List of terms with definitions

The index is provided below. There is also additional information about the index.

We are currently updating the way blog posts are indexed and you can follow progress on the ‘Blog news‘ page.

What is measured, valued and recognised in the work of university faculty and researchers in a variety of organisations. Includes metrics and criteria for promotion and tenure.

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These blog posts address topics that are relevant both to ‘action research’ and other research and education addressing complex societal and environmental problems. Action research is a philosophy and a family of methodologies that pursue change (action) and research outcomes at the same time.

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These blog posts address topics that are relevant only to ‘action research’ and not other research and education addressing complex societal and environmental problems. Action research is a philosophy and a family of methodologies that pursue change (action) and research outcomes at the same time.

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Adaptation is both an adjustment to actual or expected change and the adjustments required to achieve change, with some blog posts focusing more on one than the other. The adjustments aim to moderate or avoid harm and to exploit beneficial opportunities and may require on-going flexibility where there is on-going change.

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Activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions in a particular way.

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Building computer simulations of the actions and interactions through prescribed rules of individuals and/or collective entities (such as organisations or groups), known as agents.

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Openness to more than one interpretation.

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A cognitive process useful in problem solving. It involves reasoning by exploring the relationship between prior experience and the current problem or, more generally, transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another. There is also a more common use of the term analogy which is a linguistic expression comparing things with similar features to help explain an idea.

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A range of tools to assist decision making when problems are not well defined or when available information is insufficient for reliable quantitative analysis. The tools are based on conceptual distinctions and logical reasoning.

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Sherry Arnstein’s 1969 description of 8 levels of public participation in government decision making.

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For individuals, these are ideas or beliefs that are formed without evidence or proof and are essential components of mental models and biases. For theories, methods and models, assumptions are generally simplifications that are an important element of allowing the theory, method or model to be constructed and that affect useful it is.

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Philosophical theory and investigation on the nature of value. Blog posts tagged with ‘axiology’ cover what research is worthwhile and what makes a good researcher.

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Inclinations or prejudices for or against ideas, beliefs, people and groups in ways that are closed-minded and/or unfair. See also cognitive biases.

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A classification of educational learning objectives in the cognitive, affective and sensory domains published in 1956 by a committee of educators chaired by Benjamin Bloom. There have been subsequent modifications to this widely-used classification.

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Ideas, artefacts, publications and other ‘objects’ that are used in collaborations to aid common understanding, integration and/or action. They are concrete enough for everyone to recognise and abstract enough to accommodate a range of researcher and/or stakeholder perspectives.

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Complex problems and other open systems have no natural boundaries. Everything relevant cannot therefore be understood or acted on, so that artificial but necessary limits to what will be dealt with must be established.

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Work undertaken by individuals or organisations to establish better communication, understanding and joint action among disciplines and stakeholder groups involved in a research environment.

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Description: Examples of how particular methods, concepts or other aspects of research integration and implementation were used to address complex societal or environmental problems. Cases can also describe challenges, unintended consequences or lessons learnt in using methods or concepts in particular circumstances.

Examples:

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Various aspects of altering society and/or the environment, which may range from minor to transformational and which include, but do not necessarily lead to, improvement. Considerations include modifying policy and/or practice in government, business or civil society.

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Opposing alterations or suggested alterations to the status quo. This can be by, for example, individuals, groups or organisations. Resistance to change also occurs in natural and social systems.

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The conduct of research by members of the general public, usually in collaboration with, or under the direction of, professional researchers.

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Stakeholders are involved in the research process, ranging from contributing ideas to being full partners in undertaking the research. May be used to mean co-construction, co-design, co-innovation or co-production.

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Stakeholders are involved in designing the research and in the implementation of the results to ensure that it meets their needs. May be used to mean co-construction, co-creation, co-innovation or co-production.

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Cognitive biases are systematic errors in thinking that adversely affect decisions and judgments. They are usually unconscious and often result from the brain’s attempts to simplify information processing through mental shortcuts (heuristics).

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Stakeholders are involved in collaborative invention and possibly commercialisation of new products, processes or solutions. May be used to mean co-construction, co-creation, co-design or co-production.

