• Action research;
  • commons;
  • dilemmas;
  • fisheries management;
  • participatory research;
  • sociology of knowledge


Using a perspective from the sociology of knowledge, this study identifies some ‘dilemmas of participatory research’. We look at how social relationships between fishers and scientists develop around the exchange of fishers’ knowledge in particular institutional contexts. We survey the general types and global examples of fisher–scientist relationships in terms of how they approach the integration of fishers’ and scientists’ knowledge. Based on an empirical study of three European cases of participatory research, we then discuss five dilemmas that tend to characterize fisher–scientist relationships. These dilemmas centre on the relationship between fisheries research, fishery regulations and fishers as subjects of both regulation and participatory research endeavours. We argue that these dilemmas – experienced by both scientists and fishers – express an underlying tension between ‘empowering’ fishers to support the effective management of the fishing commons and the bureaucratic need to regulate the fishery as an industry.