The Sustainability Research Effectiveness Program strives to help research deliver real-world impact
This website contains concepts, methods, and tools
to support effective research design and evaluation
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 to assess the quality and effectiveness of change-oriented research. By applying this approach to evaluate, analyse, and compare a series of completed research projects, we learn what works and what does not work in specific contexts and generate lessons for researchers, research managers, research funders, and society more broadly.
The results of our work are available in peer-reviewed publications, case reports, and have been presented at numerous conferences, invited talks, and events. We have additional resources for those interested in applying our concepts, methods, and tools to their own work.
Belcher, B. M., Claus, R., Davel, R., & Ramirez, L. F. (2019). Linking transdisciplinary research characteristics and quality to effectiveness: A comparative analysis of five research-for-development projects. Environmental Science & Policy, 101: 192–203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2019.08.013
Belcher, B. M., Ramirez, L. F., Davel, R., & Claus, R. (2018). A response to Hansson and Polk (2018) “Assessing the impact of transdisciplinary research: The usefulness of relevance, credibility, and legitimacy for understanding the link between process and impact”. Research Evaluation, 28(2): 196–201. https://doi.org/10.1093/reseval/rvy037
In our program, we:
- Explore theories of social change as they apply to sustainability research and knowledge translation;
- Develop and refine concepts of effective research design and implementation; and
- Conduct case studies and comparative analyses of completed research projects and programs.
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?
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?
Brian Belcher travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, to support Theory of Change review workshops for the new OneCGIAR Initiative on Market Intelligence and Product Profiling Design (MIPP). This work will help ensure the nested Theory of Change is testable for ongoing monitoring and adaptive management over the course of the Initiative to realize intended outcomes and impacts. MIPP aims to maximize CGIAR and partners’ return on investment in breeding and seed systems, and support other Initiatives through the provision of reliable and timely market intelligence that enables stronger demand orientation and strengthens co-ownership and co-implementation by CGIAR and partners.
Over September 17-18, 2022, the 3rd Annual Changemaker Education Research Forum convened in Halifax to discuss research and innovation for social change. Rachel Claus presented on behalf of the Sustainability Research Effectiveness Program to share lessons from the team’s application of the Transdisciplinary Research Quality Assessment Framework (QAF) as part of the evaluation of completed research projects. The presentation also touched on how the QAF could be used for research planning and evaluation of research proposals.
Rachel Davel visited WorldFish headquarters in Penang, Malaysia, to kickstart a collaboration between WorldFish and the Sustainability Research Effectiveness Program. Joint activities include developing multiple nested Theories of Change at the organization and country levels. This work will support the implementation of WorldFish’s global strategy, which aims to end hunger and advance sustainable development by 2030 through science and innovation to transform food, land, and water systems for aquatic food production for healthier people and planet.