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Researchers and stakeholders working hard in an on-going way to interpret and reinterpret their partial understandings of each other.

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All aspects of individuals, groups or teams working together, especially to undertake research, including processes, requirements and lessons from experience. This includes team science and team scholarship which are collaborative efforts that address challenges that are scientific (team science) or that include science, the arts and humanities (team scholarship) by bringing together multiple disciplines in an interactive and integrated way.

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The shared wisdom and knowledge that grows out of a group’s collective efforts, that is more than an individual can produce and that leads to consensus decisions.

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Groups of people with similar expertise in research integration and/or implementation who can effectively assess each other’s research grant applications and publications. This is analogous to the way traditional disciplines operate.

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These blog posts are about a) a lingua franca or shared language among groups who do not have a common native language or b) developing shared terminology when the same term has different meanings for researchers from different disciplines and/or stakeholders, even though they speak the same language.

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Sharing information, by various means, especially to increase understanding between people or groups.

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Description: Knowledge, skills, abilities and attributes required to undertake some or all of research integration and implementation. Please note that this blog as a whole aims to build expertise in research integration and implementation by sharing methods, concepts, frameworks etc, as well as discussion of competencies.

Example:

  • A series of three blog posts by the Translational Ecology Group describe the competencies required to be a translational ecologist divided into 1) knowledge, 2) skills and 3) dispositional attributes.

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Can be approached from multiple, sometimes competing, perspectives; are hard to delimit; involve critical unresolved unknowns; and have multiple possible solutions, each of which is only partial and temporary and limited by real-world constraints. Please note that this blog as a whole is about addressing complex problems. Blog posts are only tagged with ‘complex problems’ when they describe complex problems.

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Complex systems are composed of many components which may interact with each other in various ways and which are therefore difficult to model. Specific properties include non-linearity, emergence, adaptation and feedback loops.

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Description: Useful ideas for understanding or undertaking various aspects of research integration and implementation.

Example:

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Representing the system of interest in a way that conveys its fundamental details and basic functions for the purposes of understanding and communication.

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The tendency to search for, interpret, prefer and recall information in a way that is consistent with or strengthens existing beliefs or hypotheses. This is usually unconscious and is one type of cognitive bias.

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Finding a way to deal with serious disagreement or relationship problems. Differs from productive disagreement in that relationships and dialogue have started to break down.

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Obtaining stakeholder input or feedback on proposed or active research.

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The circumstances in which aspects of research integration and implementation occur. These can include historical, political, cultural and other circumstances, as well as the structure and culture of the research and/or stakeholder organisations involved.

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Expertise required to make a substantive contribution to a field, divided into knowing-that and knowing-how.

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Stakeholders are involved in joint processes of undertaking research to develop new or revised public policies and services. May be used to mean co-construction, co-creation, co-innovation or co-design.

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Forming something new and valuable, including ideas, theories, inventions, literature and art.

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The believability of a person, source or message based on trustworthiness and expertise.

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Investigating issues that involve two or more cultures. Also includes learning from other cultures.

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Cultural models are taken-for-granted understandings of the world that are shared by groups of people. Like a mental model (on an individual scale) a cultural model is a group’s implicit representations of, and thought processes about, what things are and how things work in the real world.

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Behaviours and norms shared by groups of people. When the group is a society, culture includes language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. When the group is an organisation, culture includes shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices.

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The process of changing beliefs, behaviours and outcomes, usually in an organisation.

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Accounting for and reducing biases, particularly in judgments and decision-making.

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The circumstances under which a decision is made and which influence the decision.

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Selecting a course of action among several alternate possibilities. Posts specifically addressing decision making in a policy context are tagged with “policymaking.”

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Use of analytical tools, which may be computerized, to assist individuals and groups in decision making. Decision support includes various kinds of modelling and mapping.

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The Society for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty provides the following definition “Deep uncertainty exists when parties to a decision do not know, or cannot agree on, the system model that relates action to consequences, the probability distributions to place over the inputs to these models, which consequences to consider and their relative importance. Deep uncertainty often involves decisions that are made over time in dynamic interaction with the system.”

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When interdisciplinary collaboration defaults to the standard frameworks and methods of a single discipline as an unintended consequence of early decisions made about the project, such as where it is housed, what funding is applied for and data collection methods.

