Where to publish? Journals for research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes

By Gabriele Bammer

Gabriele Bammer (biography)

If you have developed a new dialogue method for bringing together insights from different disciplinary experts and stakeholders, or a refined modelling technique for taking uncertainty into account, or an innovative process for knowledge co-creation with government policy makers, where can you publish these to get maximum exposure and uptake?

Over the past several years, Peter Deane and I have been reviewing journals that publish concepts, methods and processes for:
•    Synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge
•    Understanding and managing diverse unknowns
•    Providing integrated research support (combining what we know and don’t know) for policy and practice change.
These are the components of what is referred to in this post as research integration and implementation. We have compiled information about more than 50 journals and regularly make additions (these are publicized bi-monthly in I2S News). We provide a brief synopsis of the journal aims, the most recent Thomson Reuters impact factor, the link to the journal website, and information about relevant special issues.
[Author note December 2022: The compilation of 90+ journals has been relocated to the ITD-Alliance website: https://itd-alliance.org/journals/ and they are no longer publicized in i2S News.]

As I describe in detail below, a major lesson from our review is that each journal is read by only a small subsection of those who are interested in research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes. This is largely because there is no agreed recognizable community covering everyone interested in research integration and implementation practices. Instead the community is highly fragmented. The consequence for you is that to reach everyone who may be interested in your insight means that you will need to do additional work to extend its reach.

To help you plan your publication and distribution strategy, I have divided journals into three categories: those that are problem-based, those centred around a community of practice, and those that are general-research-practice-based. The aim is to help you think about the audience you will reach with the journal you choose and how you might start to identify the additional audiences who may be interested in the concept, method or process you have developed.

These journals publish research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes developed to address a specific problem, such as a conservation issue, the burden of disease, or a child welfare issue. Many of these journals have a broad reach in the area of application and correspondingly large impact factors. However your insight will not be accessible to researchers working on different kinds of problems, even though it may be very relevant to them.

Journals in this category include:
Conservation Biology
Ecology and Society
Environmental Conservation
Global Environmental Change
Implementation Science
Journal of Collaborative Healthcare and Translational Medicine
Public Health Research and Practice
Sustainability Science

These journals provide outlets for communities of like-minded researchers interested in particular aspects of research integration and implementation. Communities include those focused on action research, interdisciplinary research, systems thinking, and various types of modelling, such as operations research and system dynamics. Unlike the problem-based journals, community of practice journals tend to cover a wide range of problem types, across, for example, environment, population health, security, education and so on.  However, compared to traditional disciplines and most problem-based areas, these communities of practice are small and by-and-large this is reflected in low journal impact factors. In addition there is little cross-fertilization among the communities, even though there are significant intersections in the concepts, methods and processes they use. They tend to reinvent them, rather than sharing them. Publishing here means your insights will most likely not reach those in other communities of practice or those who primarily identify as working on a particular problem.

Journals in this category include:
Action Learning: Research and Practice
Action Research
European Journal of Operational Research
Evidence & Policy
Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal on Policy and Complex Systems
System Dynamics Review
Systemic Practice and Action Research
Systems Research and Behavioral Science

These journals tend to publish about a wide range of research practices, not just research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes. They also tend to have an additional focus, such as innovation or critique of traditional science, and are highly variable in terms of impact factors. Among those reviewed, this is the smallest group of journals. At least some of them reach a different audience again, namely one that is interested in practice theory and critique, rather than the how-to of practice application. If your primary target is the latter audience, you may need to do considerable extra work to reach them.

Journals in this category include:
Journal of Research Practice [Author note December 2022: the final issue of this journal was published in 2018]
Research Policy
Science and Public Policy

This blog provides a forum for:
•    Sharing publication strategies and experiences with different publication outlets
•    Highlighting journals not currently in the list
•    Discussing the fragmentation in the research integration and implementation community – do you see it the same way? – and strategies for overcoming it.

You are welcome to use this blog as one vehicle to promote your publications on research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes. I particularly hope you will ‘post-and-engage’ and that the blog can facilitate cross-talk to overcome the fragmentation.

And, who knows, in time this blog may provide the foundation for a ‘go-to’ journal, read and contributed to by everyone interested in concepts, methods and processes for knowledge synthesis, understanding and managing diverse unknowns, and providing integrated research support for policy and practice change.

Biography: Gabriele Bammer PhD is a professor at The Australian National University in the Research School of Population Health’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health. She is developing the new discipline of Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S) to improve research strengths for tackling complex real-world problems through synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, understanding and managing diverse unknowns and providing integrated research support for policy and practice change. She leads the theme “Building Resources for Complex, Action-Oriented Team Science” at the US National Socio-environmental Synthesis Center.

4 thoughts on “Where to publish? Journals for research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes”

  1. Environmental Modelling & Software (Elsevier, Impact Factor 4.20) is another important journal in this area. Model integration is a key foci of the journal and you will find multiple important papers on this topic. Here are a few well-cited examples:

    Generic Environmental Model Software Integration:

    * Argent, Robert M. “An overview of model integration for environmental applications—components, frameworks and semantics.” Environmental Modelling & Software 19.3 (2004): 219-234.

