“Research that makes a difference”: Conceptualizing and assessing the Royal Roads University research model
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New approaches to research engage with and deliberately contribute to transformations in complex social and natural systems. Such research is problem driven, transcends disciplinary boundaries, and it is often grounded in the belief that knowledge needs to be co-produced through collaboration to effectively support decision making and practical action for sustainable development. Royal Roads University is uniquely equipped for this kind of contribution, with low disciplinary boundaries, faculty and students who blend academic and professional experience, and an emphasis on problem-oriented research. This paper examines the research component of the RRU Learning and Teaching Model at the university. It provides an overview of RRU’s unique research model and develops and discusses a prototype theory of change. Promising new approaches to evaluate transdisciplinary research (TDR) are discussed, including broader principles and criteria of research quality, and approaches that use theories of change (ToC) to identify key stages and changes in a hypothetical change process and seek evidence to test the ToC empirically. A review of 506 abstracts from completed RRU graduate research projects found that a relatively small proportion (<8%) fully apply key principles and criteria of effective TDR. A full assessment of 48 projects selected for having high potential impact scored well on many criteria, but with systematic areas needing strengthening to improve effectiveness. It is intended that this paper will help build a conceptual and theoretical basis for improved research design, monitoring, evaluation, and learning.
DescriptionPart IV: Institutional Considerations
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