Abstracts of Plenary Talks: Archived Webpage from the First i2S Conference

This is an archived page from the website of the 2013 First Global Conference on Research Integration and Implementation.
Please note that this is a copy of a page from the original conference website which was hosted elsewhere; some links (eg to the conference venue) have been removed and some of the material within the page refers to functionality that is no longer available (eg references to material in the right-hand column).
A full site map of the archived website shows all the pages and elements that were on the original conference website. 

Gabriele Bammer

Title: Combining Forces - A New Discipline to Underpin Diverse Approaches to Research Integration and Implementation Could a new discipline – Integration and Implementation Sciences (i2S) – provide a systematic way to allow people to effectively mix-and-match concepts and methods from systems thinking, inter- and trans-disciplinarity, implementation science, team science, complexity science and other approaches to more effectively deal with complex real-world problems? The three domains of i2S will be described, namely synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, understanding and managing diverse unknowns and providing integrated research support for policy and practice change, along with a five question framework that enables all aspects of these domains to be considered systematically. The five questions cover aims and beneficiaries; approaches to each domain; methods for knowledge synthesis, understanding and managing unknowns, and providing integrated research support; context; and outcomes.  

Hilary Bradbury Huang

Title: Action Research and the Transformation of Knowledge Creation Some say the scholar-practitioner form of knowledge creation started with Kurt Lewin in the 1950’s. Others contend that it is the most natural form of knowledge creation practiced by people throughout time. In this talk Hilary Bradbury-Huang, Ph.D., editor of the journal Action Research, introduces the basic tenets of action research. After contrast is made with conventional social science, participants are left with:
  • The multi-dimensionality of action research.
  • A way of doing social science that is not just descriptive, but also emancipatory.
  • Illustrations of three scopes of action research at personal, interpersonal, and social levels.

Noshir Contractor

Title: Some Assembly Required: Organizing in the 21st Century Recent technological advances provide comprehensive digital traces of social actions, interactions, and transactions. These data provide an unprecedented exploratorium to model the socio-technical motivations for creating, maintaining, dissolving, and reconstituting into teams. Using examples from research on scientific collaboration and massively multiplayer online games, Contractor will argue that Network Science serves as the foundation for the development of social network theories and methods to help advance our ability to understand the emergence of effective teams. More importantly, he will argue that these insights will also enable effective teams by building a new generation of recommender systems that leverage our research insights on the socio-technical motivations for creating ties.  

Lynn Crawford

Title: Managing Projects as an Inter-disciplinary and Integrative Practice Project management, as a field of practice and aspiring discipline has enjoyed strong professional formation, driven by active associations of practitioners. In promoting project management as a discipline in its own right, these practitioners and their associations have worked to delimit it from other disciplines and define it through practice standards. As a result project management is practice rich and theory poor. Although the practice standards, based on the espoused theories of practitioners with backgrounds primarily in engineering, are useful and widely used, project management has few, if any, theories of its own. It draws upon theories from other disciplines including engineering, social, organisational, management and natural sciences, operations research, the arts and the humanities. Recent research trends in the management of projects have drawn attention to the need to recognise the inter-disciplinary and perhaps trans-disciplinary nature of projects, focusing more on projects and temporary organising as a context than on project management as a unitary and singular set of practices. The challenges of complex projects have led to increased interest in systems thinking and complexity theory. New perspectives are offered by recognition that projects in areas such as the film industry and emergency response are managed effectively but largely without reference to mainstream project management standards. Increasing desire by researchers to test theories from a wide range of disciplines in project contexts are driving the re-integration of project management with its parent disciplines. This presentation will provide access to the useful practices of project management within a broader context of the inter-disciplinary and integrative practices required to manage projects.  

