Sustainability Research Effectiveness 

Our research program aims to improve the contributions that research makes to social change processes. The program recognizes that contemporary sustainability challenges are complex and require innovative solutions. It appreciates that dedicated researchers are experimenting with new ways to design and implement research that is more engaged, pluralistic, and democratic in order to be more effective. This creates a great opportunity and a need to analyze and learn from experience.

Our program has developed a conceptual framework, tools, and methods for assessing the quality and effectiveness of change-oriented research. By applying this approach to evaluate, analyse, and compare a series of completed research projects, we can learn what works and what does not work in specific contexts and generate lessons for researchers, research managers, research funders, and society more broadly.

Our Projects

In our program, we:

  1. explore theories of social change as they apply to sustainability research and knowledge translation;
  2. develop and refine concepts of effective research design and implementation; and
  3. conduct case-studies and comparative analyses of completed research projects.

Exploring Social Theory Underpinning Sustainability Research Effectiveness

How do social theories apply in sustainability research to enhance effective practices?

Characterizing Transdisciplinary Research Quality for Effective Design, Implementation and Assessment

What are appropriate criteria and indicators for defining and measuring transdisciplinary research?

How can the characteristics of high quality research be used for effective design and assessment?

Case Study Analyses of International Research for Development Projects

To what extent and how are research outcomes achieved?

Case Study Analyses of Royal Roads Student Research

How does Royal Roads University graduate student research reflect the espoused university model of applied, solution-oriented, and real-world focused research?

To what extent and how do Royal Roads University graduate research projects contribute to social change?

Our Team


We are an interdisciplinary team with diverse expertise based at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The Sustainability Research Effectiveness team works in collaboration with a number of partnering organizations and students. 



The results of our program are available in peer-reviewed publications and have been presented at numerous conferences, invited talks, and events. We have also developed a number of resources to share our knowledge of and experience using our methodological approach to measure research impact.


Sustainability Research Effectiveness Joins Forces for Change in Gothenburg, Sweden

Sustainability Research Effectiveness Joins Forces for Change in Gothenburg, Sweden

How do we capture and strengthen the societal effects of research? The Sustainability Research Effectiveness program presented methods and results to a session aimed to tackle this question at the International Transdisciplinarity Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, last week. The conference brought together academics, practitioners, policy-makers, and research funders to focus on learning from collaborative experiences, case studies, and practices. Rachel Claus represented the team, presenting results from a comparative analysis using a comprehensive theory-based evaluation methodology to seven completed research projects.

SRE shares approaches with Doctoral Students in workshop

SRE shares approaches with Doctoral Students in workshop

Brian, Rachel and Stephanie hosted a workshop for students of the Doctoral of Social Sciences Program at Royal Roads University to work them through their research designs using a theory of change framework. The session helped the Sustainability Research Effectiveness team learn about the applications of Theory of Change in planning quality research for impact.

SRE makes contribution to Swiss Lab’s TD-NET Toolbox

SRE makes contribution to Swiss Lab’s TD-NET Toolbox

The Transdisciplinary Science Lab at ETH Zurich together with the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences has published an overview of Theory of Change for use in research contexts, prepared by the Sustainability Research Effectiveness team. “The theory of change tool is really important. It will complement the toolbox well for researchers interested in knowledge co-production and transdisciplinary science” said ETH associate, Dr. Gabriela Wülser.

Get in Touch

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Our work is made possible through the Canada Research Chair Program (CRCP) of the Social Studies and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).