Projects within our program are guided by three main research activities: social theory, transdisciplinary quality standards, and case study evaluations. The purpose of this work is to develop theoretical and empirical foundations to advance knowledge on sustainability research effectiveness.

1. Exploring Theories of Social Change as they Apply to Research and Knowledge Translation

Sustainability science emerged from the need to produce more useful scientific knowledge to influence policy and practice change. We work on strengthening the theoretical foundations for effective research practice in conjunction with empirical assessment of the societal contributions of research.

2. Developing and Refining Concepts of Effective Research Design and Implementation

As research approaches evolve and cross disciplinary boundaries, traditional definitions, criteria, and measures of research quality are no longer sufficient. The program develops and tests more appropriate assessment tools to design and evaluate inter- and transdisciplinary research. These activities are the focus of our project on Characterizing Transdisciplinary Research Quality for Effective Design, Implementation, and Assessment.

3. Case Study and Comparative Analyses of Completed Research Projects

Rapid innovation in research approaches aim to make research more engaged, pluralistic, democratic, and effective. This creates an opportunity to analyze and learn from these natural experiments. Our program conducts a series of outcome evaluations to examine the outcomes and impacts of research across different case studies. In addition to understanding the extent to which and how outcomes are realized, we draw connections with research design and implementation (using the transdisciplinary quality assessment framework). Furthermore, we analyze underlying theoretical assumptions and seek out existing theory to explain why change happens in context.

We do our research in collaboration with our partners to analyze large-scale research-for-development projects (Case Study Analyses of Completed International Research-for-development Projects) and student research projects at Royal Roads University (Case Study Analyses of Royal Roads Student Research) to acquire a better understanding of research effectiveness in international development and higher education contexts.

Together with comparative case study analyses, these activities help us understand how to Increase Effectiveness in Sustainability Research.

Increasing Effectiveness in Sustainability Research: Comparative Analysis

As transdisciplinary approaches are developing and because they engage in complex systems, it has been difficult to know what works, how, and why. We aim to learn lessons about what makes research effective to inform and improve future research through a comparative analysis of our case studies, with a particular focus on research project design, implementation, and outcomes.

Characterizing Transdisciplinary Research Quality for Effective Design, Implementation, and Assessment

Research is often evaluated on the basis of publications, citations, and peer assessment. In the absence of a comprehensive guide, many evaluating bodies, including funding bodies, rely on conventional discipline-specific measures of quality which may disadvantage transdisciplinary and applied research. As such, assessments of research effectiveness may not adequately capture important research outcomes and contributions to change. We therefore need to understand the components of transdisciplinary research quality for robust and representative assessments.

Case Study Analyses of Completed International Research-for-Development Projects and Programs

Scientific research aims to generate new knowledge. Research projects and programs also strive for excellence by means of impact. New transdisciplinary approaches are emerging that place research around the knowledge needs and interests of stakeholders. In doing so, they aim to co-produce more relevant and applicable knowledge. However, as these approaches develop and engage amidst complex systems, it has been difficult to know what works, how, and why.

Case Study Analyses of Royal Roads Student Research

Royal Roads has an explicit mission to contribute to transformation in the careers and lives of its students and alumni through applied research that solves problems and creates opportunities. To inform practice, it is necessary to know more about current practice, and specifically about how RRU graduate research contributes to change. More work is needed to improve our theoretical and empirical understanding of the means and mechanisms by which research contributes to change processes, and inform how to design and implement research to be more effective in a higher education context.