Dean L. Fixsen

Title: Applied Implementation Science Implementation science is based on observations and evidence accumulated since the 1960s. Even at this early stage, it is becoming clear there is a continuum of research, evaluation, and theorizing. One end of the continuum is marked by basic research and the other by applied research.
  • Basic research is investigator/interest driven, focuses first on internal validity, contributes to the general knowledge base, and has the potential to impact outcomes eventually.
  • Applied research is mission/outcome driven, focuses first on external validity, contributes to the general knowledge base, and has immediate and practical impacts on socially significant outcomes.
Applied implementation science is evolving from past and current research and evaluation findings generated by those doing the work of implementation in human services (and other fields). Active implementation frameworks provide a mid-range theory to:
  • Organize current knowledge into useful frameworks,
  • Develop strategies to support implementation and scale up of evidence-based programs,
  • Establish relevant measures of implementation factors in practice, and
  • Develop a better laboratory in which imputed causal mechanisms can be studied, in order to,
  • Improve the predictive validity of the theoretical frameworks and the precision of the measures.
Active implementation frameworks take advantage of transdisciplinary knowledge bases and account for complexity inherent in human interactions in the context of organizations and systems that are at once intractable and ever changing. Active implementation frameworks include:
  • Usable intervention criteria – description (philosophy, values, inclusion-exclusion criteria), essential components, operational definitions, fidelity assessments related to outcomes
  • Implementation stages – exploration, installation, initial implementation, full implementation
  • Implementation drivers – competency, organization, leadership, integration
  • Improvement cycles – PDSA, usability testing, practice-policy communication
  • Implementation teams – expertise in the above, sustainable outcomes
Active implementation frameworks provide a theoretical base for organizing the field, generating meaningful hypotheses, and more rapidly advancing applied implementation science. Active implementation frameworks are not an end point, but a new beginning for expansion of knowledge related to implementation best practices, science, and policy.  

Beth Fulton

Title: Complexity Science in Action: Examples from Multiple Use Environments in Australian Coastal Zones Resource managers deal with complex systems on a daily basis. The work by researchers such as Elinor Ostrom shows that it is possible to find means of sustainably exploiting natural systems and resources. Facilitating that in complex multiple use environments, such as the coastal zones of Australia is challenging, but not impossible. Some examples demonstrating the application of complexity science principles "at the coal face" will be given based on experience from Australia..  

Jill Jaeger

Title: Transforming the Knowledge System to Support Research Integration and Implementation Responding to the persistent problems of unsustainability and other global challenges needs a transformation of the knowledge system as a whole. This includes a transformation in research funding and in education. For effective implementation-oriented research, stakeholders have to be involved both in the design of research programmes and in all phases of the research. This is a challenge for proposal and project evaluation. A great deal of flexibility, creativity and learning is required for implementation-oriented research, which suggests that funding of phases of research rather than for projects as a whole is more effective. Within the academic system, skills that are needed for designing and facilitating processes of engagement and learning have to receive significant attention and credit must be given for this work, so that career paths for the integration and implementation research community become established and promising. Examples of integrative, implementation-oriented, transformative research in which the knowledge system has been opened up and sustainability challenges have been tackled will be presented.  

Michael Keelty

Title: Is it Feasible to have Predictable Responses to Unpredictable Events? Most government discipline organisations such as the military, police and emergency management services are well versed in standard operating procedures (SOPs). They are designed to produce a constant and predictable response to events as they occur. SOPs can also keep a level of quality control on the cost and scale of the response to major events by governments and communities. Some events such as the 2003 terrorist attacks in Indonesia and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami can be larger and more complex than the neatly designed and packaged SOP’s. The use of SOPs has provided a level of assurance for managing major events and even everyday operations such as flying an aircraft. At home in Australia large scale events such as the 2007 Victorian bushfires, the 2011 Perth Hills Fires and the 2010/11 Floods and Cyclones in Queensland have each challenged SOPs in their own way. The question arises as to whether you can design a set of rules that makes the response by government agencies to natural or manmade disasters consistent and predictable? Is government the only player required to respond? To what degree does a National Resilience Strategy require the community to plan and prepare its own predictable and constant response to a disaster? How is a planned response, well understood and well-rehearsed impacted upon by crowd sourcing? Can the weight of a community’s self-empowerment provided by social media displace the need for governments to get involved in crisis decision making? Who is best placed to decide the optimum response? These are all questions challenging those charged with responding to disasters.  

Julie Klein

Title: Interdisciplinarity Then, Now, and Into Networked Futures Interdisciplinarity is nearing its 100th anniversary, dating from the earliest documented uses of the term in the early 20th century. This overview identifies major developments over a century of work in an expanding variety of contexts, the communities of practices that emerged, and current trendlines. It then weighs implications of common keywords across movements, including "system," "complexity," "team," "management," and "integration." At a time of declining resources, it is all the more crucial that networking occurs across established and newer communities of practice. Cooperation and collaboration are key to establishing a global knowledge base that respects both shared needs and particularities of context common while crafting more integrative relationships of research and education, problem solving and critique.  

