How do we make it so users (by default) can see who is watching an issue?

Team members need to assess whether they need to continue watching an issue. This decision is often based on whether other more relevant people have taken up watching the issue.

It seems at the moment that the ability to view the list of watchers on an issue is tied up with the ability to edit watchers.

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Unfortunately, that is how JIRA works. The permissions are not granular enough for watchers. You need to be able to manage the watchers to see who is watching.

You could create a plugin to extract the list from an issue and display as a gadget in the dashboard. Im not sure this is possible, however seems credible if we can access the issue object

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