Ten steps to success in integrative research projects
AbstractResearch in the INTELS project has revealed that many integrative (= interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary) landscape projects frequently face similar challenges. There are, however, few guidelines available to help projects avoid common problems. In this chapter, we present what we consider the ten most important steps towards successful integrative research projects. We define successful projects as those that reach integration and project goals, produce tangible outcomes, contribute to progress in integrative research and provide positive experiences for their participants. In order to reach success, we recommend that projects are specifically organized to reach integration through the development of an Integration Implementation Plan. Projects should identify a common research question and clear project goals; these will identify the relevant disciplinary expertise needed. Because integrative projects have a higher time demand, we suggest adopting time management practices and the allocation of realistic time budgets, especially at the beginning of projects. Strong leadership plays a crucial role in the success of integrative research and requires a high level of interpersonal skills as well as research credibility. Frequent meetings among the participants and the support of the wider research environment also help to achieve success. Project teams need to arrive at a common understanding and definition of the integrative concept and prepare for overcoming epistemological hurdles by acquiring basic skills in the disciplines involved. We recommend that projects are planned for tangible project outcomes/deliverables, particularly in terms of scientific publications. A publication plan identifies target groups, specifies media and journals, lists responsible authors, arranges writing meetings and sets milestones and submission dates. We conclude with the suggestion that projects agree on evaluation criteria and use these to assess the project and its outcomes on a regular basis. Integrative projects can learn from past experiences, and we therefore encourage participants to report experiences from integrative projects. These experiences contain valuable knowledge that will, over time, lead to more successful integrative research.
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