Fostering learning through collaboration: Knowledge acquisition and belief change in marine aquaculture partnerships

William D. Leach, Christopher M. Weible, Scott R. Vince, Saba N. Siddiki, John C. Calanni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


One of the challenges of collaborative governance is fostering learning among diverse stakeholders who have very different views on disputed topics of science and policy. Collaborative partnerships are often touted as a type of decision-making forum that generates more learning than typically occurs in more adversarial forums. This study develops and tests hypotheses from the collaborative learning literature, using survey data from 121 participants in 10 partnerships that focus on marine aquaculture in the United States. As one of the fastest growing natural resource-based industries, aquaculture is also one of the most controversial. We find that two types of learning - belief change and knowledge acquisition - are fairly common in the studied partnerships, occurring for 56%-87% of participants. Regression models indicate that new knowledge is correlated with traits of the partnership, including procedural fairness, trustworthiness of other participants, level of scientific certainty, and diverse participation as well as with traits of the individual learner, including norms of consensus and scientific or technical competence. Contrary to expectations, knowledge acquisition is greater when the available science is uncertain and when stakeholders have lower technical competence. Our findings also challenge the idea that new information mainly reinforces existing beliefs. Instead we find that new knowledge acquired through the collaborative process primes participants to change their opinions on scientific or policy issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-622
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing

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