Toward a modular evaluation approach of real-world laboratories: Findings from a literature review

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The number of real-world laboratories (RwLs) as research settings to address sustainability problems by using collaborative and experimental approaches has been growing steadily over the past years. RwLs are widely considered promising settings for the production of action-orientated knowledge in order to contribute solving wicked real-world problems such as climate change. However, empirically tested evaluative approaches are rare. We argue that evaluations within RwLs are crucial for ensuring high-quality and impactful research, amplifying tested solution approaches, and driving innovative forms of transdisciplinary collaboration. At the same time, evaluations within RwLs seem difficult due to the multilayered structure of RwLs. In order to provide guidance regarding the evaluation in RwLs-for researchers and practitioners, we conduct a scoping literature review that encompasses a comprehensive understanding of RwLs. We identify studies in which the specific components of RwLs lab context, experiments, and interventions -are empirically evaluated. Drawing on our findings, we derive different types of approaches that can be used for evaluating RwLs in practice. Based on how labs, experiments, and interventions in real-world settings have been evaluated in practice so far, we suggest to design evaluation approaches depending on (1) what should exactly be evaluated in the specific RwL, (2) for which purpose, and (3) by whom. We hope this targeted, modular evaluation approach based on evaluation types found in literature will help actors engaged in RwLs to make evaluations more feasible and impactful.

Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch Evaluation
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)128-143
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2023

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research [13ZS0058B].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press.