    * Knapen, Rob, et al. “Evaluating OpenMI as a model integration platform across disciplines.” Environmental modelling & software 39 (2013): 274-282.

    Decision Support Systems Integration:

    * Denzer, Ralf. “Generic integration of environmental decision support systems–state-of-the-art.” Environmental Modelling & Software 20.10 (2005): 1217-1223.

    * Lam, David, et al. “Multi-model integration in a decision support system: a technical user interface approach for watershed and lake management scenarios.” Environmental Modelling & Software 19.3 (2004): 317-324.

    Policy and Integration with Socioeconomic Models:

    * Van Delden, Hedwig, Patrick Luja, and Guy Engelen. “Integration of multi-scale dynamic spatial models of socio-economic and physical processes for river basin management.” Environmental Modelling & Software 22.2 (2007): 223-238.

    * Cobb, Ashley Noel, and Jessica Leigh Thompson. “Climate change scenario planning: a model for the integration of science and management in environmental decision-making.” Environmental Modelling & Software 38 (2012): 296-305.

    Challenges with Integrated Modelling
    * Voinov, Alexey, and Herman H. Shugart. “‘Integronsters’, integral and integrated modeling.” Environmental modelling & software 39 (2013): 149-158.

    As Editor-in-Chief of EMS, I’m always looking for strong integrated modelling papers and welcome your submissions!

  2. On identifying transdisciplinary journals: a response to Gabriele Bammer’s “Where to publish? Journals for research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes”

    Thank you, Gabriele, for posting this contribution. Your list of journals is useful!

    It strikes me that in the group of “community of practice” based journals, you do not list (as I see it, quite rightly so) two journals that – within the “operational research” and “systems thinking” communities – were until recently considered to provide leading platforms for general discussions on the nature and methodologies of inter- and transdisciplinary, integrative and application-oriented research. I refer to the Journal of the Operational Research Society (published by the Operational Research Society in England since 1950; 2014 Impact Factor: 1.246) and to Management Science (published by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences in the USA since 1954; 2014 Impact Factor: 2.482). While originally intended to address a wide audience of “applied” researchers and professionals, both journals appear to have changed their profile considerably over time. The point I wish to make is that transdisciplinarity is perhaps less a quality of journals as such than of their actual contents in a defined period of time. I mention the two journals as they illustrate the point well. Let me explain.

    From its foundation to the mid 1980s or so, Management Science was an important outlet for high-quality articles on the nature of what today would be called transdisciplinary research; later on it increasingly narrowed its focus and ultimately became what the founders had set out to overcome, a conventional disciplinary journal of applied mathematical methods that once again is now merely method-oriented rather than problem-oriented. So much so that in 2004, after the passing of the journal’s founding editor, C.W. Churchman, when I offered to prepare a biographical and personal appreciation of this founding figure and major philosopher of the field, the editor politely declined, explaining that Management Science was only publishing articles on management science! An appreciation of the methodological ideas and ambitions that stood at the journal’s beginning – a reflection on the field’s history, that is – was no longer considered relevant to a proper understanding of “management science.”

    Instead, the obituary then appeared in the second journal that serves as an example here, the Journal of the Operational Research Society (JORS). It may indeed be due in part to the retreat of Management Science from its original vision that the most innovative theoretical and methodological discussions in that community of practice moved over the Atlantic and found a new home in Britain, where JORS had earned itself a similar place as an outlet for high-quality work and methodological discussion in the field. Under the editorship of John Ranyard, from 1997 to 2009, the journal flourished as a platform for such discussions. It did an excellent job of inspiring and facilitating them, by publishing relevant papers in a separate and privileged section of the journal (“General papers”) and connecting them with a discussion platform (“Viewpoints”) that was reaching many other communities of practice beyond the field of operational research (e.g., information systems research, evaluation research, environmental design, social planning, public policy analysis, and many others). Unfortunately though, JORS now in turn appears to be going down the same path as Management Science and becoming a narrowly mathematical, disciplinary journal that is of little interest to theorists and practitioners of inter- and transdisciplinary research.

    It is, then, no omission that your list does not include these two once leading journals for inter- and transdisciplinary research and professional practice, whether deliberately so or not. What at first glance might surprise people who consult your list is an accurate reflection of how the journals’ content has been and is changing, due to changing editorships. However, the point that interests me is not whether the two journals should have been included; it is of a more general nature. The story suggests that for transdisciplinary authors who consult a list of transdisciplinary journals such as yours, the important factor in identifying proper outlets for their work may be not so much the Thomson Reuters impact factor of the journals in question but rather, and more difficult to judge, their current editorship: how supportive is it with respect to transdisciplinary work, especially with a view to integrative and application-oriented ends?

    The implication for your list is that it will need regular revisions based on assessments of the content that each journal is actually publishing under its current editorship. This task in turn may require some practical tool for monitoring the transdisciplinary nature/quality of journal content, at least by means of some qualitative (if not quantitative) criteria. Can there be an indicator of transdisciplinary quality or, in your preferred terms, of integration- and implementation-oriented content of journals?

