The participation of the industry in public research has been found essential to stimulate innovation in fisheries, but the actual design and implementation of co-management of fisheries research is still a critical and open topic. Based on the evidence of 35 project cases in Australian fisheries, this paper analyses a convergence–divergence process to support participatory research. The analysis first entails a description of the levels of stakeholders involved and the resources allocated at each step of the research process. This leads to a discussion on the impacts of the research process at different stages depending on how different sections of the industry (constituencies) were engaged. The results show that allocating time, resources and opportunities for industry representatives to engage with their constituencies is a crucial divergence phase of research processes that complements multi-stakeholder deliberations in convergence phases. Consequently, this paper contributes to the debate on research co-management processes by discussing the role of iterative knowledge sharing among stakeholders at multiple levels (e.g. fishers, processing industry, fishery associations and policymakers) in fisheries systems.