Are you developing concepts and methods to improve understanding of, and action on, complex social and environmental problems? Do you wish it was easier to learn from like-minded colleagues, especially those applying similar tools, but to different types of problems? Do you wonder about the similarities among transdisciplinarity, systems thinking, implementation science and other approaches to complex problems? Do you wish that work on complex social and environmental problems was better supported by funders and by research and higher education policy?
Who and What is the Global Community for?
Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S) aims to provide a common identity for all those who answered ‘yes’ to the questions above. It is particularly focused on researchers developing tools for tackling complex real-world problems, regardless of the problem domain.
I2S aims to provide a conduit for connecting researchers who might identify as interdisciplinary or as action researchers or post-normal scientists or with any of a number of other communities (all of which are relatively small). I2S also aims to link in researchers who are not aligned with any current community of practice, but who are committed to improving methods for tackling problems in the environment or public health or security or more. Some of these researchers think of themselves as ‘T-shaped’ researchers or as knowledge brokers.
There are two main reasons for forming a global community. For a brief description of the core argument see: Bammer, G. (2017). Should we discipline interdisciplinarity? Palgrave Communications, 3 (article 30). Online (DOI): 10.1057/s41599-017-0039-7.
One is to improve the quality of our work, making it possible to:
- apply the most suitable concepts and methods when tackling complex real-world problems
- constantly improve concepts and methods for dealing with complex social and environmental problems
- develop effective strategies for educating the next generation.
The second reason is to improve our political clout, especially to ensure that:
- research tackling complex social and environmental issues, including research focused on developing better concepts and methods, gets a fair share of research funding
- mechanisms are in place to enable such research to be appropriately assessed (eg., through peer-review), so that the best research is funded
- universities and other research organisations adequately support research and education on complex real-world problems
- researchers tackling complex social and environmental problems are not disdvantaged in job application, tenure and promotion processes.
The core I2S community building activity is the Integration and Implementation Insights (i2Insights) blog. We have opted to be hands-on in our connecting process, by providing a forum for researchers to share the concepts and methods they use for tackling complex social and environmental problems, as well as giving researchers easy access to the work of others, especially those doing relevant work that they may not normally have contact with.
The Integration and Implementation Insights blog
The blog aims to make it easy for researchers to share concepts and methods across the boundaries of their own expertise. The focus is on useful ways to:
- identify and synthesise diverse knowledge
- understand and manage what we do not and cannot know
- engage policy makers and practitioners to implement research findings.
Key topics include ways to: combine disciplinary and stakeholder perspectives to allow complex problems to be viewed more comprehensively; identify which disciplines and stakeholders have useful knowledge to contribute; appreciate whether and how different elements of a problem are interconnected; understand how to minimise adverse unintended consequences and nasty surprises; take context into account; and, improve research influence on policy and practice change.
The blog also covers how higher education can better prepare the next generation of researchers with integration and implementation skills. And the blog examines how to make research integration and implementation a more central part of the academic mainstream in both research and education.
Blog posts aim to be easy for busy people to read quickly, with pointers to where to follow-up if the message strikes a chord. Think of them as an academic amuse bouche, designed to stimulate the appetite to find out more.
In November 2016 the blog was one year old with more than 100 contributions under its belt. It had contributors from 20 countries, covering research implementation, change, inter- and trans- disciplinarity, co-creation, collaboration, stakeholders, communication, modelling, unknowns and more.
At its second birthday in November 2017 the blog had more than 160 contributions by 189 contributors from 27 countries. These had been viewed more than 100,000 times, by readers in more than 160 countries.
You can also find out more about and connect with others interested in research integration and implementation via:
- Twitter @GabrieleBammer and #I2Sresources
- the LinkedIn group Global Network for Research Integration and Implementation
- Integration and Implementation Sciences YouTube channel
- I2S News
Influencing Funding and Policy Decisions
We need to apply our skills in making change happen on complex real-world problems to also improving our own influence on research and education policy and funding decisions. This involves both organising at the researcher level and leadership. At the researcher level, a key activity is to recognise similarities and to develop a shared identity, so that we become a sizeable community to be reckoned with. At the leadership level, we need a seat at the funding and policy decision making tables and those leaders need to represent the wider research community working on complex social and environmental problems. When funders want to support research on complex real-world problems, it needs to be clear who they should turn to for advice.
A snapshot of I2S activities includes:
- i2S, in collaboration with the US National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, is playing a key role in developing an influential leaders group, by helping to organise a workshop of leaders of interdisicplinary research centres (in March 2018).
- I2S also collaborates to help form alliances among existing professional associations and networks to strengthen our influence.
- I2S co-hosted a meeting of influential Australian interdisciplinary researchers, who recommended a change in the research application forms to recognise interdisciplinary research, which was enacted by the Australian Reseach Council.
- Gabriele Bammer has been invited to speak about research funding at meetings of the whole Global Reseach Council and one of its regions, at the US National Science Foundation, and at the Austrian Science Fund (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, FWF).
- the 2013 First Global Conference on Research Integration and Implementation provided an opportunity for researchers improving tools for tackling complex real-world problems to share their work and interact.