Gerald Midgley

Title: An Introduction to Systems Thinking: Integration and Implementation in the Face of Wicked Problems This talk provides an introduction to systems thinking for people with little prior knowledge of the field. It is useful to identify four key systems thinking skills:
  1. Exploring boundaries – understanding the inclusion, exclusion and marginalisation of stakeholders and the issues that concern them.
  2. Appreciating multiple perspectives – how and why stakeholders frame issues in different ways.
  3. Understanding relationships – networks of interconnections within and across systems.
  4. Thinking in terms of systems themselves – organised wholes with properties that cannot be anticipated by analysing any one part of the system in isolation.
Different theories, concepts, methodologies and methods help with the practical application of these systems thinking skills. Selected examples will be described and illustrated with brief case studies from action research projects undertaken in the UK and New Zealand. The four selected examples are: the theory of Boundary Critique for exploring boundaries; Soft Systems Methodology for appreciating multiple perspectives; System Dynamics modelling for understanding relationships; and the Viable System Model for thinking about governance and organisation in whole system terms. The case studies from practice demonstrate that systems approaches provide valuable ways forward for dealing with intransigent problems characterised by:
  • Complex and uncertain interactions, with consequences that cannot easily be predicted;
  • Multiple goals (e.g., economic, social and environmental) in tension with one another;
  • Multiple scales (e.g., local, regional, national and global);
  • Multiple agencies, organisations, groups and communities involved or affected;
  • Multiple perspectives on defining both the problem and potential solutions;
  • Conflict, power relations and vested interests making change difficult; and/or
  • Scepticism due to unintended consequences from previous attempted solutions.
Nevertheless, no one methodology or method can respond equally well to all of these complexities, and there is considerable room for the further development of systems theory, concepts, methodologies, methods and practical applications.  

Christian Pohl

Title: Heuristics of Transdisciplinary Research Transdisciplinary research (of the European sustainability style) is research that combines knowledge of different disciplines and engages with societal actors:
  1. to grasp the complexity of a societal problem;
  2. to take into account the diversity of perceptions that stakeholders and disciplines may have of a problem;
  3. to link generalised abstract and case-specific knowledge; and,
  4. to develop knowledge and practices that promote what is perceived to be the common good.
Compared to basic research taking place in the realm of a given discipline, trans-disciplinary projects are an encounter of various realms and their underlying worldviews. For instance, and depending on the projects specific aim and composition, these can involve the natural, medical, engineering or social sciences, the humanities, the private or the public sector or civil society. To appraise, to position and to interrelate the different realms and their underlying worldviews (“worldview-brokering”) is what trans-disciplinary research is all about. Some researchers presume that disciplinary excellence qualifies them for trans-disciplinary encounters, convinced that ‘you just have to do it’. This leads to a great deal of re-inventing the wheel. If experiences drawn from researchers and the projects they are involved in are systematically analysed, common challenges can be identified together with useful heuristics that can enable trans-disciplinary encounters. Among those heuristics are:
  • To invest substantial time and brain-power in all three stages of trans-disciplinary research: (1) problem framing, (2) problem analysis and (3) bringing results to fruition;
  • To design research recursively, i.e. to alternate phases of doing research with phases of critically reflecting on research;
  • To start synthesis with problem framing and to understand consensus as one possible form of synthesis;
  • To reduce complexity be contextualisation;
  • And that there is no jack-of-all-trades trans-disciplinarity.

