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; and
  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 International Research for Development Projects

To what extent and how are research outcomes achieved?

Case Study Analyses 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.


Safe travels, Stephanie!

Safe travels, Stephanie!

The Sustainability Research Effectiveness (SRE) team wishes all the best to a remarkable colleague, Stephanie Jones, who is relocating to the United Kingdom. Stephanie has been an integral part of the team, leading many case study evaluations of Royal Roads graduate projects, improving representation of social change theories in projects, and even developing the team’s logo. SRE is pleased to announce that Stephanie will continue to collaborate with the team on the many projects in which she has been involved.

Royal Roads highlights the role of SRE research in changemaking

Royal Roads highlights the role of SRE research in changemaking

Research has a vital role in solving complex problems. In 2019, Prof. Brian Belcher was appointed as Ashoka Chair in Research Effectiveness. The Ashoka Chair continues work begun under a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (2013-2020). It supports the Sustainability Research Effectiveness (SRE) program’s efforts to develop and apply concepts, tools and methods to understand and measure how research contributes to changemaking processes, and to use that learning to guide improved research teaching and practice. SRE evaluations of graduate research projects provide relevant learning to equip Royal Roads with the know-how to fulfil its commitments to research impact and change-making education. SRE’s work also shapes research policy, management, and practice more broadly to help research funders and managers support relevant, credible, legitimate, and applicable/actionable research that makes a difference. The news story published by Royal Roads features some of the SRE program’s key methods, research findings, and outcomes to date.

FTA features SRE publications in latest blog post

FTA features SRE publications in latest blog post

How do we assess research impact for learning and accountability? Does transdisciplinary research lead to more effective outcomes? The CGIAR’s Forest Trees and Agroforestry Consortium Research Program has recently published a blog that provides an overview of two of our latest articles that address these key questions.

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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).