    A related implication is that the decision of whether or not to include any particular journal in the list becomes a question of the time horizon considered. Say, in the case of the Journal of the Operational Research Society, if you review the contents of the past three years or less, the decision is likely to turn out negative; if you review a longer period, say, of five years or more, the decision might be positive. Your post says nothing about the time horizon that informs the present list of journals; I suspect the implicit assumption (and it would certainly be a reasonable assumption) is that only journals that currently have a transdisciplinary profile are listed. Still, the question remains: how many years back should “currently” include for a reasonable and somewhat stable assessment?

    As a final comment, it occurs to me that the editorial “focus areas” of the journal in which we both are involved, the Journal of Research Practice (JRP, since 2005, impact factor currently under observation by Thomson Reuters), might be seen as an attempt to provide a basic grid for a content-oriented assessment of a journal’s transdisciplinary quality, although it was not developed to this end. Instead it aimed to assist the editors’ and reviewers’ task of appreciating individual submissions. To be sure, the choice and definition of JRP’s six focus areas reflect the specific aims and scope of the journal; you might want to think about options for enlarging that approach so as to provide a basic tool for monitoring all the journals that you list, as well as for identifying future candidates for the list. In case you’d consider such an attempt, I would obviously be interested in your experience.

    For those interested the six focus areas for JRP are:

    Research Applications: to develop conventional or innovative forms of applied research with a view to meeting contemporary challenges.

    Research Spaces: to examine the institutional, cultural, and historical factors that shape research practice so as to help researchers open up new spaces for innovative research.

    Research Education: to promote new directions in research education so as to prepare researchers for their role in society.

    Research Experiences: to offer researchers a platform for sharing research experiences, appreciating the experiences of other researchers, and developing their own understanding and good practice.

    Research Philosophy: to encourage reflection on the philosophical underpinnings of research, the specific research frameworks they inform, and corresponding notions of what constitutes valid and relevant research.

    Research on Research: to review and innovate conventional thinking about research as it is contained in notions such as scientific method, objective attitude, and logic of inquiry, with a view to expanding their range of application and exploring new forms of research.

    I could easily imagine that these focus areas might be slightly adapted so as to include an explicit transdisciplinary orientation. For example, the first focus area might then read: “Transdisciplinary Research Applications: to develop conventional or innovative forms of applied research with a view to meeting contemporary challenges across multiple disciplinary boundaries.” Journal content responding to such a focus would then indicate a transdisciplinary orientation. In the same way, the other focus areas could be redefined so as to indicate transdisiplinary content.

    Just a few spontaneous thoughts that your post has inspired! Thanks for your efforts, and best regards.

    Werner Ulrich, Co-editor, Journal of Research Practice

    • Many thanks, Werner, for this thoughtful and detailed response.

      First, I should say that the two journals you mention – the Journal of the Operational Research Society and Management Science – have not yet been assessed for inclusion among the list of journals which publish research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes. To date 52 journals are listed on the Integration and Implementation Sciences website and we have more than 100 still to review. We aim to review at least six journals per year. Given the heartening response we’ve had to the original blog post about the value of this list, especially on Twitter (thanks everyone!), we will now try to increase our rate of journal review.

      Second, from my perspective, transdisciplinary research and research integration and implementation are not synonymous. Certainly research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes underpin transdisciplinary research, but many of these tools are also useful for other – related – research approaches, such as action research, systemic intervention, interdisciplinarity, integrated assessment, post-normal science, implementation science and so on. And it is possible that not all research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes are suitable for transdisciplinary research. An example is advocacy, which probably does not have a strong place in the co-production focus of transdisciplinary research. Expert-led consensus development panels (see p 34-40) are another possible example.

      The point of the journal list is not only to provide information about the limited reach of pretty well all the relevant journals, but also to provide suggestions for where researchers might publish concepts, methods and processes for 1) synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, 2) understanding and managing diverse unknowns and 3) providing integrated research support (combining what we know and don’t know) for policy and practice change. The journals are also places where researchers might look to find such concepts, methods and processes. The motivation for doing this is to start to overcome the fragmentation of tools and to replace reinventing the wheel with sharing and building on good existing practices.

      To make the point a different way, transdisciplinary research has particular ways to synthesize disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge (for example). But these are not the only ways. What we are trying to do with the journal list (and other resources on the website) is to provide a wide range of concepts, methods and processes that can be used to achieve such synthesis.

      Nevertheless, your point about checking the recency of the review is pertinent, as journals do indeed change focus under different editors. We list on our website when each journal was reviewed and when the review was last updated.

      You also provide some very helpful suggestions about how to assess the value of journals as outlets for publishing transdisciplinary research. I agree that the focus areas of the Journal of Research Practice may provide a valuable starting point for assessing the suitability of journals as places to publish. This is not only relevant to the likelihood of the paper being accepted, but even if it is, can provide guidance on whether the journal is likely to reach an interested audience.

      Thanks again!


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