Merritt Polk

Title: Does Transdisciplinarity Contribute to Sustainability? Testing and Evaluating a Framework for Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production for Sustainable Social Change It is commonly assumed that transdisciplinary research is more able to contribute to societal problem solving than traditional forms of research. This assumption is based on the analytical belief that collaboration between and among social actors, disciplinary knowledge and practical expertise is necessary for contributing to sustainability. Such collaboration is seen to capture the diversity of values, knowledge, and practical know-how that is needed to produce socially robust, legitimate and accountable forms of knowledge for sustainability. However, while analytically compelling, such assumptions do not necessarily hold up in the harsh reality of current socio-environmental challenges. In order to live up to the ambition to contribute to sustainability, transdisciplinary research requires a framework that can both manage the research process and ensure that the desired results are achieved. The aim of this paper is to test how transdisciplinary research contributes to sustainability through a case study of five projects in Gothenburg, Sweden. Contributions to sustainability are assessed from a selection of criteria which appraise both the process and the outcomes. The conclusions show that the transdisciplinary framework successfully addressed many crucial issues for ensuring in-depth collaboration by a variety of diverse stakeholders from both research and practice. It successfully promoted a high level of stakeholder participation and situated learning across diverse sectors and disciplines in a variety of different substantive areas. However, while socially robust knowledge was indeed produced; institutional and organizational norms and decision-making processes effectively excluded such hybrid forms of learning and knowledge production from everyday practice. Overall, the framework fell short in its lack of mechanisms for capturing the results of the transdisciplinary processes and re-integrating them back the wider realms of everyday practice where social change occurs.  

George Richardson

Title: Models that Matter - System Dynamics Applications with Impact An overview of several high profile system dynamics model-based applications, selected to show what such models look like, how they emerged (often in multidisciplinary interventions), and how they were used successfully to influence strategy, policy, and decision making. Examples include project management, commodity cycles, urban dynamics, and infectious disease policy.  

Michael Smithson

Title: Dealing with Unknowns in Inter- and Trans-Disciplinary Settings The problem of dealing with unknowns does not reside in any one discipline. Instead, it inhabits many disciplines. Nearly all disciplines and practice domains have perspectives on the unknown, and their perspectives employ methods ranging from mathematics to discourse analysis. These perspectives are, however, fragmented and specific to their discipline’s linguistic-conceptual frameworks. Thus, researchers and scholars have difficulty communicating across disciplines about the unknown. Even explicitly defined or technical concepts such as 'probability' or 'risk' may have distinct meanings in different disciplines. Likewise, a layperson’s construal of unknowns necessarily is culturally and historically specific, so that a culturally heterogeneous population of stakeholders may embody a heterogeneous set of perspectives on unknowns. Cross-disciplinary undertakings require approaches to dealing with unknowns and also with the multiplicity of views about them. We survey the problems raised thereby, and methods for addressing those problems. The chief problems include:
  1. Assessing epistemological trade-offs
  2. Developing a common terminology and set of concepts
  3. Overcoming “blind spots” about unknowns
  4. Establishing methodological pluralism
  5. Developing inclusive but productive discourses

Ulli Vilsmaier and Matthias Bergmann

Title: Mixing and Coupling Methods in Transdisciplinary Research and Research-Based Learning Transdisciplinary research is based on the objects of integration and implementation. The research process aims to create space for common thinking, mutual learning and joint action between partners from diverse disciplines and societal fields in order to create knowledge, understanding and induce transformation. Therefore, an integrative methodology has to be set up consisting of a series of different types of methods which are mixed and coupled in transdisciplinary research. These methods range from cooperation methods providing conditions for integration on a social and cognitive level to assessment and deliberative methods for systematically dealing with diverse sources of knowledge, interests, values and norms; they include management and evaluation methods as well as respective disciplinary or interdisciplinary research methods. Due to the idiographic character of transdisciplinary research, these combinations and adaptations vary according to the research setting and issue of concern. In consequence, transdisciplinary research methodologies have to be arranged specifically for each research project. Thus, to consolidate transdisciplinary research it is important to clarify the dynamics and diversities of mixing and coupling methods. In our contribution we will present different types of methods which are applied in transdisciplinary research and we will further show how new inter- and transdisciplinary methods emerge. Moreover we will present an epistemological order of methods for transdisciplinary research and a conceptual model for a reflexive transdisciplinary research process.  

John Young

Title: Knowledge vs Politics - How Research can Contribute to Better Policy We live in an increasingly interconnected world where there are few simple policy solutions to complex, often “wicked” problems, and an increasing number of stakeholders with multiple, often divergent incentives are involved in decision-making. While there is often convincing research-based evidence about what works and what doesn’t work, there is no simple mechanism to translate that into effective policy and practice. Recognising this, and learning from recent research into complexity, networks, political incentives, innovation systems and new communication technology, the Overseas Development Institute’s Research and Policy in Development Programme has developed a range of tools and approaches for researchers, policy makers, practitioners and intermediaries to promote greater use of research-based evidence. This presentation will provide an overview of the programme’s work, some of the tools and approaches, and examples of how this approach can deliver better policy.