptualise ‘stakeholdership’ when it comes to tree health and what sort of conflicts between commercial and public interests are being mobilised here?
  • What do we mean by co-produced knowledge, publics and participatory / citizen science in relation to monitoring and surveillance around tree pest and disease outbreaks? How is this working in practice?
  • What is the potential of transdisciplinarity as a mode of knowledge production for tree health work?
  • Discourses and local practices of plant biosecurity and tree health
  • What does the Chalara outbreak in the UK tell us about how (in)effectively risks are anticipated and managed at different levels of government?
  • Equally, what do recent tree health threats tell us about how trees and woodland are valued by publics?

Deadline for submitting abstracts is 7th February 2014

Please send abstracts up to a maximum of 250 words and proposed titles (clearly stating name, institution, and contact details) to Clive Potter c.potter@imperial.ac.uk