Making a Difference: Planning for Engaged Participation in Environmental Research

Daniel B. Ferguson, Alison M. Meadow, Henry P. Huntington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Despite the rapid and accelerating rate of global environmental changes, too often research that has the potential to inform more sustainable futures remains disconnected from the context in which it could be used. Though transdisciplinary approaches (TDA) are known to overcome this disconnect, institutional barriers frequently prevent their deployment. Here we use insights from a qualitative comparative analysis of five case studies to develop a process for helping researchers and funders conceptualize and implement socially engaged research within existing institutional structures. The process we propose is meant to help researchers achieve societal as well as scientific outcomes relatively early in a project, as an end in itself or en route to greater engagement later. If projects that have a strong foundation of dialog and shared power wish to use TDA within current institutional and academic structures, we suggest that they focus on three process-based factors to increase their chances for success: (1) the maturity of relationships within a collaboration, (2) the level of context knowledge present within the collaborative team, and (3) the intensity of the engagement efforts within the project.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-243
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Context knowledge
  • Engaged participation
  • Intensity of effort
  • Maturity of relationships
  • Research outcomes
  • Transdisciplinary approaches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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