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 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?

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.


Belcher supports CGIAR Initiative in Market Intelligence and Product Profiling Design

Belcher supports CGIAR Initiative in Market Intelligence and Product Profiling Design

Dr. Brian Belcher travelled to Nairobi 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. MIPP will support other Initiatives through the provision of reliable and timely market intelligence that enables stronger demand orientation. The Initiative will also strengthen co-ownership and co-implementation of market intelligence by CGIAR and partners.

Transdisciplinary Research Quality Assessment Framework presented to changemakers

Transdisciplinary Research Quality Assessment Framework presented to changemakers

Over September 17-18, 2022, the 3rd Annual Changemaker Education Research Forum (CERF) 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.

Davel visits WorldFish HQ in Penang for new collaboration

Davel visits WorldFish HQ in Penang for new collaboration

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 implementation of WorldFish’s global strategy, which aims to end hunger and advance sustainable development by 2030. The Strategy leverages science and innovation to transform food, land, and water systems for aquatic food production for healthier people and planet.

Get in Touch

13 + 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).