Framework for a participative reflection on the accomplishment of transdisciplinary research programs
Roux, DJ and Stirzaker, RJ and Breen, CM and Lefroy, EC and Cresswell, HP, Framework for a participative reflection on the accomplishment of transdisciplinary research programs, Environmental Science and Policy, 13, (8) pp. 733-741. ISSN 1462-9011 (2010) [Refereed Article]
In response to the increasingly complex social-ecological issues facing society, there is a growing trend to conduct environmental research in large collaborative programs. This approach is described as transdisciplinary research as it transcends formal disciplinary boundaries, explicitly acknowledges that many different perspectives are relevant to the resolution of complex problems, and actively involves the users of research. This poses challenges for the evaluation of "impact" as any evaluation process must take into consideration the different expectations, values, culture, language and reward structures of the main participating groups, the funders, researchers and end users. How can these participating groups learn about the progress of a transdisciplinary research program in a way that is purposeful and structured, continues through the life of the program, and includes explicit feedback mechanisms that facilitate adaptation during the course of the program? This paper presents a framework for co-reflecting on the accomplishment of transdisciplinary research programs. The framework incorporates the perspectives of funders, researchers and users, and recognizes that while they place different emphasis on measures of achievement such as efficiency, rigor and relevance, ultimate accomplishment in terms of translating knowledge into practice requires that the needs and expectations of all three groups are adequately addressed. What emerges from the framework is the importance of early investment in processes, behaviors and relationships that foster social learning and the co-production of the knowledge and understanding that are required to ensure relevance; while maintaining emphasis in the traditional areas of formally testing evidence and mentoring young researchers to ensure rigor and build confidence and capacity in transdisciplinary approaches.
Aspirational goal, Broad accountability, Emerging research paradigms, Impact evaluation, Natural resource management, Social learning, Social understanding, Social-ecological issues