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Individual differences among researchers and stakeholders that affect the way complex problems are understood and acted on. These include differences in mental models, epistemologies, interests and values. Researchers can also differ in the influences and impacts they and their work have.

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The process of facilitating learning about aspects of research integration and implementation. Formal, usually university, settings are the focus of many blog posts, while others address less formal settings and self-education.

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New properties or behaviours displayed by an entity that its parts do not have.

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A way of conducting research or some other form of participatory process that gives stakeholders (especially those who are marginalized or otherwise in relatively powerless positions) greater control over the process.

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Approaches a problem searching for its causes and cures within the system boundary (see System Dynamics glossary).

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The branch of philosophy that investigates the nature, origin and limits of knowledge. Blog posts tagged with ‘epistemology’ address issues relevant to what and how we know, as well as the way knowledge is created. Some deal with diversity in ways of knowing.

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Examination of impacts of aspects of research integration and implementation, examining original objectives, what was accomplished and how it was accomplished.

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An approach to improving health care and services that engages patients and/or other service users plus relevant staff.

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Planning, guiding and managing a group process and environment, by a facilitator. Aims usually include achieving: full participation, mutual understanding, shared purpose and responsibility, and high-quality decisions. There may also be other aims depending on the purpose of the group process.

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A feedback loop is a process in which an output of a system is circled back and used as one or more inputs, through direct or indirect causal links. Feedback loops can be reinforcing (positive) or balancing (negative).

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Giving information about reactions to, for example, a product, actions, processes, or performance of a task, to be used as a basis for improvement by the recipient.

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Existing and functioning in separate parts, usually referring to the research ‘community’ with expertise in research integration and implementation.

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Description: Structured ideas, information or principles that provide a systematic way of undertaking or evaluating various aspects of research integration or implementation.

Example:

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The provision of money, usually by agencies associated with government, philanthropy, or business, to support research on complex problems that involves integration and implementation.

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Research that is highly integrative basic and responsive. It is high-impact research that combines fundamental discoveries with their practical and effective application (https://hibar-research.org/).

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Researcher (usually) who provides decision makers, including policy makers, with the full range of research findings and interpretations and does so in an impartial way that does not favour any particular decision or outcome.

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The Public Participation Spectrum of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2). It defines the public’s role in any community engagement program.

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Specific method to help individuals uncover issues that are inhibiting change and identify opportunities for improvement.

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The study of how to facilitate uptake, effective application and sustainability of research-based practices and policies. Mainly used in health, education and human services, but use of the term is spreading beyond these fields.

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Implementing something new, including a new idea, method, technology or product. Blog posts tagged with innovation usually deal with it in relation to change and/or unknowns.

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Embedding research integration and implementation into the academic mainstream, eg by establishing departments of research integration and implementation, centres of interdisciplinarity, relevant journals and professional associations, funding streams, promotion criteria etc.

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Building frameworks with features of society, including economy, and biosphere. Also known as integrated assessment modelling.

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Has three dimensions: 1) bringing together people, ideas, values etc that were previously separate, 2) creating a coherent and comprehensive whole from these previously separate parts and 3) staying alert to unknowns and outliers that cannot be synthesised into the new coherent whole.

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A scholarly and political endeavour, which can also be thought of as a new discipline. As a scholarly endeavour i2S aims to provide a resources repository that draws on, and contributes to, research tackling complex societal and environmental problems. Such research may be conducted by researchers who have organised into specific approaches (eg transdisciplinarity, action research, systems thinking, implementation science), as well as those who do not identify with these groups. This i2Insights blog and the resources repository on the i2S website are key in this activity. As a political endeavour, i2S aims to support recognition of common cause and collective action across researchers tackling complex societal and environmental problems to help institutionalise the competencies, concepts, frameworks, methods, processes and theories employed in such research. Please note that this blog as a whole aims to build resources for integration and implementation sciences (i2S).

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The ability to understand disciplines, professional practice and community experience without being trained in those disciplines or professions or having lived in those communities.

