21 December 2020
By Dr Matt Fortnam, University of Exeter

Co-writing a journal article that draws from several datasets across four countries with over twenty co-authors can be challenging at the best of times.

COVID-19 meant that a scheduled face-to-face get together of co-authors at the Blue Communities annual meeting was not possible. However, a virtual writeshop and many remote contributions later, we are within touching distance of a first draft of a journal article.
Since the last Project 2 update, teams in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam have further developed their analyses and journal articles on their large-scale marine parks and reserves. To analyse data from across the cases, the teams came together at a virtual ‘writeshop’ at the Blue Communities annual meeting in July 2020. Several interesting themes emerged from this related to how context, particularly power relations, has shaped the accidental emergence and evolution of various forms of polycentric governance of the marine reserves and parks. This is now being written up into a journal article through cycles of data analysis, reflection and writing.
The plan going forward is to finalise the four case-specific and one meta-analysis journal articles and translate lessons learnt about improving the governance of the parks and reserves into policy relevant products.
While the COVID-19 pandemic upended much Blue Communities work, with fieldwork grounding to a halt in Spring 2020, it provided teams an opportunity focus on analysing and writing up their existing data. With regular Zoom sessions between UK and SE Asian partner teams, all the Project 2 teams made great strides writing journal articles on marine governance in their case studies during this period.
The overall experience has strengthened our belief that we can still conduct research and build capacity without needing to travelling as much as we have in the past. This is reassuring given the need for large research programmes like Blue Communities to reduce their carbon footprint. However, we were lucky in the timing of the pandemic – we have already had an opportunity to build relationships between partners through previous face-to-face interactions at annual meetings and the time I spent stationed in Sabah, Malaysia. This built the trust and friendship needed to make virtual interactions most productive.

To return to Blue Communities News December 2020, please click here.
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