IJMS Editor's Choice - Plastics! Designing diverse ocean collaboration frameworks

This Editor's Choice article identifies how people from different professional disciplines can successfully collaborate on future science-driven projects related to plastic pollution in marine environments.
Published: 24 April 2023

Plastic pollution is a global crisis that threatens the marine environment. Solving this issue requires collaboration across different professional disciplines, but successfully implementing such projects is a challenging task. In this Editor's Choice article, the authors report on an online workshop that brought together international experts and Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs) from 11 countries to discuss the role of scientists in multi-stakeholder projects related to plastic pollution. 

The workshop identified three themes for ocean plastic solutions - innovative technology, policy-making, and public engagement. The article highlights the importance of involving all expertise and experiences, including the Global South and low-income nations, in plastic pollution research to ensure sustainable solutions. Overall, the article provides valuable insights into how different disciplines can collaborate meaningfully to address the plastic pollution crisis in our oceans.

International experts and workshop participants discussed their experiences in the collaborative development and implementation of ocean plastic pollution projects held worldwide. Three main questions were used as guidelines:

  1. What is the role of scientists in a multi-stakeholder project?
  2. How should scientists communicate with other stakeholders?
  3. Which stakeholders are missing in collaborative projects and why are they missing?
The main challenge in enabling successful collaborative projects is linking the project to effective social and environmental change. With respect to marine environmental issues, early career researchers have been recognized as important participants by the UN Ocean Decade, which has endorsed the role of and the need for involving Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs) in the decision-making process, to encourage and support future ocean leaders to be engaged in discussions, ensuring a sustainable ocean future.

Throughout the workshop, the importance of including the Global South as well as other low-income nations in plastic pollution research was highlighted. These regions often accumulate
high waste volumes (including those exported from foreign countries). Such collaborations ensure sustainable ocean plastic solutions that involve all expertise and experiences.
The authors observed that several stakeholders, including plastic producers, the youth, and the general public - especially those from Indigenous, coastal, and low-income communities - are missing from the collaborative efforts to address plastic pollution. To bridge this gap, the paper recommends the implementation of different strategies based on the reasons for their exclusion. For instance, scientists may face reluctance to reach out to plastic producers due to a lack of awareness, interest, or transparency, while other stakeholders like Indigenous, coastal, and low-income communities may face broader exclusion from the scientific community due to prejudice, oppression, or barriers like geography or language.
The article's findings underscore the crucial role that Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs) can play in shaping the future of ocean pollution research and ensuring a sustainable ocean future. By bridging the gap between social and natural scientists and involving all stakeholders, we can work together to address the plastic pollution crisis in our oceans and protect our planet's ecosystems.

Read the full paper, The future of ocean plastics: designing diverse collaboration frameworks, in ICES Journal of Marine Science.​

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​​​Turning the tide against plastic. Photo: Refilwe Mofokeng​.​

Paper title
The future of ocean plastics: designing diverse collaboration frameworks

R. P. Mofokeng, A. Faltynkova, M. B. Alfonso, 
I. Boujmil, I. R. B. Carvalho, K. Lunzalu, 
N. B. Mohd Zanuri, E. S. Nyadjro, P. S. Puskic, 
D. J. Lindsay, K. Willis, T. M. Adyel, 
C. Serra-Gonçalves, A. Zolich, T. S. Eriksen, 
H-C Evans, D. Gabriel, S. Hajbane, G. Suaria, 
K. L. Law, D. Lobelle​
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IJMS Editor's Choice - Plastics! Designing diverse ocean collaboration frameworks

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