Expertise in research integration and implementation for tackling complex problems: when is it needed, where can it be found and how can it be strengthened?

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


  • Gabriele Bammer
  • Michael O’Rourke
  • Deborah O’Connell
  • Linda Neuhauser
  • Gerald Midgley
  • Julie Thompson Klein
  • Nicola J. Grigg
  • Howard Gadlin
  • Ian R. Elsum
  • Marcel Bursztyn
  • Elizabeth A. Fulton
  • Christian Pohl
  • Michael Smithson
  • Matthias Bergmann
  • Jill Jaeger
  • Femke Merkx
  • Mark A. Burgman
  • Daniel H. Walker
  • John Young
  • Hilary Bradbury
  • Lynn Crawford
  • Budi Haryanto
  • Cha aim Pachanee
  • Merritt Polk
  • George P. Richardson

Expertise in research integration and implementation is an essential but often overlooked component of tackling complex societal and environmental problems. We focus on expertise relevant to any complex problem, especially contributory expertise, divided into ‘knowing-that’ and ‘knowing-how.’ We also deal with interactional expertise and the fact that much expertise is tacit. We explore three questions. First, in examining ‘when is expertise in research integration and implementation required?,’ we review tasks essential (a) to developing more comprehensive understandings of complex problems, plus possible ways to address them, and (b) for supporting implementation of those understandings into government policy, community practice, business and social innovation, or other initiatives. Second, in considering ‘where can expertise in research integration and implementation currently be found?,’ we describe three realms: (a) specific approaches, including interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, systems thinking and sustainability science; (b) case-based experience that is independent of these specific approaches; and (c) research examining elements of integration and implementation, specifically considering unknowns and fostering innovation. We highlight examples of expertise in each realm and demonstrate how fragmentation currently precludes clear identification of research integration and implementation expertise. Third, in exploring ‘what is required to strengthen expertise in research integration and implementation?,’ we propose building a knowledge bank. We delve into three key challenges: compiling existing expertise, indexing and organising the expertise to make it widely accessible, and understanding and overcoming the core reasons for the existing fragmentation. A growing knowledge bank of expertise in research integration and implementation on the one hand, and accumulating success in addressing complex societal and environmental problems on the other, will form a virtuous cycle so that each strengthens the other. Building a coalition of researchers and institutions will ensure this expertise and its application are valued and sustained.

ZeitschriftPalgrave Communications
Anzahl der Seiten16
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 13.01.2020

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
● Systems thinkers, systems scientists and systems engineers have formed many international associations, including the Complex Systems Society; the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Systems Council; the IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society; the International Council on Systems Engineering; the International Federation for Sys-tems Research; the International Society for Knowledge and Systems Sciences; the International Society for the Systems Sciences; the System Dynamics Society; and the World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics. There are also numerous national bodies. Most societies run annual conferences. Journals include Cybernetics and Systems; International Journal of General Systems; International Journal of Knowledge and Systems Sciences; System Dynamics Review; Systemic Practice and Action Research; Systems; and Systems Research and Behavioural Science. Major reference works include an encyclopaedia (François, 2004) and various volumes of classic and contemporary reprints covering the whole field (Beishon and Peters, 1972; Buckley, 1965; Emery, 1969, 1981; Midgley, 2003). ● Interdisciplinarians have formed the Association for Inter-disciplinary Studies and Intereach (Interdisciplinary Integra-tion Research Careers Hub). The Association for Interdisciplinary Studies publishes the journal Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies and runs an annual conference. The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity (Frodeman, 2017) is now in its second edition. ● Proponents of the science of team science have formed an International Network for the Science of Team Science and manage a listserv and annual conference. The major reference, produced in the US, is a report by the National Research Council (2015).

Funding Information:
This article has its origins in the 2013 First Global Conference on Research Integration and Implementation (Integration and Implementation Sciences 2019a), which brought together the authors and specifically drew on all three realms of expertise. The conference was supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence on Policing and Security and The Australian National University. Co-conferences in Germany, The Netherlands and Uruguay were, respectively, sponsored by Leuphana University of Lueneburg; the Centre for Innovation at Campus The Hague, Leiden University; and the Espacio Interdisciplinario, Universidad de la República. Contributions by Robyn Mildon, Dean Fixsen, Alison Ritter and Noshir Contractor at the conference informed the development of this article and valuable feedback on earlier versions was received from L. David Brown, Sharon Friel, Cynthia Mitchell, Christian Roth and Judith Sutz. Assistance was provided by Peter Deane and David McDonald on aspects of the literature, as well as Erin Walsh on the figure.

