Enhancing the effectiveness of policy-relevant integrative research in rural areas
There has been much debate about the importance of policy-relevant research in geography over the last decade. There has also been an increasing recognition by policymakers of the importance of integrative (interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary) approaches to policy-relevant research. However, geographers have been more reluctant than their colleagues in other social and natural sciences to embrace integrative research collaborations. For integrative research to achieve its full potential and to encourage greater participation from the geographical research community, we need to increase our understanding of its potential value, but also some of the challenges that it poses, and how these can be overcome. In this paper, we consider the processes involved in conducting successful integrative research from the perspective of researchers involved in these projects. We base our analysis on the results of a questionnaire survey of international integrative research programmes on environmental issues in rural areas, combined with our own experiences of working in integrative research. We conclude that effective integrative research depends on the establishment of a clear conceptual framework, the use of appropriate temporal and spatial scales in the research, effective language and communication, time and commitment, and trust and respect. We also highlight the value of stakeholder involvement in integrative research to ensure the policy relevance of the work and provide a mechanism to assist with effective knowledge transfer of the results.