Cattle grazing in the Wet Tropics, Queensland Australia. Photo credit: Katie Moon.

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Researchers continue to learn throughout their careers, both in terms of their own work, but how also how their work connects with other disciplines. Three social science researchers working on private land conservation provide personal stories of their research journeys, reflecting on their lessons learned. The researchers force themselves to confront many of the limits to their knowledge and experience, which emerged from the traditions of their undergraduate education, owning up to when they thought they knew, but did not necessarily know because of their limited set of philosophical assumptions. They discuss the consequences of transitioning into new knowledge domains, both in terms of what knowledge their research failed to identify or create, but also how they have learned to ask different questions to reveal a more accurate knowledge account. With their focus on private land conservation, the researchers came to realise that the social sciences offer not just answers, but stories; not just data, but meaning; and that place is a critical part of understanding our world and how we fit within it. The authors bring together three shared lessons from their research experience to date: 1) that it is impossible to know all there is to know about a process or phenomena; 2) that the place or location in which knowledge is created is critical to understanding that knowledge; and 3) that ‘who’ the researcher is shapes the way they understand and create knowledge. For example, a researcher’s ‘position’ influences their capacity to understand the meaning of concepts, stories and traditions from other cultures. The researchers conclude that academics are not the exclusive authority on knowledge, instead, they form one part of the web of knowledge of which we are all a part. As a result, they advocate for a more diverse approach to working with and understanding people in uncovering and generating knowledge, through the application of a more diverse set of social science philosophies, methodologies and methods.