Community-Consultative Applied Research

To be successful, or to even happen at all, research requires a few fundamental things. The first, and most obvious, is a question, something of interest to be answered through methodical experimentation or synthesis. Research also requires someone competent and qualified to not only carry out the investigation, but also understand its importance. Of course money to cover the labour, equipment, and field costs helps. And finally, there needs to be a way to share the findings, because a great answer to a question is useless if no one has heard about it.

Applied science happens in many ways. Most researchers can characterize their work by the question and findings (the ‘what’), and the methodology that they use (the ‘how’). But it’s often a lot harder for them to explain the ‘why’. Understanding the ‘why’ brings us back to the most important research component: the question. Our world is pretty complex and given enough time and money we could choose to study any number of things. But we usually end up researching a topic for one or more of a few basic reasons: 1) the question just happens to be something the researcher is really interested in, 2) the researcher has received money to study it, or, 3) it’s a pressing problem that, if solved, could help society. Most researchers dream of lining up all three, but it’s the latter that returns the greatest benefit to the public. Community consultative research focuses on collaboratively identifying and solving problems that, when answered, lead to social or economic betterment.

Like most professionals, many researchers end up operating in a pretty isolated world due to their various work demands. It can be difficult for the researcher to know which specific research questions are ones that will provide the most benefit when answered or even what the best ways to answer them are. The only reliable way to understand community need is to meaningfully engage with as many stakeholders as possible, and refine the issues that are put forward towards research that delivers tangible benefits to the stakeholders. Also, the engagement, if done collaboratively and respectfully, can lead to exciting new partnerships and new methods.

AROWRN Connects 2017

This coming June, the researchers and stakeholders who make up AROWRN will meet in Camrose at AROWRN Connects 2017. The meeting will bring together theoretical and applied scientists, global experts, municipal leaders, project managers, producers, and the public. Together, they will hear recent findings on the technological, economic, and environmental outcomes of woody biomass research within sustainable production and waste management systems. Together, they will also work towards identifying new research priorities. Collaborative community consultation is the central theme of the gathering. One of the greatest advantages AROWRN members enjoy is that the projects they work on are done with and for community. And through the Camrose meeting, community will help set AROWRN’s directions for the coming years.