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Interdisciplinarity is a mode of research and problem solving by teams or individuals that integrates information, methods, tools, concepts, perspectives and/or theories from two or more disciplines. Adding (general relevance) means these blog posts address topics that are more broadly relevant to research integration and implementation, not just to interdisciplinarity.

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Interdisciplinarity is a mode of research and problem solving by teams or individuals that integrates information, methods, tools, concepts, perspectives and/or theories from two or more disciplines. Adding (specific) means these blog posts address topics that are relevant only to interdisciplinarity and not to research integration and implementation more broadly.

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Academic or scholarly periodicals where concepts, methods, frameworks, processes etc for research integration and implementation are published, often along with cases illustrating their use.

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Being in charge of, guiding, encouraging, organising and/or directing other individuals, teams or organisations, especially in achieving research integration and implementation. Blog posts cover leadership competencies, leadership impacts and strengthening leadership.

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What is accepted as proper in conducting research on complex problems, including knowledge, concerns, processes and for researchers and stakeholders. For stakeholders this includes whether representatives of stakeholder groups are nominated in an acceptable way.

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Places in systems where a small shift in one element can change the behaviour of the whole system or significant parts of the system.

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Developing a drawing or diagram to show relationships, for example among knowledge, ideas, questions, arguments, people or events.

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Explicit expectations and ground rules for meetings, aiming to make them run better. Meetings involve two or more people, occur in many environments and serve multiple purposes, often involving sharing information and/or joint decision making.

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Existing in people’s minds are their private images (or other representations) of, and thought process about, what things are and how things work in the real world. These subjective, incomplete and sometimes flawed simplifications of reality play a major role in how people think, reason and make decisions.

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Description: Established ways of tackling specific aspects of research integration or implementation.

Example:

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Combining quantitative and qualitative data, methods and/or paradigms in a single study or series of studies on the same problem.

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Building useful representations of reality, particularly of key features and relationships (and even though models may be complex they are simpler than reality). Models can be informal (mental models) or formal (computational models). Key roles of modelling are to provide a) representations and understanding of systems, including complex systems, b) tools for understanding and managing unknowns, c) tools for decision support, d) participatory processes that expose diversity (eg differences in mental models) and e) tools for integration (eg of different knowledge and perspectives).

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Bringing together and attempting to integrate ‘many voices’ ie many ways of understanding, explaining and working on a problem or issue.

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Developing and using a web of professional contacts who can, when needed or requested, provide various forms of support including information, resources, insights, feedback, advice and assistance with dissemination of research findings. Some network connections may develop into relationships.

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Relationships where changes in inputs do not lead to proportional changes in outcomes. Outcomes may be chaotic, unpredictable, or counterintuitive.

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The branch of philosophy that investigates ‘being’. Blog posts tagged with ‘ontology’ address issues relevant to the nature of reality and what really exists, including diverse theories and views about these.

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A movement to make research processes, data and findings transparent and accessible to all. It includes access to research papers that is open, rather than behind a paywall; open reviewing where the reviewers’ names and comments are made public; and making research processes public eg making researcher notebooks and raw data available online.

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A general term for a range of interactions both among researchers with different expertise and between researchers and stakeholders. Participation includes: co-creation, collaboration, co-production, mutual learning and productive disagreement. 

Participation frameworks, methods, processes etc that are specifically targetted at stakeholders are also categorised under ‘Stakeholders’. Those that are more generally useful are not.

Interactions with stakeholders who are policy makers are generally categorised under research implementation or decision support rather than participation.

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Engaging the knowledge of stakeholders, including tacit knowledge, in building models.

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How a decision is limited by past decisions, rather than simply by current conditions.

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Patterns are regularities, where the elements repeat in predictable ways. Examples are standard ways of approaching a problem, standard sub-processes in modelling, standard layouts for organising research publications (eg introduction, methods, results, discussion). Patterns can be explicit or tacit.

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Persistence or continued effort in doing something in order to achieve success, often despite difficulties, delay, failure and opposition.

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The natural and/or human-made surroundings in which research and education occur, including landscapes, structures such open offices, spaces that facilitate interaction, proximity to other buildings, lighting, and air circulation.

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Setting the course of action to be pursued, especially by government, business or nongovernmental organisations. For governments, policy making includes making or changing laws and regulations, and setting budget priorities. Most blog posts are concerned with how research can influence the policymaking process; some are concerned with better understanding this process.

