Innovative Knowledge Translation in Urban Water Management: An Attempt at Democratizing Science

By Benjamin Kelly and Khosrow Farahbakhsh.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Some engineers are beginning to recognize that local end-user’s knowledge and experience are vital for long-term sustainability and development of technologies. As a result of such insights, they are looking for ways to involve these end-users in all phases, from project development to implementation and upkeep. Within the water and sanitation sector, environmental engineers are constructing a series of “connected multi-stakeholder platforms” known as “learning alliances”. These flexible networks involve relevant institutional and individual levels in the process of innovation. Rather than view end-users as passive receptacles, emphasis is placed on their active involvement in the shared learning experience of innovation. One goal of a learning alliance is to develop capacity among all stakeholders through a cyclic and incremental knowledge development process that incorporates technical and scientific expertise as well as lay expertise and localized knowledge. Similar patterns of practice were uncovered by certain social scientists while studying various collaborative ventures in science and technology. They noted that trading zones emerged within some of the more successful projects, allowing various experts to house competing interests while simultaneously agreeing upon other pertinent issues. We extend the trading zone metaphor to include expert-lay collaborative ventures. Our programmatic model further democratizes science and draws out some of the more salient knowledge transfer processes that constitute an ideal capacity building situation for all stakeholders.

Keywords: Sustainable Water Management, Democratizing Science, Trading Zones, Learning Alliances, and Knowledge Translation

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.73-84. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 597.734KB).

Benjamin Kelly

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Benjamin Kelly is a Ph.D. candidate with the Sociology department at McMaster University in Canada. His interests include environmental sociology, science and technology studies and ethnographic research. He is currently studying social interaction and knowledge production among multi-stakeholder learning platforms within pollution prevention arenas.

Dr. Khosrow Farahbakhsh

Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Farahbakhsh is a professional Environmental Engineer with over 15 years of experience in water and wastewater treatment and air pollution control. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the School of Engineering, University of Guelph. His current research interest includes integrated water resources management, water reuse, water safety in First Nations communities, biological hydrogen production from wastewater, rainwater harvesting, microbial fuel cells and resource recovery from wastewater. Dr. Farahbakhsh has extensive experience in the design of water and wastewater treatment facilities, facility audit and review. As an environmental engineering consultant, Khosrow designed several innovative and ecologically sensitive wastewater treatment plants, including the first fully enclosed sequencing batch reactor in eastern Canada, the first greenhouse tertiary system in Dartmouth, and many other small and large wastewater treatment facilities. Khosrow has also designed air pollution control systems, soil and groundwater remediation systems and has conducted energy, water conservation and environmental audits of many facilities. Currently, Dr. Farahbakhsh conducts research in the area of integrated water resources management which includes water reuse, rainwater harvesting, sustainable wastewater treatment technologies and energy production from wastewater. He is also involved in the exploration of ways to engage stakeholders and end users in the process of solution development and implementation for sustainable water management. His funding sources include the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Ontario Centers of Excellence, Canadian Foundation of Innovation, Ontario Innovation Trust, various municipalities in Ontario and British Columbia, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Zenon Environmental (Part of GE Water Group), Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Water Network. Dr. Farahbakhsh has authored or co-authored over 30 publications in the environmental engineering field. More information on Dr. Farahbakhsh can be obtained from the following website:


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