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.
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.
Exploring Social Theory Underpinning Sustainability Research Effectiveness
Characterizing Transdisciplinary Research Quality for Effective Design, Implementation and Assessment
How can the characteristics of high quality research be used for effective design and assessment?
To what extent and how do Royal Roads University graduate research projects contribute to social change?
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, 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
How do we capture and strengthen the societal effects of research? The Sustainability Research Effectiveness program presented methods and results to a session aimed to tackle this question at the International Transdisciplinarity Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, last week. The conference brought together academics, practitioners, policy-makers, and research funders to focus on learning from collaborative experiences, case studies, and practices. Rachel Claus represented the team, presenting results from a comparative analysis using a comprehensive theory-based evaluation methodology to seven completed research projects.
Brian, Rachel and Stephanie hosted a workshop for students of the Doctoral of Social Sciences Program at Royal Roads University to work them through their research designs using a theory of change framework. The session helped the Sustainability Research Effectiveness team learn about the applications of Theory of Change in planning quality research for impact.
The Transdisciplinary Science Lab at ETH Zurich together with the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences has published an overview of Theory of Change for use in research contexts, prepared by the Sustainability Research Effectiveness team. “The theory of change tool is really important. It will complement the toolbox well for researchers interested in knowledge co-production and transdisciplinary science” said ETH associate, Dr. Gabriela Wülser.