Assessing transdisciplinary research

Assessing transdisciplinary research

Research done at RRU is deliberately problem-oriented, with an explicit aim to help solve real-world problems. The social, environmental and economic problems we face are complex and multi-dimensional, they often cross scales, and they usually involve many different stakeholders. Addressing these problems will require combinations of new knowledge and innovation, and also action and engagement. The research we do crosses disciplinary lines (interdisciplinary research) and often involves stakeholders and other actors in the research process (transdisciplinary research).  As these boundaries between disciplines are crossed, traditional academic definitions and criteria of research quality are no longer sufficient and may even constrain and hinder effective work; there is a need for a parallel evolution of principles and criteria to define and evaluate research quality in a transdisciplinary research (TDR) context.

To help meet this need, a team of researchers from RRU conducted a systematic review of the literature to answer the question: What are appropriate principles and quality criteria for defining and assessing TDR quality? In a new article entitled “Defining and assessing research quality in a transdisciplinary context”, Brian Belcher (Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Research Effectiveness), Katie Rasmussen (Research Assistant), Matthew Kemshaw (Research Assistant) and Deborah Zornes (Director of Research Services) provide an overview of the relevant literature and summarize the main aspects of TDR quality identified there. Four main principles emerge: relevance, including social significance and applicability; credibility, including criteria of integration and reflexivity, added to traditional criteria of scientific rigor; legitimacy, including criteria of inclusion and fair representation of stakeholder interests, and; effectiveness, with criteria that assess actual or potential contributions to problem solving and social change. They then organize the main criteria under these four principles in a transdisciplinary research quality assessment framework that can be used by researchers, supervisors, research managers and research evaluators to guide and assess research design and implementation.

The citation is: Belcher, B. M., Rasmussen, K. E., Kemshaw, M. R., & Zornes, D. A. (2015). Defining and assessing research quality in a transdisciplinary context. Research Evaluation. The article is available here.