The Value of Indigenous and Scientific Collaboration in Climate Research
Recently, the authors merged Inuit reports from Arctic Canada with advanced statistical techniques to examine the possibility that weather may be more “unpredictable” for those living in the North. These reports had spurred prior efforts among environmental scientists with non-supportive results, in that prior efforts did not find major changes in variability, changes in timing, or severity of cold fronts, and many other traditionally scientific descriptors of weather. Working in more detail with Inuit reports, the authors were able to identify the timescales of change and the seasons in which Inuit reported the most change. Only by taking these detailed records and careful examination of Inuit reports were the authors able to identify scientific data and approaches that could reveal new insights.
More importantly, Inuit observations on how conditions have changed in the Arctic have led to further scientific research on climate change that is likely relevant to both scientific understanding of such change and to further planning of what to expect from future change. The inclusion of non-scientific observations and reports has the potential to advance environmental science in large and important ways, but only if the inclusion takes place in a careful and respectful manner. These efforts will require time and sensitivity, as well as the development of further techniques for examination and understanding of non-scientific observations. The results of cross-disciplinary work and inclusion of indigenous and local understanding and reports will likely surpass the results of scientific work without such efforts.