Please note that many posts in this blog provide ways of improving understanding and action on complex problems that could in turn improve policy making. Blog posts are only tagged with ‘policymaking’ when they are directly concerned with this topic.

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Possession of control, authority or influence over others and how it impacts the conduct and communication of research, as well as research implementation and change.

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Differential ability to exert control, authority or influence over others, especially in deciding what research will be conducted and how.

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Problems are defined differently by different disciplinary experts and stakeholders. Addressing any problem requires taking these different understandings of the problem into account in developing an agreed (or at least acceptable) statement of the problem, which will then determine how it is tackled. Coming to a shared problem framing will not always be possible, especially for complex problems.

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Description: Series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve particular ends. Processes are less well established than methods.

Example:

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Turning discomfort, tension, arguments or conflict into dialogue that broadens perspectives and aids learning and creativity.

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The process of reflecting on how the research or specific aspects of the research (eg dialogue process, data collection, interpretation) are conducted, especially the influence of the researchers themselves (such as their knowledge, biases, perceptions, motivations etc).

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Close long-term professional connections among people and/or groups that involve building trust and respect and free exchange of ideas. They are a prelude to and underpin effectively working together.

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Change that can be attributed to research. This includes making a difference in policy or practice, or in skills, attitudes, relationships or thinking. Research implementation is the process, research impact is the outcome, although impact may not be able to be unequivocally linked to specific implementation activities.

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A general term for various ways of using research to support policy and/or practice change in government, business and/or civil society. Research implementation includes: implementation science, knowledge brokering and knowledge translation. Research implementation is a process, change (research impact) is the desired outcome, although it may not be achieved.

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A modified version of the Public Participation Spectrum of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), which lays out different roles for stakeholders in research.

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Generally, resilience is the ability to bounce-back after adversity. For social-ecological systems it is the capacity to absorb or withstand perturbations and other stressors while maintaining their essential structure and functions. Resilience describes the degree to which a system is capable of self-organization, learning and adaptation.

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Accepted principles or instructions about way things are or should be done, including norms, practices, taboos, regulations, legislation, treaties and ordinances.

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The unit of analysis, usually geographical region for spatial scale, time period for temporal scale and institutional level for organisational scale.

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Moving from a single successful project or pilot study to a community- or population- wide implementation, usually of an innovative evidence-based practice.

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A field focused on understanding, managing and evaluating circumstances that affect the effectiveness of collaboration (team science and team scholarship are included under collaboration).

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An on-going process of refinement of plausible understandings and effective actions in situations of high complexity and uncertainty.

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The development of insights or research ideas by chance in a beneficial way.

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Resisting the pressures of modern academia to make time for, for example: long-term, high-quality stakeholder engagement; exploring ideas with colleagues; maintaining diverse networks; and deep reflection.

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The process of gaining insight through iterative reflection that occurs when two or more people share ideas, experiences and other forms of knowledge and perception. May also be referred to as mutual learning.

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Those affected by the problem under investigation and those in a position to do something about the problem. Stakeholders include community members, workers, policy makers, professionals, and business leaders. Blog posts cover various topics ranging from identification of stakeholders to specific methods for stakeholder engagement.

Participation frameworks, methods, processes etc that are specifically targetted at stakeholders are also categorised under ‘Stakeholders’. Those that are more generally useful are not. The exception is participation processes etc targetted at policy makers in order to implement research, support decision making or make change happen. These blog posts are generally not categorised under participation or stakeholders, but instead can be found under research implementation, decision support and/or change.

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Description: Reviews of progress on the i2Insights blog (generally annual). Occasionally some other blog-related topic.

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A social and cultural activity for sharing and interpreting knowledge and experiences, and for education.

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Result from unexpected events and are particularly relevant to uncovering unknown unknowns. Are brief mental and physiological states than can be neutral, positive or negative.

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Description: Review of common themes among two or more blog posts.

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Foster, but do no conduct, collaborative research on complex problems by bringing together interdisciplinary groups for extended periods in collegial settings. Often provide expertise in information technology aimed at assisting groups to use existing datasets, as well as providing expert facilitation.

