Research is increasingly expected to be rigorous as well as relevant to policy and practice, especially for social and spatial disciplines that are meant to contribute towards urban sustainability through evidence-based policy and practice. Yet, to what extent is current research both rigorous and relevant to policy and practice, and what are the factors that appear to contribute towards research being both rigorous and relevant? The field of research evaluation proposes various models to help explain research relevance, particularly in terms of utilisation and social impact. The interaction model, for example, suggests that relevance is largely influenced by various interactions between researchers and stakeholders throughout the research process. Such interactions are termed ‘productive’ if they lead to research having some form of social impact.
The focus of this session is to present examples of research from social and spatial disciplines that proved to be both (1) rigorous i.e. the research has been accepted by peers, typically through publications, and (2) relevant, i.e. the research has had some form of social impact beyond academia and policy, particularly in terms of helping to bring about tangible examples of sustainable or low-impact urban development. Presentations should focus on the various factors that have possibly contributed towards rigour and relevance, especially through ‘productive interactions’ that took place between researchers and stakeholders during the research process. For example, what role did the following factors play: the context of the research (different organisational needs and interests), the processes followed (linkages between researchers and stakeholders), the methods used (quantitative, qualitative, or participatory), and the dissemination strategies? The idea is to facilitate a dialogue around and a more nuanced understanding of the role of productive interactions between researchers and stakeholders in creating research that proved to be both rigorous and relevant for urban sustainability.