Structured reflection Print E-mail

Structured reflection on the effectiveness of Australia’s national environmental research programs


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Project overview

Environmental problems are becoming increasingly complex, requiring the combined efforts of multiple disciplines and close collaboration with regulators, land managers and other stakeholders to identify workable solutions. By the end of 2014, Australia will have experienced two rounds of a new model for supporting environmental research. By the end of this year, two four-year rounds of environmental research hubs funded through the CERF and NERP programs (the Commonwealth Environmental Research Facilities program and the National Environmental Research Program) will have been completed. Through these hubs, some 500 researchers and environmental managers have taken part in collaborative research involving end users and stakeholders from every level of government as well traditional owners, community groups, private land holders and NGOs.

The aim of this ACEAS workshop is to bring together key personnel from these research hubs to reflect on the effectiveness of these programs and to identify lessons for future collaborations. While midterm evaluations of these two programs will provide useful background, this workshop will provide a unique opportunity for the three main groups involved - funders, researchers and research users – to collectively assess the extent to which their needs and expectations have been met and identify potential areas of improved structure, process and practice.

Representatives from the researchers, funders and research users will draw on a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods from Roux et al. (2010) and Pearson et al. (2012), insights from the work of Tress et al. (2005), Campbell and Schofield (2007), Bammer (2013) and Cleevley (2013) and the results of a specially commissioned survey of hub participants to assess the effectiveness of these programs in delivering science relevant to environmental policy and management.

The workshop aims are to identify:

1. What worked well?

2. What were the critical success factors for those areas that worked well?

3. What are key areas of improvement on the structure, processes and practices of future research hubs?


Bammer, G (2013) Disciplining Interdisciplinarity: Integration and Implementation Sciences for Researching Complex Real-World Problems. ANU ePress. ISBN 9781922144270

Cleevely D (2013) Networks, nodes and nonlinearity: how scientific advice gets into policy. pp 87-92 In, Future Directions for Scientific Advice in Whitehall (Eds Robert Doubleday and James Wilsden).

Campbell, CA and Schofield, N (2007) The Getting of Knowledge - a guide to funding and managing applied research. Land and Water Australia, Canberra.

Pearson, S Chudleigh, P Simpson, S & Schofield, N (2012) Learning to invest better: Using ex post investment analysis on agri-environmental research and development. Research Evaluation, 21(2), 136-151.

Roux DJ, Stirzaker RJ, Breen CM, Lefroy EC and Cresswell HP (2010) Framework for participative reflection on the accomplishment of transdisciplinary research programs. Environmental Science and Policy 13, 733-741

Tress B, Tress G and Fry G (2005) Researchers experiences, positive and negative, in integrative landscape projects. Environmental Management 36(6), 792–807

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Products and outcomes


White paper

The workshop provided the opportunity for the group to gather their key reflections on Australia's national environmental research programs under headings including:


• contribution to our information needs

• connecting research and research users

• support of multi-disciplinary research

• linkages across government, and

• international relevance and connections.

The report is downloadable here.


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The group has published a paper in the Special Issue of 'Catalysing transdisciplinary synthesis in the ecosystem sciences' organised by ACEAS in Science of the Total Environment


Campbell CA, Lefroy EC, Caddy-Retalic S, Bax N, Doherty PJ, Douglas MM, Johnson D, Possingham H, Specht A, Tarte D, West J. (2015) Designing environmental research for impact, Science for the Total Environment. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.11.089


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Last Updated on Sunday, 08 February 2015 15:30