Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Introduction - on Interactive Research

Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Introduction - on Interactive Research

Article excerpt

This article is an introduction to the special issue on interactive research. A short presentation is made of the different articles. A background to the growing interest in interactive research is presented, and some differences and similarities with action research are discussed. One section deals with the issue of validity in interactive research, another with the realistic and critical perspective. The role of researcher is described. In the final section an interactive research model is presented.

Key words: Interactive research, action research, validity, researcher role, critical realism

In this introductory article we will present a background to the growing interest in interactive research. We will also discuss what an interactive research approach can look like. Interactive research is seen as a development of the action research tradition.

Interactive research is characterised by a continuous joint learning process between the researcher and the participants. The main focus is on the outcome of the research in terms of new theories and concepts. We will argue that the inclusion of the participants in the whole research process is a way to increase the validity of the research. The change process should be owned by the participants, but these changes will be more sustainable because of the critical reflection and analysis in the joint learning process.

The special issue will include five additional articles. Four articles are empirically based, one compares interactive research with gender research.

The first article by Lennart Svensson, Jörgen Eklund, Hanne Rändle, and Gunnar Aronsson describes and discusses an interactive research approach, and illustrates this approach by presenting two examples of national change projects. The aim is to demonstrate how interactive research can be conducted in close co-operation with those concerned, within the framework of a critical and reflective community. The two cases presented serve to illustrate how an interactive research approach can support the development and dissemination of project experience, but also how the interactive approach can act as a means of generating theoretical knowledge in order to identify and understand more of the mechanisms involved in sustainable work environment and health work.

Lotta Svensson discusses how an interactive research project tries to combine closeness to the participants with critical distance. She argues that closeness to the participants can be a precondition for - not an obstacle to - a critical attitude, on the part of both the participants and the researcher. She discusses how the organisation of the research (in a local research station) can be used to solve this classical methodological dilemma between closeness and distance.

Petter Ahlström, Fredrik Nilsson, and Nils-Göran Olve describe how establishing and nurturing contact is an important and time-consuming element of interactive research. It is usually the researcher who has to establish and nurture collaboration with practitioners - a task that is not normally part of traditional research. A mutual interest in the subject of the research is a prerequisite for collaboration, but there are quite often other factors that explain why collaboration begins and endures. On the basis of the experience gained in a number of interactive research projects, the authors address the conditions required for an effective and lasting interplay between collaborating partners. Theoretical inspiration has been provided by studies of so-called imaginary organisations.

Casten von Otter presents a study of an independent research organization which is located in the north of Sweden. The focus of this study is on interaction between local public administration, businesses and universities in a Triple Helix. It is suggested that a major reason for the lack of rapport between the parties, is that researchers and entrepreneurs tend to stress different parts of the research process. …

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