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
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.
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.
The Royal Roads Library has created a virtual tour of the Sustainability Research Effectiveness team’s showcase exhibit. The exhibit presents information about the program, its methods and tools, projects and case studies, findings to date, and working partnerships. It highlights the program’s work with Royal Roads graduate students to assess how graduate research contributes to change, as well as collaborations with the CGIAR that evaluate global research-for-development projects focused on sustainability.