Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Role Transformations in Collaborative R&D-Projects as Reciprocation between Research, Practice and Policy

Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Role Transformations in Collaborative R&D-Projects as Reciprocation between Research, Practice and Policy

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The meeting between theory and practice is a meeting between different types of knowledge. There is societal expectation that the paring of research and practice knowledge in collaborative R&D-projects will generate knowledge for social change, policy making and theoretical development. Such expectations to knowledge co-creation are also shared by action re- searchers. A general challenge for both action research and collaborative R&D-projects is how local knowledge generation can increase its scope by generalization for policy learning at a broader scale (Gustavsen et al., 2008).

User-oriented research and R&D-programs have gained momentum through EU-programmes such as FP7, Horizon 2020 and Interreg. The assumption is that the coupling of research and practice, reflection and action, will generate theoretical and experiential knowledge that can prove useful for policy learning and change at different scales. However, even if the language in EU-programmes and action research methodology shares similarities, e.g. participation vs. user-orientation, this does not necessarily mean that large scale R&D-program policies necessarily build on core insights from practice oriented research methodology. It is therefore important to continue to address the issue of roles in R&D-projects on behalf of researchers, practitioners and politicians seeking to engage themselves in and learn from collaborative projects.

This paper attempts to address two aspects of this larger theme: (a) to develop a typology of how researcher and practitioner roles can transform, develop and reciprocate during the evolution of a collaborative R&D-project, and (b) to examine how researchers, practitioners and politicians can act methodologically, practically and strategically in reciprocal processes to create knowledge and policy learning at different scales.

The relationship between researchers, practitioners and politicians is discussed based on our participation in a three-year (2009-2012) Interreg project called: Rural development in Scandinavia (LISA-KASK).1 The central features of LISA as an R&D-project were that it had both research and development goals, had participation from both practitioners and researchers, was followed and evaluated by politicians at different scales, and lastly, both practitioners and researchers had (or established) some degree of autonomy related to the design of their roles. This makes the LISA-project an interesting learning case in order to examine research-practice role-transformations and knowledge reciprocation with politicians.

In the following, we first present the theoretical framework of our discussion which is summarised in an analytical model of researcher and practitioner roles. Based on this we present our two research questions. Then we present the LISA-case, the research process and a discussion of the case in relation to the analytical model. Building on these ideas and our reflections from the LISA case, we explore in more general terms reciprocation between research, practice and policy. The paper is concluded with a summary of reflections and suggestions for further research.

2. Collaborative roles

2.1 Creating communicative space

Literature on interactive research strategies and action research, see for example (Greenwood, 2002; Greenwood & Levin, 1998, 2007; Johnsen & Normann, 2004; Nielsen & Svensson, 2006; Reason & Bradbury, 2001; Vasström, 2013; Whyte, 1991; Wicks & Reason, 2009) often puts great demands on the researcher and the competencies, resources, skills and attitudes the action researcher should possess when she/he interacts with practice. The researcher must e.g. have a firm grip of the challenges facing practitioners, be a "doer" with facilitative skills, have a thorough understanding of group dynamics and processes, be skilled methodologically and as an academic professional, act ethically, and have a participatory perspective on themselves and their work, etc. …

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