Funding Information:
CASE 1. Assessing the potential for biomass to provide sustainable bioelectricity and biofuels, and greenhouse gas emission reduction in Australia (2005–2016) (Crawford et al., 2016; Farine et al., 2012; Hayward et al., 2015; O’Connell et al., 2009) Aim: (1) to provide credible quantification of benefits, sustainability impacts and opportunities of biofuels, (2) to assess a range of emerging technology options and (3) to provide reliable knowledge upon which industry and government could base their decisions. Research integration outcomes: research findings were integrated across multiple value chains, multiple industry sectors and different types of emerging technology, aquatic and terrestrial production systems, time periods from current to future, different types of stakeholders, and local to global scales. Research implementation outcomes: project results influenced positions of various stakeholders and their investments: the blueprint for aviation industry targets and commitments (Graham et al., 2011), national research and development plans for Australia (Bioenergy Research, Development and Extension Advisory Forum and Technical Working Groups, 2014; O’Connell and Haritos, 2010; O’Connell et al., 2007) and the international standard for sustainability ‘Sustainability Criteria for Bioenergy’ ISO 13065:2015 (International Standards Association ISO, 2015). Interactional expertise was required to work with the disciplines of: agriculture, forestry, hydrology, greenhouse gas accounting, process engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, mathematics, economics. Interactional expertise was required to work with stakeholders from: energy, agriculture and forestry sectors; aviation; companies and large global corporations; state and national governments; non-government organisations, including World Wildlife Fund and Australian Conservation Foundation; international governments; and various local communities. Example of tacit know-that: Knowledge about the necessity to look for different delimitations and definitions of the problem being addressed among the multiple groups involved. Example of tacit know-how: Skills to work with different stakeholder groups in different ways to support the research implementation. For example, changing the international standard involved attending standard-setting meetings and being hands-on in the trade-offs and wordsmithing involved. CASE 2. Reducing air pollution and improving health in Jakarta, Indonesia (2004–2009) (Haryanto, 2013) Aim: to provide scientific evidence about health impacts caused by air pollution and to develop a first-stage ‘academic draft’ of a provincial regulation for reducing air pollution. Research integration outcomes: first comprehensive assessment of main air pollutant exposures and effects on human health in Indonesia. Research implementation outcomes: the research underpinned a Jakarta provincial regulation on air quality and a decree issued by the Governor on indoor air quality. Interactional expertise was required to work with the disciplines of: epidemiology, environmental health, pharmacology, public health nutrition, environmental engineering. Interactional expertise was required to work with stakeholders from: Ministry of Environment, provincial health office, 20 private companies, Government of Jakarta, 28 elementary schools in Jakarta, Jakarta Metropolitan Office, private car and public transport commuters, international non-government organisations, and an international nutritional supplement company. Example of tacit know-that: Knowledge about the role of provincial regulations and where research findings would be appropriate. Example of tacit know-how: Skills in acting as a policy entrepreneur and seizing opportunities for effecting change. CASE 3. Developing policies on medical tourism in Thailand (2010, not documented) Aim: to find an appropriate balance between competing private and public demands on health workers and other resources caused by ‘medical tourism’ in Thailand, as well as how the private and public health sectors can collaborate to improve the health of the Thai population. Medical tourism generates substantial revenue from foreign patients and is promoted by the private health sector with political support from the government. Significant concerns arise, however, about inadequate public health provision for the Thai population. Research integration outcomes: evidence from several studies, expert opinion, and findings from a public hearing were combined to develop a resolution for the National Health Assembly. Research implementation outcomes: the National Health Assembly adopted the resolution in December 2010 (Third National Health Assembly, 2010) and the cabinet of the Thai government endorsed it in April 2011. Interactional expertise was required to work with the disciplines of: public health, economics, sociology, medicine. Interactional expertise was required to work with stakeholders from: Ministry of Public Health, Regional and General Hospital Society, Rural Doctors Society, Private Hospital Association, health professional councils (medical, dental and nursing), University Hospital Networks—Thailand (medical schools), civil society organisations, Ministry of Commerce, relevant areas of the law, constituencies of the National Health Assembly. Example of tacit know-that: Knowledge about the mechanics of the political process. Example of tacit know-how: Skills to identify the powerful players who needed to be on board and to interact effectively with them in finding ways of responding to their concerns.

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© 2020, The Author(s).

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