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Focuses on circular, interlocking and sometimes time delayed relationships, with feedback as the central concept. Involves defining problems dynamically and includes mapping (causal loop diagrams) and modelling stages.

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Examination of interrelationships and interconnections, and the resulting challenges of setting boundaries (around the problem, stakeholders involved etc), managing multiple perspectives and seeing problems as a whole.

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Tacit knowledge or unknown knowns is knowledge that individuals, groups and organisations are largely unaware that they have.

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These blog posts 1) explain particular terms in research integration and implementation, 2) discuss the meaning of particular terms or 3) describe the challenges of developing a common language when research involves different disciplines and stakeholders.

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Description: Generalised explanations of how aspects of research integration and implementation work. They guide the development of further understanding. Theories are more firmly grounded in philosophy, other humanities, social sciences or sciences than frameworks.

Example:

  • Deana Pennington’s blog post Knowledge synthesis and external representations builds on three theories addressing the role of externalizations in enabling people to grapple with understanding complex concepts that may not be familiar to them.

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A change management method to improve unproductive patterns of behaviour.

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Requiring additional time or sequestered time (compared with traditional research) in order to successfully complete various elements of research integration and implementation, such as stakeholder participation or intensive interaction among researchers.

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Thresholds that, when exceeded, lead to large irreversible changes in systems.

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Description: Collections of resources for undertaking various aspects of research integration and implementation. They are often, but not always, collections of methods and processes.

Example:

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Professional roles supporting transformational sustainability research and education projects, especially by organising and facilitating collaborative processes in such projects.

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Irreversible change to a radically different future state requiring new mindsets, behaviours and ways of being.

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The term transdisciplinarity is used in multiple ways; in these blog posts it is mostly used for building new integrative frameworks and research strategies that transcend disciplinary boundaries and/or involving stakeholders in research and research implementation. Adding (general relevance) means these blog posts address topics that are more broadly relevant to research integration and implementation, not just to transdisciplinarity.

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The term ‘transdisciplinarity’ is used in multiple ways; in these blog posts it is mostly used for building new integrative frameworks and research strategies that transcend disciplinary boundaries and/or involving stakeholders in research and research implementation. Adding (specific) means these blog posts address topics that are relevant only to transdisciplinarity and not to research integration and implementation more broadly.

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Translational ecology is a boundary-spanning environmental science that leads to actionable research focused on maintaining or enhancing the resilience of social-environmental systems. Most considerations are more broadly relevant to research integration and implementation.

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To have confidence in attributes such as the integrity, ability and reliability of someone (eg other researchers) or something (eg a model).

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Adapted from Māori culture to acknowledge that different people are the experts in different contexts. Tuākana is the senior or leader role and tēina is the junior or novice role. Can be usefully applied in cross-cultural research, where those from one culture will be senior in some aspects of the research and junior in other aspects.

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A state of limited knowledge. Uncertainty is a subset of ‘unknowns’ and generally a known unknown (ie an unknown one is aware of). In the blog posts, however, ‘uncertainty’ is often used interchangeably with ‘unknowns’. Some blog posts are about dealing with uncertainty.

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Aspects of complex problems about which knowledge is missing or incomplete. Unknowns include: known unknowns, unknown knowns (tacit knowledge), unknown unknowns (deep uncertainty), uncertainty, risk and ignorance.

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What we do not know we do not know. Can occur at individual though to societal levels. Result either from false convictions or unknowns that one is not aware of (see Smithson blog post). Discovering an unknown unknown generally involves surprise. May be used to mean deep uncertainty.

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Ethical principles that determine how people decide what is right and wrong and how they select and evaluate actions and events. Some blog posts also include considerations that are broader than ethics, such as regard, importance, worth and usefulness.

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Any technique for communicating ideas (abstract or concrete), information, situations etc through creation of some kind of image, diagram, map, animation or game.

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A way of examining decision making or co-creation by exploring interactions among values, rules and knowledge.

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Favourable opportunity when taking immediate action is likely to achieve a desired outcome. If the opportunity is missed, the possibility of action is lost. In a government policy context, political scientist John Kingdon argued that alignment between the problem, the policy and the politics created a “policy window” for change.

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