Different Types and Sources of Knowledge

There are many different types of knowledge that can contribute to and improve data collection (e.g., local knowledge, Indigenous knowledge, western science knowledge). Different groups and people have different ways of sharing knowledge. There are common dimensions of most knowledge systems relating to organizing principles, habits of mind, skills and procedures and knowledge (see common ground, Stephens, 2000)

Local knowledge –  Formal or informal knowledge held by a group of people (e.g., fishers in bay, farmers in a watershed) about their local ecosystems

Scientific knowledge – Knowledge gained through the application of the scientific method (e.g., formal hypothesis testing)

Traditional ecological knowledge(s) – The cumulative body of knowledge, practice, and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment (Berkes, 2000)

Despite their differences, there are many common features of most knowledge systems (adopted from Stephens, 2000):

Shared principles

  • Honesty
  • Inquisitiveness
  • Perseverance
  • Open-mindedness
  • Knowledge open to modification and adjustment

Shared skills and procedures

  • Empirical observation
  • Pattern recognition
  • Verification through repetition

Shared knowledge areas

  • Plant and animal behavior, cycles, habitats, and linkages
  • Properties of objects and materials
  • Position and motion of objects
  • Ecological and physical cycles and changes



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Building Sustainable Communities: Information Gathering and Sharing Copyright © 2022 by Ryan Plummer; Amanda Smits; Samantha Witkowski; Bridget McGlynn; Derek Armitage; Ella-Kari Muhl; and Jodi Johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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