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Tapping fresh currents: Fostering early-career researchers in transdisciplinary water governance research

James J. Patterson
University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia;
Anna Lukasiewicz
Charles Sturt University, Albury, New South Wales, Australia;
Philip J. Wallis
Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia;
Naomi Rubenstein
Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia;
Brian Coffey
Deakin University, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia;
Elizabeth Gachenga
University of Western Sydney, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia;
A. Jasmyn J. Lynch
University of Canberra, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia;

ABSTRACT: Water governance is an important, yet complex and contested field. A central challenge for researchers is to engage with multiple understandings and perspectives that can shape water governance, and to move towards more transdisciplinary approaches. These challenges are magnified for early-career researchers (ECRs), and while the need for transdisciplinary approaches and better support for ECRs is increasingly recognised, there remains a lack of understanding of how to achieve this within the wider research community. Thus, this paper investigates through an auto-ethnographic inquiry the practical experiences and challenges faced by a diverse group of ECRs engaging in water governance research. Reflecting on our own endeavours and relevant literature, we identify a range of path-finding experiences and challenges, and explore strategies employed by ECRs to navigate the 'uncharted waters' of evolving career pathways in water governance research. 'Communities of Practice' are identified as a promising opportunity to support ECRs by enhancing opportunities for reflection and learning. Overall, we argue that there is significant merit in enhancing the way in which water governance research is understood, and improving the means by which ECRs are supported to build capability and contribute in this field.

KEYWORDS: Research practice, auto-ethnography, pathways, community of practice, interdisciplinary, water governance