Transdisciplinary research assessment tool

Transdisciplinary research assessment tool

Brian Belcher and Shilpa Soni presented a paper at the 2016 Canadian Evaluation Society annual conference in St. John's, NL. The presentation focused on test of the transdisciplinary research quality assessment tool developed in Belcher et al., (2016).

The work starts from an appreciation that contemporary “real-world” problems are complex and multidimensional. Successfully addressing these problems requires researchers to cross disciplinary boundaries and, increasingly, to involve stakeholders and other lay actors in the research process. This is known as transdisciplinary research (TDR). Traditional academic criteria used to guide and evaluate research proposals and projects are insufficient at best and may even constrain novel, integrative approaches. To help develop a more suitable assessment framework, Belcher et al. (2016) conducted a systematic review of the literature asking: What are appropriate principles and criteria for defining and assessing TDR quality? The paper can be read here.

The current research applied the quality assessment framework (QAF) developed by Belcher et al. (2016) on a set of 54 Royal Roads University graduate student research projects selected for having inter- or transdisciplinary elements to test and refine the tool. The test indicated that the individual principles and criteria and the overall framework are applicable and useful for both formative (guiding and supporting research design and implementation) and summative (proposal adjudication, ex post project evaluation) purposes. This trial showed that it is feasible, appropriate and useful to evaluate problem-oriented inter- and transdisciplinary research using broader principles than typically used for disciplinary research evaluation. The QAF expands the traditional standards of credibility in research to include a well-framed problem context. It also adds principles of social relevance, legitimacy and effectiveness. Thus the tool can serve as a useful guide for researchers in developing their own high quality TDR projects and for research managers, funders, peer-reviewers, editors and society more broadly to help ensure that high standards of methodological rigour and transparency are matched by high standards of societal relevance. Ultimately, this is expected to contribute to more effective research.