Research Topic

High-Quality Knowledge for Climate Adaptation: Revisiting Criteria of Credibility, Legitimacy, Salience, and Usability

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Climate adaptation can be seen as a social process by which we continuously learn about our changing climate and adjust our actions appropriately, yielding new lessons. This process involves constantly re-building a high-quality knowledge base and foresight for how to interpret, understand, and ...

Climate adaptation can be seen as a social process by which we continuously learn about our changing climate and adjust our actions appropriately, yielding new lessons. This process involves constantly re-building a high-quality knowledge base and foresight for how to interpret, understand, and anticipate climate variability and change. But there are important epistemological and methodological challenges to determining the quality of "research for climate adaptation." For example, how can we predict a climate that we have not yet observed and that is not accessible through physical experiments: can we still draw on the past to anticipate (or indeed statistically calculate) the future? Should we go beyond science to include other categories of knowledge for anticipating and living with climate change? How do we reconcile diverse definitions of what counts as high-quality knowledge? How do we explore and discuss the unknown? Can we anticipate surprise? How do values shape knowledge quality? And what importance do we attach to precision and quantification around climate projections?

At the core of these questions are debates around what criteria we use for assessing the quality of knowledge as being fit for climate adaptation; knowledge quality criteria are an important part of "research of climate adaptation." The explosion of research on climate adaptation across multiple disciplines and sectors further complicates this, with each discipline bringing a different set of quality criteria. Going further, different groups and institutions outside academia bring their own criteria of quality, which are very often specific to particular sectoral actors and organizations and the contexts in which these actors and organizations operate. There is seemingly no way to agree on the best, or most high-quality, ways to re-learn a changing climate.

Notwithstanding this plurality of disciplines, approaches, contexts, and criteria, certain broad quality principles have emerged as fundamental to knowledge quality writ large; specifically, the principles of credible, legitimate, and salient knowledge put forward by Cash and colleagues (2001), to which can be added principles of usability and usefulness from Lemos and Morehouse (2005). These undoubtedly ground-breaking insights occupy a large place in contemporary research, nearly 20 years later, providing the basis for a swell of scientific studies. But while these principles forge an important point of departure, there is still substantial work to be done. Nuanced studies of climate adaptation knowledge quality are needed to add substance to these fundamental principles, to show how the importance actors put on these principles has shifted dynamically, and indeed, to question whether and how these principles are still relevant 20 years on.

This Research Topic aims to revisit criteria of climate adaptation knowledge quality, in different empirical and conceptual studies. It aims to provide nuanced accounts of the diversity of knowledge quality criteria, with attention to both their specificity and transferability. Can quality still be boiled down to credibility, legitimacy, salience, and usability? What have these principles come to mean, in detail? Are new principles emerging—and if so, are they deemed as important?

This Research Topic is open to:

 • Research with an explicit focus on the quality of knowledge for supporting decisions and actions toward climate adaptation
 • Both empirical and conceptual contributions, from a local to a global scale
 • Disciplinary to trans-disciplinary research that is qualitative and/or quantitative


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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