Sustainability Research Effectiveness 

Our research program aims to improve the contributions that research makes to social change processes. The program recognizes that contemporary sustainability challenges are complex and require innovative solutions. It appreciates that dedicated researchers are experimenting with new ways to design and implement research that is more engaged, pluralistic, and democratic in order to be more effective. This creates a great opportunity and a need to analyze and learn from experience.

Our program has developed a conceptual framework, tools and methods for assessing the quality and effectiveness of change-oriented research. By applying this approach to evaluate, analyse, and compare a series of completed research projects, we can learn what works and what does not work in specific contexts and generate lessons for researchers, research managers, research funders, and society more broadly.

Our Projects

In our program, we:

  1. explore theories of social change as they apply to sustainability research and knowledge translation;
  2. develop and refine concepts of effective research design and implementation;
  3. conduct case-studies and comparative analyses of completed research projects.

Exploring Social Theory Underpinning Sustainability Research Effectiveness

How do social theories apply in sustainability research to enhance effective practices?

Characterizing Transdisciplinary Research Quality for Effective Design, Implementation and Assessment

What are appropriate criteria and indicators for defining and measuring transdisciplinary research?

How can the characteristics of high quality research be used for effective design and assessment?

Case Study Analyses of Applied and Transdisciplinary Research Projects

To what extent and how are research outcomes achieved?

Impact Pathways of Royal Roads Student Research

How does Royal Roads University graduate student research reflect the espoused university model of applied, solution-oriented, and real-world focused research?

To what extent and how do Royal Roads University graduate research projects contribute to social change?


Our Team


We are an interdisciplinary team with diverse expertise based at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The Sustainability Research Effectiveness team works in collaboration with a number of partnering organizations and students. 




The results of our program are available in peer-reviewed publications and have been presented at numerous conferences, invited talks, and events. We have also developed a number of resources to share our knowledge of and experience using our methodological approach to measure research impact.



Belcher presents on research evaluation in conjunction with Science Forum 2018 in Stellenbosch

Brian Belcher was invited to present and participate in a workshop on “Impact Assessment and Landscapes in CGIAR” organized by the CGIAR Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA) held on Oct. 9 2018 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The workshop was organized in conjunction with Science Forum 2018. The purpose of this forum was to identify interactions between agricultural research and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to inform the development of research themes and frameworks within the CGIAR with the goals of strengthening the science-policy interface and delivering on research impact.

Belcher shares approach and lessons learned in outcome evaluations at CIFOR’s 25th Anniversary Annual Meeting

Brian Belcher participated in the Annual Science Meeting of the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), on the theme of “Forests Matter”. This year marks CIFOR’s 25th anniversary. Belcher ran a session on co-generation of knowledge and presented the Sustainability Research Effectiveness (SRE) Program’s approach and lessons learned in planning and evaluating CIFOR research projects. CIFOR is in the process of adopting the principles in the SRE’s transdisciplinary research quality assessment framework for their own research quality assessment.

Conceptualizing research outcomes and impacts

Brian Belcher is participating in a working group on improving how researchers collect and communicate impact information in the social sciences and humanities. Brian submitted a brief on how the SRE Program conceptualizes research outcomes and impacts. The brief notes that typical measures of “research impact” focus on indicators of influence on the research agenda (e.g., publications, citations, impact factors) via research outputs and communications. We are more interested in influence beyond the academic, particularly in social change.

Get in Touch

11 + 7 =


Our work is made possible through the Canada Research Chair Program (CRCP) of the Social Studies and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).