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Expertise in research integration and implementation for tackling complex problems: when is it needed, where can it be found, and how can it be strengthened?

Bammer, Gabriele; O’Rourke, Michael; O’Connell, Deborah; Neuhauser, Linda; Midgley, Gerald; Thompson Klein, Julie; Grigg, Nicola J; Gadlin, Howard; Elsum, Ian R; Bursztyn, Marcel; Fulton, Elizabeth A; Pohl, Christian; Smithson, Michael; Vilsmaier, Ulli; Bergmann, Matthias; Jaeger, Jill; Merkx, Femke; Vienni Baptista, Bianca; Burgman, Mark A; Walker, Daniel H; Young, John; Bradbury, Hilary; Crawford, Lynn; Haryanto, Budi; Pachanee, Cha-aim; Polk, Merritt; Richardson, George P


Gabriele Bammer

Michael O’Rourke

Deborah O’Connell

Linda Neuhauser

Julie Thompson Klein

Nicola J Grigg

Howard Gadlin

Ian R Elsum

Marcel Bursztyn

Elizabeth A Fulton

Christian Pohl

Michael Smithson

Ulli Vilsmaier

Matthias Bergmann

Jill Jaeger

Femke Merkx

Bianca Vienni Baptista

Mark A Burgman

Daniel H Walker

John Young

Hilary Bradbury

Lynn Crawford

Budi Haryanto

Cha-aim Pachanee

Merritt Polk

George P Richardson


Expertise in research integration and implementation is an essential but often overlooked component of tackling complex societal and environmental problems. We focus on expertise relevant to any complex problem, especially contributory expertise, divided into ‘knowing-that’ and ‘knowing-how.’ We also deal with interactional expertise and the fact that much expertise is tacit. We explore three questions. First, in examining “when is expertise in research integration and implementation required?,” we review tasks essential to developing more comprehensive understandings of complex problems, plus possible ways to address them. Also, there are tasks necessary for supporting implementation of those understandings into government policy, community practice, business and social innovation, or other initiatives. Second, in considering “where can expertise in research integration and implementation currently be found?,” we describe three realms: 1) specific approaches, including interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, systems thinking and sustainability science; 2) case-based experience that is independent of these specific approaches; and 3) research examining elements of integration and implementation, specifically considering unknowns and fostering innovation. We highlight examples of expertise in each realm and demonstrate how fragmentation currently precludes clear identification of research integration and implementation expertise. Third, in exploring “what is required to strengthen expertise in research integration and implementation?,” we propose building a knowledge bank. We delve into three key challenges: compiling existing expertise, indexing and organizing the expertise to make it widely accessible, and understanding and overcoming the core reasons for the existing fragmentation. A growing knowledge bank of expertise in research integration and implementation on the one hand, and accumulating success in addressing complex societal and environmental problems on the other, will form a virtuous cycle so that each strengthens the other. Building a coalition of researchers and institutions will ensure this expertise and its application are valued and sustained.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 13, 2020
Journal Palgrave Communications
Electronic ISSN 2055-1045
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Article Number 5
APA6 Citation Bammer, G., O’Rourke, M., O’Connell, D., Neuhauser, L., Midgley, G., Thompson Klein, J., …Richardson, G. P. (2020). Expertise in research integration and implementation for tackling complex problems: when is it needed, where can it be found, and how can it be strengthened?. Palgrave communications, 6,


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